Now, to clarify before people start listing off terrible games, NeverDead is not the second worst game ever. It’s the second worst game I’ve ever had the misfortune of playing, and while that number might not include every game out there, as a game reviewer, it’s still a fairly impressive feat. I don’t want to bury the lead here, in case you’re not sure of what I think of this game, you should know that NeverDead is an unpolished, unforgivable mess. It’s the antithesis of fun, and deserves a spot right next to Duke Nukem Forever in the pantheon of games that simply shouldn’t exist.
I’ll admit I came in with my hopes low. The videos never showed much promise past the intriguing concept of a man who can regenerate his limbs. It didn’t help that its developer, Rebellion Developments, doesn’t have the best track record, giving us the recent Aliens vs. Predator, Rogue Warrior, and Shellshock 2: Blood Trails. All developers can wow us with a great game — Gearbox surprised us once with the fantastic Borderlands, and again with the awful Duke Nukem Forever — but after a series of bad releases, I tend to lower my expectations a bit. So with that long-winded preamble out of the way, let me tell you just how bad this game really is. The Baby Factor: If Bulletstorm were written by a bunch of ten year-old boys, then those boys moved on to design the rest of the game; NeverDead would be the result.
That’s a little harsh, actually. This game doesn’t look that bad, and in the end, its graphics are the only good thing about it. The art direction is solid, even if it does meander a little too closely to Gears of War’s brown and grey color palette. The enemies are all very colorful, even if they make absolutely no sense visually. It’s like Rebellion’s artists wanted to push boundaries by giving us zany and over-exaggerated creatures to fight, but instead it’s just distracting and weird, almost as if they were created by a group of sleep-deprived designers who just finished a handful of shrooms.
Outside of the enemies you fight, which at least look to have some creativity invested into them, the characters are all extraordinarily dull. You’re thrown into the shoes of wisecracking demon hunter Bryce, who was cursed with immortality after he pissed off Asteroth, a Frog Bird Demon who loves Victorian fashion almost as much as he does consuming the souls of all you love.
After spending half a millennium on Earth, Bryce is falling apart, both literally and figuratively. Think of Bryce as Dante’s alcoholic older sibling who’s also completely unlikable and never funny. This sounds bad, right? I mean, who wants to play as a character that only sociopaths and prepubescent boys can find common ground with? Hang in there, because it actually manages to get much, much worse.
You see, while Bryce makes some admirable attempts at humor, his no-nonsense female companion Arcadia is easily the least likable thing in this game. She manages to be less likable than a washed up demon hunter and the aforementioned soul-eating Frog Bird Demon. Her personality would be a lot easier to deal with if she were like Ashley and I could just throw her annoying ass in a dumpster every now and then, but she’s with you for pretty much the entire time, and you know what? She can totally die. This means the majority of NeverDead is a babysitting game, only replace the baby with a nagging woman who shoots you every now and then.
Thankfully, it gets better.
Actually no, it doesn’t, I was fucking with you. It totally gets worse.
Rebellion obviously took some ideas from Devil May Cry. You fight waves of demons in closed off arenas that don’t let you pass until every pendulum goat, Rottweiler pig, or hopping nut sack has been vanquished. Did I mention this game’s enemies are a little bizarre? Oh, I did? Ok, good.
Some pages were taken from Dante’s book, but it’s almost as if while they were up late one night copying, the developers got tired from all that liberal idea borrowing and spilled their Vodka-injected Red Bull on the photocopier as soon as it reached the combat section. Since they were too fucking lazy to see how other, better games do combat, they decided to look at horrible games. Games like Alone in the Dark.
Now, Alone in the Dark burned me bad, but it at least tried to do some really cool things. One of my least favorite things about that game, second to the god-awful driving sections, was the combat. Where most games have you swinging your weapon with a button, that game made you violently swing the right stick on your controller like you were trying to give your thumb whiplash. Sometimes, the result would be a blunt instrument to the face of the nearest monster, but more often than not you looked like you were trying to swat invisible flies. There were also Devil Trees. Yeah, fuck Devil Trees.
What does this have to do with NeverDead? Well, for starters, instead of taking from any number of great combat games, it takes one of the worst combat ideas in the history of video games, and does it even more poorly. To use your sword you have to press a button to equip it, hold a trigger to wield it, and then you can swing it using the control stick. Seriously. Add to that a wonky dodge maneuver and some piss-poor aiming, and there’s absolutely no fun to be had when fighting the hordes of imaginative enemies that are thrown at you. Also, the combat makes up about 90% of the game, so there’s that. It’s almost as if Rebellion had given up at this point and just wanted to finish this game so they could catch a few unsuspecting gamers with its yellow-eyed protagonist and Devil May Cry-lite combat.
The most advertised feature in this game, and the thing that aims to set it apart from the myriad other (better) third person action beat ‘em ups is Bryce’s ability to lose and regenerate limbs without screaming “Fucking ow!” every time he loses an arm. There are a few problems with — hell, who am I kidding? There are a lot of problems with this — so to save time, I’m just going to list them off for you:
1 – You’re constantly losing limbs; one smack from an enemy can transform you into a pile of body parts and awful dialogue.
2 – You have to dodge roll over fallen limbs to pick them back up, and that doesn’t make sense, nor is it intuitive.
3 – Rolling around as a head is like steering a drunken gerbil on ice after you’ve beaten it over the head with a frying pan, so it’s constantly seizuring up and totally not listening to you.
4 – Bryce likes to comment about his lost limbs all the time, usually repeating the same line over and over and over again until it’s forever ingrained inside your brain, which has undoubtedly started to loosen its grip on sanity after a few hours with this game.
4.1 – For example, as a head, you’ll undoubtedly hear him say something like “I hope this doesn’t mess up my hair!” at least half a dozen times over your first time as a severed head. It wasn’t witty the first time, and it becomes grating soon after.
5 – The electrical boxes that you can grab to break into a bunch of pieces so you can roll around in head form also tend to have your head fall onto your other limbs, so you’re immediately put back together again.
6 – After losing and recovering lost limbs for the hundredth time the feature gets old real fast.
I could go on, but I’ve already wasted six hours with this atrocity so the thought of spending any more time makes me more than a little nauseous. There is no reason to play this game. It’s a perfect example of what happens when the talentless attempt to emulate the inspired, but Dante needn’t worry, because NeverDead won’t be taking his throne any time soon.
In the end, there’s an interesting comparison to be drawn here, because like its female lead, NeverDead is a shallow, unlikable mess, void of any redeeming qualities.
The Final Word: Burn this. It’s the only way to be sure.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of NeverDead.