The concept behind NeverDead is great. It really is. A dude who dies hardcore at the hands of a demon runs around on a seemingly ceaseless quest for vengeance. He gets mangled and dismembered but he doesn’t really die; his parts operate independently of his torso, and he can still function. Plus, he has a sassy babe by his side who helps him out but never misses an opportunity to take a jab at the guy’s position and appearance. Great idea. …terrible execution. ‘sigh’
The graphics are actually a high point of this production, as both the environment and overall detail is solid and even refined in some areas. The enemies are nicely designed, the characters are decent, and the landscapes – often ragged and blasted apart – have lots of character. The effects aren’t as flashy as I would’ve hoped and some scenery fails an up-close inspection (textures go a little haywire), but other than that, the game looks okay. The CGI cut-scenes are pretty special, too. If only one could stop here in the analysis of a video game…
The sound isn’t bad, either, believe it or not. In truth, in terms of technical achievement, NeverDead isn’t bad at all. The voice acting is only average and again, the effects are disappointing in some ways, but the music is bad-ass. That’s because Megadeth is responsible for much of the soundtrack, and this adds a spicy, surging flavor to an attitude-laden adventure. That music goes away too often, though, and some of the voices just grate like hell. But the graphics and sound definitely make the game worth seeing and hearing, if only for a short while.
After that, it all goes downhill. I’m not really sure where to start because I usually like to begin with the positives. Unfortunately, they’re so few and far between, I have to sit back and think for a while before I can come up with any. …hmm…let me see… Okay, well, as I said, the combination of the decent graphics and kick-ass music made me smile, and it definitely fits the atmosphere. And…um…well, Arcadia is definitely easy on the eyes. Exactly the kind of chick I could dig. The pacing isn’t terrible, either, and the characters are amusing.
Sorry, I’m done with the pluses. Yes, already. What do you want from me? There were problems the minute the game started. The camera is bizarre; I kept changing the sensitivity until I realized there’s an inherent flaw in the system: when you start to move the camera, it moves slowly; keep holding the right analog to move it further, and the camera speeds up. It’s like…sticky, or something. Why would a camera have momentum? I’m confused. Then there’s the aiming reticule, which never seemed right, regardless of my fiddling with the sensitivity.
The Butterfly Blade is just plain absurd. Sure, it makes perfect sense to have both guns and a sword; a guy named Dante made that style famous some years back, if you remember. But that was a fluid, in-depth, intuitive mechanic and this is just a mess. The third-person shooting is okay, but I still say there’s some hit detection issues, and the blade-swinging is awful. You first have to lock on with the L1 button (if you’re not locked on, you can’t even swing the sword), and then you’re supposed to just flick the right analog to cut forward.
But you can’t just “flick” the stick; you have to actually prepare the sword; i.e., you have to bring it to a starting point for the swing, and then attack. It’s ridiculous. It’s all the more ridiculous when you’re fighting fast-moving enemies. I like the idea that timed, tactical strikes do more damage than quick, mindless attacks, but I had difficulty performing anything quickly due to this horrendous gameplay mechanic. The combat roll is all right, though; you roll to avoid and to retrieve severed limbs. Yes, you can end up as a disembodied head, too.
Like I said above, it’s a great idea. But nothing seems to work properly. It certainly doesn’t help that Arcadia, as pretty as she is, can’t shoot sh**. I don’t think she killed a single thing during my entire play time, although I’ll freely admit I often ran ahead to destroy everything in sight so she wouldn’t die. Still, I watched her try to deal with weak enemies every once in a while, and if I didn’t step in, I would’ve been waiting there a while. It’s just so inconvenient to have a useless partner.
On top of which, it really sucks that I have to babysit Arcadia. She’s not immortal so she’ll fall in combat and you have to make sure she stays alive, a gameplay element I have always despised in most any game. Toss in the shoddy control and borderline broken battle mechanics, and you’ve got nothing but endless frustration and annoyance. Just peachy. I should also add that the game doesn’t run very smoothly, as there are significant drops in frame rate and perceived hitches and glitches.
NeverDead rocks with the music and the visuals can be a treat but beyond that, it’s not much fun. There are just too many problems that hinder one’s enjoyment, and those problems are critical because they translate to faultless deaths. I have to give credit where credit’s due, which is why I’ve applauded some of the technical aspects, but without reliable, entertaining gameplay, what do you really have? I could answer that question but I can’t curse in reviews and besides, it was kinda rhetorical.
The Good: Detail and character design is decent. Music by Megadeth kicks much ass. Characters can be amusing.
The Bad: Visual and auditory effects aren’t anything special. Camera doesn’t work well at all. Basic control isn’t smooth. Combat mechanics, especially where the blade is concerned, are terrible. Hit detection is iffy. Babysitting isn’t fun…ever.
The Ugly: “Bryce Boltzmann is a freakin’ awesome name…maybe he should’ve starred in a better game.”
2/2/2012 Ben Dutka