At E3 in June, I watched Konami's Shinta Nojiri play NeverDead and struggle to reassemble his dismembered, immortal hero just to dispatch what looked like the game's run-of-the-mill enemies. These people have a real problem on their hands, I thought to myself, if they think that's anyone's idea of fun.
For nearly two years we've heard so much about NeverDead's so-called "novel concept," which is its title character's immortality. That's a hell of a starting point and yet, given the opportunity to do so many creative things with a character who can tear off his head, NeverDead instead jammed its own up its ass.
I'm not going to genuflect to this game's concept when it comes with no recognizable risk-taking elsewhere in the gameplay. What you have is the difference between a long-playing game and something that takes a long time to play. The least encounter can turn into a time-consuming struggle to reunite your body parts and shut off the source of your troubles.
I suppose an immortal wouldn't respect other people's time, now that I think about it. But NeverDead's cliché-strewn landscape also communicates utter lack of respect for the effort you'll put into it. I felt mocked with every passing minute of a boss battle that had no end in sight. The difficulty spikes in this game are infuriating because they arise from Rebellion Developments' utter ignorance of what this novel concept it invented really means to a traditional slash-and-shoot video game.
WHY: Because the effort you put into finishing NeverDead is far more than its designers put into making it. The game practically mocks you with its clichés and design that seems not to give a damn.
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Released: Jan. 31 (North America); Feb. 2 (Japan); Feb. 3 (Europe).
Type of game: Third-person shooter/action with demon-busting sword- and gunplay.
What I played: Gave up in the final sequence of bosses after about 11 hours of gameplay, at least a third of that untrimmed fat from interminable fights. Didn't finish the campaign. Don't care to, either. Tried to find a multiplayer match one week after release but could not.
My Two Favorite Things
- No Quicktime events.
My Two Least-Favorite Things
- An utter lack of imagination, in both enemy variety, boss battles, and mission design.
- Terrible camera means not only is the combat an interminable chore, it's painful and confusing to watch.
- "Headless body in a mindless game." —Owen Good, Kotaku.com
- "NeverDead makes me want to kill myself." —Owen Good, Kotaku.com
- "Life is too short to waste your time on NeverDead" —Owen Good, Kotaku.com
Well, for this review, here's my own novel concept, followed up with phoned-in execution. This review will be a compilation of Tweets I published earlier this afternoon. Enjoy.
"NeverDead is like a pop-country song whose creator came up with a nifty hook on a cocktail napkin and then half-assed the rest." —@owengood at 1:01, Feb. 9, 2012.
"The game tries to justify the ability to not be killed in gruesome combat rather than put it toward any fun purpose." —@owengood at 1:02, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Neverdead's most visceral experiences all come from the drawbacks of living forever, and none of its advantages." —@owengood at 1:04, Feb. 9, 2012.
"If that's supposed to be an ironic message about mortality, it's not worth wasting eight hours on a video game to hear it." —@owengood at 1:06, Feb. 9, 2012.
"The guns are terribly underpowered. The shotgun has two rounds and an awful reload time. Some enemies can only be defeated with the sword. Just use that." —@owengood at 1:08, Feb. 9, 2012.
"The sword is right stick plus trigger. Right stick alone is the camera. Free-looking to track your enemy with the sword equipped is a bitch." —@owengood at 1:09, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Note: A jumping puzzle while headless is still a jumping puzzle." —@owengood at 1:11, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Your priority in clearing a room isn't the demons, it's shutting down the "womb" barfing them out. Infuriatingly, these "wombs" will move." —@owengood at 1:13, Feb. 9, 2012.
RT "Are you describing a video game or Antonio Cromartie?" —@TecmoRepository at 1:18, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Not counting bosses we've got only three enemy types: Puppies, spoons, grandbabies. I'm not counting missile/gun spoons or explodo-puppies." —@owengood at 1:14, Feb. 9, 2012.
"'There's a puppy!' 'There's a spoon!' Thanks, Arcadia. You're a very helpful partner. At least reviving you is only a single button press." —@owengood at 1:15, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Sometimes I can reattach my head by rolling into my body. Sometimes regeneration power-ups work on contact. How should this work? No clue." —@owengood at 1:17, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Why did Rebellion map regeneration to the right thumbstick button, the most uncertain button press on the controller? Why not X/square?" —@owengood at 1:19, Feb. 9, 2012.
"NeverDead also can't make up its mind what weapon you'll hold when your body regenerates. Gun? Sword? It's usually the one you don't want." —@owengood at 1:20, Feb. 9, 2012.
"games seem to do exclusively what i don't want them to do." —@number108 at 1:21, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Minibosses are recycled for use later in the game. One "panda" not tough enough? How about TWO?" —@owengood at 1:22, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Rebellion is incapable of creatively designing a challenge, making immortality a schtick, not some risk-taking advancement in gameplay." —@owengood at 1:23, Feb. 9, 2012.
""Collectible acquired." That's it? Boy, those generic collectibles really make me want to go out of my way to find them." —@owengood at 1:24, Feb. 9, 2012.
"XP and upgrades are gratuitous after you get bullet time and exploding limbs. I stopped upgrading midway through." —@owengood at 1:25, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Rebellion's really proud of its destructible environment. That's why they packed it with explosion hazards. Why the hell did this desk explode?" —@owengood at 1:27, Feb. 9, 2012.
"All the explosions do is showcase how terrible the camera is, especially when your head goes flying." —@owengood at 1:28, Feb. 9, 2012.
"So much debris in every level it makes every movement laborious. Here, look at this:" —@owengood at 1:29, Feb. 9, 2012.
"What the hell is the purpose of these scenes in Arcadia's apartment? Who the hell cares if I can put my head in a washing machine?" —@owengood at 1:32K, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Also: Bryce Boltzmann? From the 16th century? Is this guy a demon hunter or a fraternity social chairman?" —@owengood at 1:34, Feb. 9, 2012.
"The effete demon "Sangria," who looks like a melted Peep in a Shakespearean play, is a rare combination: Offensive to gay men and Southerners." —@owengood at 1:38, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Wait, let me guess, this sedate voice from mission control actually is working for the demons and will sell us out. Oh, shocking." —@owengood at 1:40, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Wait, let me guess, this fight with "Alex" who looks like an emo yoga instructor, won't actually be my final showdown." —@owengood at 1:41, Feb. 9, 2012.
"Nope. And I think I spent 45 minutes battling a concept that takes five minutes to code: a boss with regenerating health." —@owengood at 1:41, Feb. 9, 2012.
RT "so you're saying NeverDead is a great buy. Or maybe I just read that wrong." —@RogStillion at 1:45, Feb. 9, 2012.
"These people have a real problem on their hands if they think this is anyone's idea of fun:" —@owengood at 1:46, Feb. 9, 2012.
"RT @owengood Your priority in clearing a room isn't the demons, it's shutting down the "womb" barfing them out. ... BarfBot SYMPATHYBARF" —@BarfBot at 1:47, Feb. 9, 2012.
"NeverDead is just a stupid chore and a waste of time. The end." —@owengood at 1:48, Feb. 9, 2012.