Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Neverdead (PS3) - Quick Game Review

Elation Through Mutilation

Though savagely panned by critics and players alike, I feel that Neverdead has been underserved by the gaming public. Though it has it's flaws, it's brevity, decent graphics and darkly hilarious script make it an ideal rental for any player looking for a more classical shoot'em up with a few modern creature comforts. It's the sort of game that rental services are ideal for.

Don't let it's sombre, realistic style mislead you. 

Neverdead's core mechanic is the protagonist's indestructibility, as Bryce Boltzmann can be dismembered but can reassemble his body by rolling his head into lost limbs ala Katamari Damachi. It's a refreshing take on the rebounding health systems which we're all used to, and though it might be frustrating at times it underpins Bryce's painful existence as a reluctant immortal. Thankfully the dodging system is fairly solid, so if you are vigilant you can go quite awhile without loss of life and limb.

Just try not to mislay your torso.

The gameplay is evocative of the Midway action series The Suffering, but with an additional emphasis on sword as well as gunplay. There is also an impressive amount of scenery deformation, and the game even encourages you to destroy architecture to bring it down on enemies. It also demonstrates Bryce's personality as a gameplay dynamic, showing his casual disregard for property as his long life has desensitized him.

There is an RPG system in place with a wide gamut of skills to choose from, and gives the player a chance to find their own method of play that suits them. Yet the moment-to-moment gameplay may surprise you with it's intricacies too; my favourite trick is to pull off my arm and throw it at explosive barrels, luring hungry monsters to them before opening fire and destroying the whole horde with ease.

Yes, that demon has cherub statues embedded in it's arm.

The other appeal of Neverdead lies in it's script. While the plot is intentionally cliche and full of elements familiar to any fan of Devil May Cry or God Hand, the wry banter between protagonists and Bryce's hobo-with-superpowers mentality is a real treat. There's even some genuine pathos to be found in Bryce's backstory and the secret to his immortality, though it's all played up for cheese as much as possible. The game's developers at Rebellion are the guys who make 2000AD's games and it shows. If you have a taste for ultraviolence, bawdy humour and farce, I dare say you'll get a kick out of Neverdead.

Naturally the game has it's flaws. The game's mechanics are often more frustrating than challenging, the mutilation system might grate for some people, and I've heard that some people can't get comfortable with the aiming system. Naturally describing gameplay nuances is one the hardest things someone can do with our limited lexicons, but with respect I think that most people won't find it hard to get to grips with.

The biggest problem is a lack of gameplay diversity; it can take hours for new enemies to be introduced, and other than a few stand out set pieces, most scenarios are simply a matter of finding the enemy spawn point and thrashing it with your sword until it goes away. The boss fights tend to be fairly typical affairs, apart from one which makes good use of the arm-ripping mechanic and another which is quite a fun homage to a boss from Metal Gear Solid 2. It even dares to have a few simple puzzles in it, which is stunning for a modern game in a market which has all but abandoned the concept of a good brain-teaser.

Or dunker.

And then of course there's the game length. The game is almost comically short, and can easily be polished off in less than seven hours, and other than some higher difficulty settings and new powers to unlock there's not much incentive to replay. While there is a multiplayer suite, it's entirely abandoned, which seems tragic but to be expected from an obscure title like this.

But this brevity just makes Neverdead a more solid rental. By all means don't buy Neverdead unless it really tickles you, but I think that if you approach the game with the right attitude it'll leave you smiling. I certainly enjoyed it more than the higher profile releases this year, such as Max Payne 3 or Resident Evil 6.

You want to know the really sad thing? This is probably the closest thing to a great Highlander game we'll ever see.

Cheaper, better options: Dead Space, The Suffering (Free on PC!)

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