Friday, 10 February 2012

NeverDead


With the New Year well under way, titles will now start rolling out one by one in preparation for the busier months to come. NeverDead is an excellent example of a ‘filler’ game in which there are elements of fun but not enough to warrant a seal of excellence. This third-person shooter exhibits occasional moments of greatness, but all too frequently falls flat on its face due to inconsistencies in its core gameplay mechanics. If you’re willing to overlook a few fundamental flaws, hidden beneath is actually a thoroughly enjoyable action game that can very easily grasp your attention and hold on for a considerable period of time.



At its core NeverDead is a third-person shooting title following the story of Bryce Boltzman (lol what a name), an immortal demon hunter. Now over five hundred years old, the bitter protagonist offers his services in exchange for money. The story concentrates on Bryce’s horrific past but portrays him as a stereotypical wisecracking hero to hide the real emotion lurking behind his eyes. Alongside Bryce is the completely annoying and uninspired Arcadia – a human detective full to the brim with horrific dialogue and frustrating AI tendencies. You may wonder how these two work as a pair and truth be told, they don’t. It’s just about passable but in terms of video game partnerships, this has to go down as a lackluster one.

Fortunately when NeverDead throws you into the action, you will definitely have a good time. Reminiscent of Devil May Cry only not as complex (or anywhere near as good), this is a straightforward run and gun / hack’n’slash experience where you go from one environment to the next killing everything in your path. This generic style of gameplay gets a nice twist with some innovative mechanics that centre around Bryce not being able to die. When you are attacked in combat Bryce loses his limbs and it’s up to you to hop or drag yourself across the battlefield to piece him back together. Every limb including his head can be decapitated, which leads to some fun and rather bizarre gameplay mechanics. For example, if your arm goes missing holding a gun, you can still use it to blind-fire, giving you time to get yourself together (literally).



This crazy system certainly has its fun moments, but at times can hinder the gameplay and disrupt NeverDead’s pacing. Enemies tend to lock you into loops where as soon as you reanimate, they attack and you become a pile of body parts again. Although this happens occasionally, it does happen enough times for it become quite annoying. You will also find that when you are only Bryce’s head, it’s quite tedious rolling around looking for your torso and occasionally getting eaten is pretty frustrating too.

You may be wondering how on earth you can be stopped in this game, well aside from your head ending up as desert for a ghoulish monster, if Arcadia goes down and you don’t revive her in time, it’s game over. Arcadia tends to handle herself relatively well, but her mortal abilities make her pretty underprepared for the magnitude of demonic killing Bryce has to go through.

When you’re not concentrating on finding your limbs spewed across the battlefield, you will actually spend some time slaying demons. NeverDead’s combat mechanics while not top-of-the-line are enjoyable. The various weapons, upgrades and freaking cool blade provide for some great mindless action, although the inconsistent camera, tough and somewhat unfair bosses and occasional environment hitches scattered across the game can hinder the experience somewhat. Then you also have the lax moments where Bryce is required to solve some puzzles by using his noggin, again, literally. There are plenty of hidden areas spread across NeverDead’s environments and you’ll have to throw your decapitated head into every little nook and cranny if you want to find the game’s collectables. While these puzzle sections are clearly optional during your journey, investing time in them is not only fun and rewarding, but it also gives you much needed experience points to boost Bryce’s various abilities and skills.

NeverDead also offers online multiplayer content in the form of competitive and cooperative challenge modes. You can get stuck into horde mode style games, fight against other players to complete objectives or even team up to rescue civilians amidst various conflict scenarios. Everything present is decent, but not spectacular and that’s ultimately NeverDead’s problem as it scrapes the barrel and produces decent gameplay, but nothing really to write home about.

The same can be said from NeverDead’s technical attributes. Decent control mechanics are paired with an inconsistent camera, decent audio is intertwined with poor voice acting and narrative, decent multiplayer is paired with unimaginative game modes and generally impressive and innovative gameplay mechanics are implemented in a game that simply cannot show them off successfully.

It’s a shame really because you can very clearly see the potential NeverDead has, but unfortunately this potential is hidden amidst a mess of issues that make this a rollercoaster ride full of decent highs but incredibly frustrating lows. If you’ve run out of games to play and are looking for some mindless fun, then NeverDead is the game for you, but those of you looking for an impressive action-adventure title are best off waiting for the Devil May Cry HD collection to see how this genre really should be executed.

7.0 | Gameplay | 
NeverDead showcases some clever and innovative ideas but unfortunately is riddled with frequent inconsistencies and issues that make it very difficult to enjoy certain portions of the game, in particular the boss fights. The actual combat itself can be thrilling, although you have to brave a variety of issues in order to really get to the core of NeverDead’s fun mechanics.

6.5 | Presentation | 
NeverDead isn’t the prettiest game by any stretch and most maps are riddled with trash and junk making them a nightmare to traverse and even more frustrating to look at. While the controls are relatively tight, the camera also does a great job at letting NeverDead down all too often.

6.0 | Replay Value | 
NeverDead offers a campaign then a little bit of variety in its online multiplayer modes. Again, if you’re a fan of mindless carnage, then there’s certainly replay value here for you. It’s very easy to load up NeverDead and just go crazy, but those of you looking for a little bit more than that will find it hard to come back to. Trying the harder difficulty will also lead to nothing more than frustration.

6.5 | Final Thoughts | 
Another excellent example of a game that showed signs of potential but fell over way too many hurdles. NeverDead has some interesting mechanics but fails to bring them to the forefront of what is otherwise a messy and inconsistent game. If a potential sequel was on the cards and the whole game was tightened up, this could make for a very fun and frantic action adventure title. For the time being however, this is unfortunately nothing more than a filler title as you wait for other games you want to come out in 2012. 

Igor Kharin.

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