The unholy marriage between East and West continues with Neverdead being the latest collaboration between a Japanese studio (Konami) and a Western developer (British studio Rebellion).
Konami scored a hit with their East/West collaboration of last year, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, so let's see if they can do it again.
Neverdead tells the tale of Bryce Boltzmann, a demon hunter cursed with immortality by the demon king Astaroth 500 years ago, and now hunts demons for a government agency, along with his mortal partner Arcadia. Strange demon activity has started to occur in the city and it is up to Bryce to stop it - and that is where our tale begins.
Neverdead is a third-person shooter/melee combat game seen many times before. What makes Neverdead unique is the fact that Bryce is immortal, which means he, for the most part, can't die.
When he takes a certain amount of damage, his limbs will dismember until you are just left with his head. Once a bar refills, he can regenerate the rest of his body from just his head. The only time you will actually see a game-over screen is when an enemy called the "Grandbaby" sucks your head in its body before you have had a chance to regenerate. Once this happens, you are greeted with a mini-game where you have to press the X button at the right time. Fail that and Bryce's head will be trapped for all eternity in the Grandbaby's stomach (nice!).
You also have the ability to rip your own arms and head off to aid you in various ways. For instance, you can throw your arms into a boss's mouth to shoot him from the inside out, or throw your head to reach collectables or solve basic puzzles, etc.
As far as the shooting mechanics are concerned, you have two reticules on-screen, representing the left and right trigger. Yes, this does mean awesome dual-wielding, with the direction pad allowing for weapon changes.
Melee combat is initiated by locking on to an enemy and then using your right analogue stick to simulate various slashes with your butterfly blade. If the controls sound like they are overly complicated and sluggish, they are.
The shooting takes some getting used to due to the sluggish camera, while the melee combat could've been a bit more straightforward like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. But the latter is the preferred option for combat as the guns are way underpowered (except for the shotgun and assault rifle). In fact, you will only really use the guns for a few enemy types and bosses.
The game also lets you destroy the environment to damage enemies and to collect experience to upgrade your abilities. The environmental damage is not widespread in that you can only damage certain surfaces or objects in the game. This environmental damage does considerable damage to the enemies though, saving me quite a few times in the game. The developers obviously spent a lot of time perfecting this.
The upgrade system is quite cool as you can buy different abilities with the experience gained from killing enemies and collecting collectibles. You'll start off with ten slots for upgrades, and with upgrades taking up 1 to 4 slots, you have to be quite strategic when choosing them. Examples of upgrades range from increasing your shooting and melee power to having explosive limbs.
At first, I really disliked this game, with its clumsy controls, repetitive gameplay and repeated enemy designs. But, it's one of those games that grows on you the more you play it.
By the time the game came to the final stages, I grew fond of Bryce even though he is not the most likeable character and the story was well told despite feeling all too familiar.
The fact that you will spend most of the game in pieces is also annoying, but you get used to it and actually start using it to your advantage. If Arcadia (like NPC partners in other games) dies, it also ends your game. However, she is not as useless as other characters and I ended up saving her only a handful of times.
The game will last you about 8 to 10 hours and you'll have no need to replay it except for trophies. I can't comment on the the multiplayer as the PSN was undergoing maintenance during this review.
In the presentation department, graphics are adequate and the sound design was decent. However, you'll appreciate the soundtrack if you are a Megadeth fan.
As much as I would like to recommend this game wholeheartedly, I would have to say try before you buy.
Score: 6 out of 10