NeverDead E3 2011 Hand-On Preview -- Trying to Put the Bloody Pieces TogetherBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jun 16, 2011
In Rebellion’s gothic shooter NeverDead, you can rip off your head, launch it into a inaccessible area, and then regrow the rest of your body out of your head, thereby bypassing the blockade. You can also tear off your limbs and turn them into enemy-baiting bombs if in a pinch. Should you be blown apart in a fight, you can reassemble yourself by rolling your head into your severed limbs, which will promptly attach themselves in the proper place. If these examples aren’t enough to impress upon you the level of crazy Rebellion is shooting for with this game, we’re going to have problems.
NeverDead tells the story of a tragically immortal alcoholic named Bryce Boltzmann who has been forced to live with the loss of his family for over 500 years, and who is now on the hunt for redemption and demon asses to cap. Of course, none of this backstory was presented during my hands-on time with the game during E3. My time with the game was about one thing and one thing only: bizarre and, at times, frustrating showdowns with numerous demonic forces.
The demo opens with Bryce and his companion Arcadia outside a natural history museum where Arcadia gives us our mission, “Clean this place up.” Just then, a large portion of scaffolding comes crashing down and explodes, as the pair moves into a gated courtyard. Several waves of beasties soon descend on the scene, compliments of a pod that will continue to launch enemies out of it until it’s destroyed.
The gunplay is typical of any third-person action game, with Bryce capable of shooting while strafing and rolling to avoid attacks. He can also wield swords for melee attacks, only instead of being mapped to a face button, you have to use the right thumbstick for sword swipes, which ended up being rather frustrating to grasp, and just devolved into me just wiggling the stick wildly to slash without any control to speak of. The upside though was that enemies can be hacked apart in a variety of ways, so there's that.
But by far the most compelling and original mechanic in the game is Bryce’s regeneration ability. Not only can he remove his own body parts and use them to solve puzzles or as improvised grenades, but he can also lose them in battle. It’s no biggie though since all you have to do is click a button, and a fresh limb will sprout from the empty socket. If you’d rather just pick up the lost appendage, you just walk, crawl, or roll over it, and it will reattach itself to your body. Each level of dismemberment has specific animations assigned to them, so you’ll be hoping on one leg, dragging your legless torso, or just rolling your head around on a regular basis, which is just as odd as you might think.
Based on the demo, there will also be puzzles in the game that will require inventive uses of your dismemberment ability. In our case, we had to rip off our head and toss it into a fountain to block the water spout, causing a blockage that resulted in our head being shot high into the air and through the glass roof of the museum. Once inside, we regenerated our limbs, and shot out a circuit breaker to open security gates to access the museum’s first floor showroom.
In addition to personal destruction, the game also features high levels of environmental devastation. Statues, structures, pillars, and the like can be torn apart with bullets, and you can even bring down entire floors by shooting out their support beams, taking out any enemies unfortunate enough to be underneath. I felt bad for a second after I obliterated a gorgeous dinosaur skeleton in a hail of bullets, but then I realized that it was the first, and probably last, time I’d ever do such a thing in a game, so that eased the pain.
The museum quickly turned into an all our warzone as enemies started pouring in from all sides. Inflators carry a shield, requiring you to get behind them to bring them down, while Grandbabies use their vacuum mouths to try and inhale your head should it pop off. The final enemy to literally burst onto the scene was a rhino-ish creature with virtually impenetrable skin that did nothing but knock me on my ass over and over and over again until my session was over. Now, I’m no fancy PR guy or anything, but I’d think leaving players frustrated and annoyed right at the end of a demo wouldn’t be something you’d want to do when introducing new players to your product. But like I said, what do I know?
NeverDead’s big hook is obviously its body regeneration mechanic, since everything else I saw in the demo was reminiscent of any number of demon-laced shooter you’ve seen before. But I have a feeling that it might get stale after the 40 or 50th time you do it, especially when every encounter looks to contain some element specifically designed to separate you from your limbs. It's a novel idea, but we know if it will be enough to carry the entire game until we see the game in its entirety instead of in...well...pieces.