A couple of additional demon types are introduced in the second half of the game, but do little to alleviate the repetition. There are two basic types of encounter: rooms containing 'wombs' which endlessly spit out enemies until you destroy them, and areas blocked off by demon seals, which trap you until you've killed everything in sight.
Bosses are a welcome change of pace, but with one exception they're all defeated in the same way: expose weak point, attack weak point. On occasion you don't even need to bother with the first. Mind you, perhaps keeping it simple is wise; whenever Rebellion attempts anything more ambitious, the game falls apart as easily as its protagonist. One fight, set inside a boss's rotating stomach, sees the otherwise acceptable camera completely lose the plot. Admittedly, it does do a neat line in destructible scenery - at least, it would be neat if it didn't have such an impact on framerate. Killing enemies with crumbling masonry can shorten battles considerably, but environments are so busy and combat so chaotic that you're more likely to squash something by happy accident rather than intelligent design.
Your partner, Arcadia, will occasionally need reviving, but you have plenty of time to save her and she mostly stays out of trouble - even if she's no real help in a fight. Which means the only real danger comes from the skittish vacuum monsters that swallow Bryce's head when it's separated from his body. When this happens - and it will, because they're faster than you - you need to press a button at the right time to force them to spit you out. Fail to time it properly and it's back to the last checkpoint. This isn't too frustrating as checkpoints are sensibly spaced, but it becomes an issue thanks to dismemberment being governed by an unfathomable system. There's no consistency whatsoever - a direct hit from an enemy can leave you without a scratch, then the next will scatter your limbs across the room.
The script, meanwhile, is woeful. Bryce is supposed to be a wisecracking anti-hero, but that would suggest there's an element of wit to his dialogue. Presenting him with a mere handful of whiny soundbites to grunt whenever decapitated is a wretched idea, making him less likeable the more often he's beheaded. His backstory - told through some nicely-rendered CGI cutscenes - is the most interesting element of the plot, but it jars against the attempted jokiness of the present-day scenario. "C'mon - we don't have time for these childish games," tuts Arcadia, just as her cleavage fills the screen. Well, you said it. That the soundtrack, comprising almost exclusively of juddering metal from Megadeth, often drowns out the dialogue is actually a small mercy.
NeverDead isn't entirely without good ideas. The upgrade system is nicely implemented, allowing you to switch abilities at any time, as long as you have the slots to accommodate the abilities you want. It's a particular boon when you're fighting a boss and need to adopt a different approach from the standard scraps. And there's one brief moment of levity during a rare bit of downtime at Arcadia's apartment, where a series of throwaway interactions allow Bryce to give his head a rinse in the washing machine, or clean his teeth for the first time in 126 years.
But the most surprising thing about NeverDead is just how boring it all is. This is an utterly generic shooter with an inspired dismemberment mechanic that neither Rebellion nor director Shinta Nojiri seems to know what to do with. Lacking any kind of spark whatsoever, it becomes increasingly apparent that NeverAlive would be a more honest title.
Version Tested: PlayStation 3
VideoGamer.com Score3 Score out of 10
- If you like Megadeth, you'll love the soundtrack
- A wealth of tiny niggles that boil over into frustration
- A total waste of a great idea
- Horribly repetitive