I was intrigued when I first heard about NeverDead’s unique gameplay involving undead protagonist Bryce’s ability to lose all his limbs and still fight on. In theory, throwing your arm to distract a herd of hungry demons or using your head like Samus’ morph ball ability is awesome. In practice, having your body fall apart while trying to play an action game is very annoying.
The E3 2011 demo at Konami’s booth involves Bryce running around killing monsters with his scantily clad female partner. Bryce has a pistol and SMG at his disposal, one attached to each of the controller's triggers. If an enemy bites off Bryce's hand holding the SMG, you’ll be left with just a pistol. At this point in development the aiming mechanic feels very loose, and I had a hard time lining up the dual reticules and gunning down enemies. My dubious marksmanship drained ammo in no time, so I switched to Bryce’s blade. Holding down a button turns allows players to control Bryce’s sword swipes with an analog stick. Move the stick, up, down, side to side, or diagonally and Bryce will unleash a volley of swipes. The swordplay was entertaining when I got a handle on it, but still sloppy.
Getting a handle on the game’s mediocre controls would’ve been more bearable if it weren’t for the sheer inconvenience of being continually dismembered. It turns out losing your arms and legs while trying to stave off demon hounds isn’t very much fun. Additionally, using Bryce’s head to roll around and explore environments is very unrewarding at this point in development. You can grow back all your limbs with a click of a button, but only if a meter is fully charged. For almost two full minutes I was pinned legless in a corner by a raging beast, impotently firing off pistol rounds as I futilely attempted to escape. Additionally, Bryce’s completely useless A.I. partner must be revived every 30 seconds, a task no gamer wants to be burdened with.
NeverDead has an interesting premise and core gameplay that has potential, but the dismemberment mechanic feels gimmicky and ends up disrupting the flow of the game. I’m hoping developer Rebellion can salvage the fun bits of the game and improve the limbless gameplay in time for NeverDead’s release later this year.