At first glance and by its cover, it would be easy to think Konami’s NeverDead is along the same vein or even latest piece of brilliance offered by Suda 51. The graphics in areas are stylized and breathtaking and NeverDead features an interesting and well suited soundtrack, surprisingly composed by the iconic Los Angeles Metal band, Megadeth. NeverDead however, is not a Goichi Suda title but what appears to be a deeply flawed homage or imitation, created by Konami’s Metal Gear director, Shinta Nojiri.
In NeverDead, you play the role of a cursed but immortal and prickly Bryce Boltzmann. He’s smart-mouthed and immature and somehow, over his hundreds of years of life, he is still unable to manage his own life. He looks like a transient, he’s an alcoholic and now he hunts demons for cash and oh yeah, revenge for killing his wife. A side effect of his being cursed with immortality is the “ability” to lose and reattach his limbs.
He’s now employed by a demon hunting agency that operates something like “The Company” in the Heroes TV show with “one of us and one of them.” Who knew there were so many cursed souls wandering around? Bryce’s agency partner is the prickly, Arcadia, dressed in what looks like a stripper’s prep school uniform and it’s your job to keep her safe. Luckily, Arcadia is armed and for the most part keeping her alive isn’t too much work.
For the most part, NeverDead’s basic controls are pretty standard third person action fare. You can jump, roll, aim, shoot, etc. Where it starts to get a little bit weird is switching to your sword. The triangle button toggles the gun and sword. However, once the sword is equipped you must lock onto a target by holding L1 and then move the right stick to swing your sword. It’s almost as if they were anticipating implementing Move support but scrapped it at the last minute.
The real gameplay twist in NeverDead is your ability to blow yourself up and then move your head around independently. Occasionally, you will do this intentionally to solve puzzles and access areas and if this were the only time you used that ability, like Stubbs the Zombie, NeverDead would be much less frustrating. The problem is, Bryce is always falling apart during combat no matter how small or minor his foe.
A good portion of the fighting is rolling around, trying to re-collect your limbs and torso. The added problem of having two separate forms is the drain on the game engine and there are camera and clipping issues that can cause you problems. As a head, the gameplay is an awful lot like Marble Madness. There are physics puzzles to solve and if there are enemies around, they will try to swallow your head, where you get one shot to escape before spending eternity being digested.
Luckily, you’re not entirely defenseless as a head. There is a Sonic spin type attack you can perform that will stun your enemies. Your best defense is however, either finding or regenerating your body where you again have your weaponry and can use environmental attacks. The experience you accumulate by defeating enemies and collecting shards can be spent on upgrading your abilities at any time in the pause menu.
If you’re a fan of three-legged races or other awkward competitions, NeverDead does feature multi-player. The multi-player offers four modes; a co-op Onslaught and Search and Rescue mode in addition to the competitive Fragile Alliance and Egg Hunt modes. However, considering the level of frustration players are forced to endure in the single player and the limited features of the multi-player, few will probably ever venture online with NeverDead. One reason to give it a shot is that the experience does transfer to the single player game.
The problem with playing NeverDead is playing NeverDead. The game has almost everything but gameplay going for it. Sure the banter is repetitive, the story and premise are hokey and predictable but, most other games have that same cross to bear. The real problem is that feels like trying to play with an old Star Wars action figure, with joints that are too loose to be able to stand it up. Sure, it’s still an action figure but really, the only thing you can do with it is just sit it somewhere. Unless, you’re a huge Megadeth fan, have some other vested interest or are a glutton for punishment, it’s difficult to recommend this game to anyone.
NeverDead is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360.