It’s not easy being an Immortal in an ever changing world. Being safe from death and old age might be nice for the first hundred years, but watching everything you know and love disappear in the mists of time isn’t a something you can easily live with. If you have any doubt, just ask Bryce – NeverDead’s undying protagonist, who spends his time his time killing demons and being horribly dismembered over and over again. Much like Bryce, NeverDead is an odd creation, with bits and pieces of gameplay and story trying to make one coherent being, but failing miserably. What we end up with is a mess of an action game with some cool and original ideas that can’t seem to work together and deliver a cool and original experience.
Bryce Boltzmann is a demon hunter; he is been one for about five hundred years. It’s not because he likes his job very much, or that the pay is any good, but because Bryce was cursed by a powerful demon to live forever as an immortal, and what better way to spend eternity than shooting and slicing demons into little piles of goo (and it helps pay the bills). Bryce isn’t going at it alone – his partner, Arcadia Maximille, is a sassy blonde with absolutely no personality whatsoever, and serves mainly as a counter balance to Bryce’s lame jokes and childish behavior. She’s also there to annoy the hell of the player every time a demon so much as brushes against her, and he has to rescue her before she dies. These two main characters have almost no real contribution to the story, nor do they evoke any sense of empathy from the player.
The plot itself isn’t any better. It’s true you don’t need a reason to slay demons (they being pure evil and everything), but it could have been nice if the game had an actual plot. There is something about protecting a young (and very annoying) girl and simultaneously trying to prevent a demon-apocalypse, all the while bits of Bryce’s past slowly reveal his tragic life story, but it never really amounts to anything. All you get is a linear succession of levels where you run around and fight waves and waves of demons, with little context for why you are doing it.
At least the action somewhat makes up for the lack of an interesting narrative. Bryce can wield two different guns at the same time, or a massive cool looking blade. At first you’ll find that the guns are not all that powerful, and chipping away at an enemy’s health bar can get a little frustrating. Fortunately, the blade is a whole different story; most creatures will be torn to pieces in a matter of three-four slashes, so using it frequently (at least till you get some bigger guns) is a good strategy. Once NeverDead hits its stride, the combat can get real hectic and challenging; mostly thanks to the vast amount of demons in each room and the highly destructible environments, but sometimes due to the uncooperative camera, especially during the boss fights that leave both the environment and Bryce in pieces.
Being an immortal, Bryce can’t really die (obviously), but that doesn’t mean he has to remain in one piece. Whenever he takes enough damage, Bryce will start losing limbs, and eventually his will be reduced to a rolling head yelling insults and semi-poetic cries for help. It’s a nice mechanic in theory, but in reality it means you’ll be spending the majority of every combat situation in a feverous hunt for your scattered limbs. There is a possibility to regenerate lost limbs after a while (yes, being an immortal has its perks), but sometimes it feels like forever until the game allows you to do that, and spending that time as a head, rolling and hopping around on the floor, isn’t that much fun. It’s in this “head mode” that Bryce is most vulnerable. There are these ever-present little blue demons that can suck Bryce’s head inside them and eat it alive. Once trapped inside one of these demons, the player much win a quick mini-game for be forever digested by the demon (i.e. game over). There is nothing more frustrating than to chip away at a boss’s health bar, only to be devoured and having to start all over again.
This “can’t be killed” mechanic does work well with the game’s few puzzles. Bryce can tear his own head off and throw it around in order to reach high places or squeeze through tight spaces. In a certain level Bryce is stuck in a pitch dark sewer without any portable light source, so he has to light himself on fire and be his become a human lantern. These nice touches indicate to some real potential in Bryce’s condition, and it is really disappointing that NeverDead doesn’t have more of those memorable and clever moments.
Even the game’s upgrade system isn’t all the original or useful. Sure, there are some few neat new powers Bryce can acquire with demon-slaying energy, including exploding limbs or one that slows down time every time Bryce is in immediate danger of losing his head (literally), but that’s about it; all other upgrades are simple damage boosts or better maneuverability (something that should be part of the game to begin with). There isn’t any reason to invest in upgrading Bryce, which is weird since there are so many available upgrades and improvements. Furthermore, Bryce can only use a limited number of upgrades at any given moment, depending on the strength of the upgrade (more powerful upgrades take up more slots). Because of this Bryce never feels like the powerful demon-slayer he should be, but a fragile old man who happens to be decent with a blade.
Apart from the single-player campaign, NeverDead also offers an insignificant online-only multiplayer mode. There are a few cooperative and competitive challenges, each as uninspired as the last. The competitive modes see the player racing through checkpoints or collecting eggs, all the while trying to dismember his opponents and slow them down. If you like playing with other player, instead of against them, you can try the horde mode-like cooperative challenges, where you fight waves of demons in an attempt to survive. All in all, the multiplayer is pretty forgettable and doesn’t add much to the overall experience. It is also quite empty, so finding other people to play with can be a challenge all of its own.
In addition to all of this mediocre gameplay and downright absent story, NeverDead’s visuals are nothing to look at either. The game starts off in some nice-looking environments with bright vegetation and impressive architecture, but it very quickly descents into underground levels and grey indoors surroundings. Character models aren’t that much to look at, but at least the demons’ design is pretty original and interesting, with some verity in enemies (up to a point). NeverDead’s soundtrack is a weird mix of heavy metal (theme song by heavy metal band Megadeth) and incredibly annoying j-pop. Listening to the characters speak isn’t a real treat either, but at least in feels like the voice actors did their best with the childish dialog.
To sum it all up, NeverDead is pretty much lacking in every department. Some players might find it entertaining purely thanks to novelty of the combat, though it too wears off after a couple of hours. While it has its strengths, NeverDead is a frustrating and childish game that won’t make you pray for the sweet relief of death, but for that of a better game.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.