1st Feb 2012 | 10:45
A promising concept from Metal Gear Acid's Shinta Nojiri and Rebellion Software, you might have had tall expectations for NeverDead, which - at first glance at least - certainly goes out on a limb to set itself apart.
Bad puns aside though, Konami's action game falls well short of the initial promise we cruelly dangled in the opening paragraph.
NeverDead's main pulling point is the fact that, well, you never die; every one of your limbs can be hacked off brutally, to the point where you are just a head rolling around on the floor.
Because you can't actually die the main challenge in the game, unfortunately, is taming its messy fighting mechanics. The dual-wield guns set up a Devil May Cry expectation but never get anywhere near Capcom's game. The firearms lack power and impact - even the shotgun - and every encounter that requires a long range solution is a chore.
There are no combos, no chains and no momentum, the only strategic decision you have to make is whether to shoot or slice.
The sword is controlled by the right stick, which - in theory - allows precise control for targeted dismemberment. Unfortunately fights usually degenerate into furious stick waggling as you compete with the maelstrom of enemies that swamp you if you're not careful.
The camera is a major nuisance as well, with no option to select specific targets. The fact that you have to switch out between the guns and sword mean the fluidity of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta is sorely lacking here. Not being able to stylishly chain up combos with different weapons plays a large part in the repetitive nature of NeverDead's fighting.
DEAD AGAIN... AND AGAIN
Enemies rarely provide any variation; the scenario you encounter early on in which you must fight off waves of two or three types of critters before taking down the mollusc-like spawners repeats itself more often than a senile lecturer.
Occasionally a boss battle will conjure some entertainment and make use of the game's more innovative features. The final part of the 'Quad-Jaw' deserves a mention, with the player needing to detach one of your arms, gun included, and throw it into his mouth to take it down from the inside.
Unfortunately this is the exception to the rather tedious rule; monotonous bosses that regenerate health to prolong the pain should be a cardinal sin of gaming. There are a lot of them in NeverDead.
Whatever the game's good points, they're submerged by its numerous flaws. There is a levelling system of sorts tied in with the game, but upgrades rarely change the core mechanic of the game and instead merely come off as superficial.
Destructible environments add a small level of strategy to the repetitive action, but puzzles lack imagination. When they crop up, they usually involve some use of limb detachment, which is unique on its own, but when your head is rolling down the 10th air duct in as many minutes, you'll quickly tire of the concept.
The other potential pitfall is your female partner Arcadia, who is a large degree more killable than you, and if she dies it's game over. Thankfully she manages to stay out of trouble for the most part. But more than half an hour of 'witty banter' between her and Bryce will leave you wishing you could detach her head and shoot some hoops with it.
NeverDead rarely gets to a point where you want to pull your own arm off just to have something to throw at the TV, but neither does it offer much more than ten hours of frustrating, repetitive gameplay.
The initial concept may have been intriguing, but the final game definitely suggests that staying alive is vastly overrated.