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NeverDead Review

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  • X360

NeverDead's one-note dismemberment gimmick wears out its welcome long before you reach the game's miserable conclusion.

Only a few arduous hours into NeverDead's campaign, its title suddenly sounds much less like a potential boon than a veiled threat. By that point, the developers at Rebellion have long since shown their hand. You've seen every mechanic, concept, and joke the game has to offer, but you still have several more hours of those exact things to slog through. The same cheesy one-liners, the same cumbersome combat sequences, the same idiotic puzzle sequences, it all just keeps repeating itself for hours and hours until it finally gets around to tossing out two of the most poorly-designed boss fights in recallable memory. By the time you're ready for NeverDead's campaign to be over with, it won't be anywhere near so. It just...won't...die.

Try not to lose your head playing NeverDead. Seriously, don't. It's really frustrating when you do.

That's perhaps fitting, given that NeverDead's conception of immortality is something akin to Sisyphean torment. Its lead character, the blandly grizzled Bryce Boltzmann, has lived for centuries thanks to an ill-defined curse by some manner of demonic asshole. When mortal injury strikes Bryce, he doesn't so much get hurt as he does just kind of burst apart at the seams. Remember those old Incredible Crash Test Dummies action figures? The ones that exploded at the arms, legs, and neck if you breathed on them too hard? That's Bryce in a nutshell.

That's also NeverDead's sole distinction. Rebellion has centered the entirety of this aggressively unpleasant character action game's design around Bryce's constantly crumbling frame. The slightest brush from a nearby enemy will send any number of limbs flying, which Bryce then has to scramble to pick back up (or find a nearby regeneration icon to magically regrow them). It's even nuttier when Bryce's skull pops off, in that you suddenly find yourself in control of a severed head that feels a little bit like what would happen if a Katamari could verbally curse its own existence.

When you aren't frantically trying to reassemble yourself, you're fighting off generically grotesque demon grunts in rooms that receive those wonderful magical demon barriers that block the exit until you've killed every last one of them, as well as the "womb" that barfs them out ceaselessly until you destroy it. You can choose to do so either with the game's clunky gun combat--aiming barely functions at all unless you go into the more precise aiming mode, which also happens to slow you down immensely--or use Bryce's comically oversized sword, which you can't swing unless you press the lock-on button, and then use the right analog stick to swing with. Imagine the shot stick in EA's NHL series, but about a thousand times less functional; that's the idea here.

The controls and combat aiming are cumbersome enough without NeverDead's myriad camera problems. Thanks to your general inability to see what the hell is going on around you, battles tend to devolve into chaotic messes in which you just swing your sword wildly and assume you're hitting things. The destructible environments--which are pretty much NeverDead's sole visual element worth lauding--also do damage to enemies, so in a sense, your best bet in most non-boss combat scenarios is to just wave your sword around like a crazed lunatic and explode every piece of scenery you can, because odds are some of that stuff will hit enemies and kill them, or maybe your sword will, or maybe they'll just knock your head off and it'll get sucked up by those skull-eating demons that skitter around every single level.

What is this even supposed to be?

That's NeverDead's way of creating some semblance of a "lose" condition. After all, Bryce is technically immortal, so how do you create a game around a guy you can't kill? By bringing out demons that will suck up your severed head in a second, if you aren't careful. Once it does devour your head, a brief, timing-based minigame pops up that, if successful, flings your head back out into the battle zone. If you fail, your head remains in that demon's digestive tract forever.

It's a potentially amusing little spin on the idea of video game death that becomes decidedly unamusing when you bump up against NeverDead's half-busted physics. Once your head pops off, your body goes all rag doll, and sometimes lands in positions that makes it nigh-on impossible to actually reattach yourself. Never mind that you're a pitiful head rolling around a dizzying and chaotic battlefield in which demons will often knock you back dozens of feet just by bumping into you. In one level section, I spent upwards of 10 minutes just trying to reattach my head. Whether it was getting sucked into a demon's belly, getting knocked back to the opposite side of the level, or getting knocked into a wall I literally could not escape from without restarting from the last checkpoint, every single possible factor combined to award this moment as one of the single most irritating gameplay experiences I've ever endured.

Incidentally, that award only lasted for about four hours, because later in the game, I came across the game's second-to-last boss, which then ripped that dubious award away for itself. To put it succinctly, NeverDead's boss fights are obnoxious, laborious affairs that test your patience far more than your skill. Everything is pretty much just a variation on "hit the weak point until it morphs into something else, then hit that something else's weak point," with only the occasional life-regenerating quirk thrown in for good measure. It's bad in the beginning, still bad in the middle, and by the time you get to the last couple of boss fights, you'll wish you'd never put this disc in your console to begin with. There is challenge, there is frustration, and then somewhere, thousands of feet beyond frustration, there is NeverDead, gleefully flipping you off as you endure yet another horrendous boss fight.

What's really baffling about NeverDead is how utterly pointless all of it feels. Even the most superfluously silly games usually try to justify their existence in some way, either by being somewhat funny, or doing something that feels remotely unique. Instead, NeverDead puts all of its chips on its barely-amusing-for-a-minute dismemberment gimmick, and then proceeds to do absolutely nothing to build out the rest of the world around it. It's as if someone with a genuine disdain for the games of Suda 51 sat there, trying to pick apart what it is that people like so damn much about his works, then proceeded to didactically try to assemble those ideas into a game without ever completely understanding them.

Presumably Arcadia is there to titillate, but all she does is irritate.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game's story, which might as well not even exist. The back story of Bryce is told through a few cheesy cutscenes in which we learn all about how he and his demon-hunting wife were defeated by the earlier-mentioned demonic jerk, leaving her dead and him forever cursed. Knowing this back story does little to endear Bryce to the audience, as the tragedy of his former life and the shittiness of his current life never quite come together into something you'll remotely care about.

The real issue is that Bryce's role as a modern day demon hunter is severely underwritten. He's a pile of really annoying one-liners--most of which involve hacky passes at his female compatriot, a non-immortal human named Arcadia--and no actual personality. He bitches ad infinitum whenever he loses a limb, repeating the same three or four lines until you actually get around to regrowing whatever limb he lost. His sexual deviancy and utter disregard for personal hygiene elicit mild chuckles during their first couple of examples, but by the hundredth time you've heard Bryce crack the same basic one-liner he's been cracking all game long, you'll really wish he could be killed. Immediately.

The surrounding cast and plot is no better. Your companion Arcadia is written as little more than sarcastic cleavage that you have to rescue a tad too often (except when you can't because demons keep knocking your damn head off). The demons you hunt are largely bland monsters devoid of personality. The sole exception is Sangria, a Duke of Hell with the personality of a Southern dandy and the visual aesthetic of Mark McKinney's Chicken Lady by way of a catastrophic acid trip. He's such an over-the-top goof that at a point, I almost started rooting for him to make good on his evil plan and dispatch Bryce and company. That evil plan, by the way, inexplicably involves a petulant teenage pop singer who looks like she wandered in out of a dinner theater production of Final Fantasy X-2. You will hate her.

This is nowhere near as cathartic as it should be.

Therein lies NeverDead's greatest failure--it mistakes lazy sarcasm spouted by lousy characters for clever outsider humor. Suda 51 has made his reputation crafting very strange games around very strange characters who sometimes aren't immediately likable. The difference between what Suda does and what Rebellion has done here is that Suda still finds time to add layers to his characters that make them far more interesting than they initially appear. Even a chucklehead badass like Shadows of the Damned's Garcia Hotspur morphs into something far more interesting as that game goes along, due in no small part to unexpected character touches and unpredictable humor. The writers of NeverDead never find a way to deliver any more than the expected. Bryce never morphs into anything beyond what we expect him to become. His personality never grows into anything worth laughing at, let alone sympathize with.

And that's not even to mention the variety of technical gaffes and awkwardly built mechanics that permeate much of NeverDead's experience. Certainly Suda's games are known for their sometimes frustrating jankiness, but that's pretty much all NeverDead consists of. It's all of the jank with none of the charm.

I haven't even mentioned NeverDead's multiplayer component--a cooperative arena battle style mode that brings to bear all the worst traits of the single-player combat, and somehow makes things even more chaotic--but at this point, do I really need to? Nothing about NeverDead works, even when it's working as intended. No amount of perfunctory challenge maps can make up for a game design so functionally lazy, so utterly indifferent to your enjoyment, that it can't even be bothered to make its lone gimmick work even slightly well within its hacked-together world. If the developers in charge of NeverDead didn't care enough to make it a remotely enjoyable experience, why should you care enough to bother with it?

Alex Navarro on Google+
96 Comments
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Edited by Cloudleet

Nice, really wanna try the game though=/

Edit: What the hell was I trying to say there?!

Too bad, I was looking forward to this is more like it!

Posted by MooseyMcMan

That's too bad. I was hoping for something better. Oh well!

Posted by UlquioKani

I had a feeling alex would review this. He seems to get the short end of the stick

Posted by Sinkwater

A review before a QL?!

Online
Posted by thebatmobile

Alex always plays the worst games, why?

Posted by Baltimore

Oh Alex, why do you always get saddled with the bad ones?

Posted by christ0phe

Why did people think this game would be good?

Posted by MalkavTheClown

What did you do Alex? seems more like punishment than a game. Better you than me !

Edited by Sooty

Alex "I keep having to play these turds" Navarro

Posted by JacDG

In my opinion, it's not this bad, it's not that great either but I find it to be an alright game, certainly worthy of a shot if there is nothing else coming out for a while. Sure it can be very frustrating indeed, but some of the action stuff is neat.

Posted by CornBREDX

Well.. Now I'm sad 
If Alex doesn't like it I wont either 'cus we tend to agree on these things. Now I am disappoint =( 
I'll get it when the price drops, I still really want to play it but I'll hold off for now.

Posted by kerikxi

Not to be 'that guy', but a two star game should have some sort of redeeming factor, somewhere. If ya can't recommend anything about the game at all, it's one star. Not like it's a big deal either way, the general consensus on this game is all around poor.

Posted by SaturdayNightSpecials

Wait wait wait...this game isn't Japanese?

It's made by Rebellion?

I feel like I've been lied to.

Posted by Skooky

I didn't know this game existed until like like two days ago.

Posted by Encephalon

I want a Quick Look of this.

No, I need a Quick Look of this.

Posted by ZombiePie

Alex Navarro is Giant Bomb's Erik Wolpaw. 

Moderator Online
Edited by max3000

Awwww.. I actually had really high hopes for this one.

At least the Megadeth song is alright.

Posted by Jayzilla

why is a game like this getting a review but not SW:ToR?

Posted by Ghostiet
@Jayzilla said:

why is a game like this getting a review but not SW:ToR?

Because reviewing an MMO, a young one to boot, seems pointless?
Posted by cooljammer00

How is this not a 1 star review?

Posted by GeedAwesome

Oh Konami, what are you doing? This went from Neverdead to Nevergonnaplaythisshitagain.

Posted by MikeGosot
@SaturdayNightSpecials said:

Wait wait wait...this game isn't Japanese?

It's made by Rebellion?

I feel like I've been lied to.

This kind of explains the "lack of charm".
Posted by Deusoma

Pity that Alex spends so much time trying to come up with creative ways to insult the game rather than go into a useful level of detail over why he didn't like it.

Posted by Alex

@kerikxi: I considered that, but stacking it up against games like Blackwater, Velvet Assassin, and everything else that's gotten a one star review around here, I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. I dislike this game rather vehemently, but I can't call it the kind of soul-sucking clusterfuck that those other games most certainly are. It's a bad game with few redeeming qualities, but it's not a thermonuclear disaster, either.

Posted by Alex

@Deusoma: Oh, I don't know, I'd say my descriptions of what's wrong with the gameplay and storyline are pretty detailed.

Edited by mutha3
@Alex: Why do you always get to review the absolute worst games?
 
Anyway, this is extremely disappointing to hear. I was looking forward to this game. I think Alex namedropping Suda51 as often as he has in this review was apt--  that was totally the kind of game I was hoping for. The dismemberment gimmick looked like it could be pretty cool if it was pulled of well. 
 
Will probably be skipping this.....
Posted by mabber36

alex, please review amy

Posted by I_smell

I knew this was Alex as soon as I read the sub-heading.
 
And that Arcadia screenshot is pretty much "videogames" summed up into one image.

Posted by CJduke

Poor Alex having to review another shit game

Posted by Flappy

Another quality review by Alex Navarro! Unfortunately for him, it was another game that turned out to be mediocre. Bummer.

Edited by RedRavN

I seems that trying to reattach yourself to your body while being stun locked and ragdolled everywhere lost planet style might have been a terrible design decision. Who would have thought? Also, from what footage I have seen the melee combat just looks absolutely awful; likely some of the worst I have ever seen. At least the shooting seems somewhat functional. Thats a 2 star game for me, one that is functional enough to play but terribly designed, boring, glitchy or hyper repetative (or a combination of those qualities). A 1 star game is one that may or may not have those qualities in addition to being completely broken either technically or through gameplay.

Posted by Marokai

That's a shame. This game seemed vaguely interesting. I feel bad for Alex; having to play so many terrible games.

Posted by Mr_Skeleton

Totally forgot about this game existed, good job on the marketing Konami.

Posted by thevigilanteoflove

Ah. I love reading the title of an article or review and knowing Alex wrote it.

Posted by kerikxi

@Alex: Yeah, in that sense, it's at least not a completely broken experience, just a thoroughly unpleasant one. It's really just semantics; in the end, it's not a good game, and the review definitely got that across.

Posted by doublezeroduck

Alex does the review of the 360 version? Yet he has no achievements for the game. Weird. Did he even play it?

Posted by Alex

@doublezeroduck: I played a debug copy, but that's adorable that you'd look up my achievements.

Posted by UberExplodey

I saw the Destructoid guys stream this on release day...looked like trash.

Posted by Fozimuth

Knew there would be trouble as soon as I saw it was being made by Rebellion.

And the horrible "break apart like a gimmicky action figure" every 5 seconds was a bit of a hint.

Posted by BeachThunder

Now I want to see Alex do a review of Amy :o

Posted by Landon

Too bad. I thought it looked kinda cool. Oh well.

Posted by 234r2we232

Ugh! Reading through this review, I had severe Comic Jumper flashbacks... excuse me, I'm gonna crawl into a corner and cry for a while.

Posted by NMC2008

I had a feeling it was you Alex lol.

Posted by iAmJohn

Another bad game from Rebellion. Well I, for one, am shocked!

Posted by tourgen

What did Alex do to deserve this abuse?

Posted by UricTheOddball

Having read the review, I have to wonder how Alex really feels about the game.

Posted by steelknight2000

Does the game at least use the Megadeth song in any meaningful way? It's not their best work, but it's better than this fucking game.

Posted by theodacourt

This definitely sounds like a one or zero star game. What redeeming features does it have? (or doesn't it have any?)

Posted by rts375

Damn, all these years later and poor Alex still has to review these shitty games.

Posted by Brockly46

@steelknight2000: the song is in this trailer here

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