When you're making a game with a lead character who can't die, you're left with a serious jeopardy deficit. NeverDead's problem was always going to be generating tension. Your partner, Arcadia, can die, triggering a game over, but it's unlikely. And her death would be desirable anyway - the banter between her and hero Bryce is cyclical, bottom-of-the-barrel sass.
Immortal you may be, but your arms and legs eject with indecent regularity, and your head falls off at the drop of a hat. When you're rolling around as a head, you're likely to be eaten by a Grandbaby. If it gets you, there's a live or die QTE. Your head gets knocked off a lot, and Grandbabies respawn infinitely, so this happens far too often. Unfortunately, death by QTE is one of the less obnoxious decisions in the game.
NeverDead's worst sin is the way it replaces challenge with inconvenience. Dull bosses that have the insulting ability to regenerate health, prolonging the boredom. The sword and gun combat has very little depth. Shoot, slice, combat roll. Off you pop.
The same enemies return again and again, slightly stronger but with no new tactics. And your own levelling up system is so inadequate and unimaginative - thrill to a 10 per cent gun damage boost! - that you actually feel weaker as you progress.
The camera is so clumsy, the screen so busy and the frame rate so disgustingly choppy that coming apart is inevitable. Half of your game will be spent rolling around recovering your limbs. It's not often you'll weep with frustration, but NeverDead feels like walking around in a pair of tiny shoes. The novelty soon wears off and the discomfort quickly blossoms into pain.
What NeverDead does worst is boss battles, and the game's finale lurches from one boss to another, interspersed with arenas where you'll fight endless iterations of monster combinations. Panda Bear is a self-healing trial of endurance, and the insult is compounded when you're asked to fight two at once. Some of our bleakest thoughts came in that moment.
This should have been better. Rebellion has done likeable banter in Rogue Trooper, Shinta Nojiri has made better stories, and they've all cracked jokes that don't fall this flat. But NeverDead honestly feels like a game whose creators gave up on it half-way through. It's a tragedy that it fails on so many levels.
A promising start outstays its welcome
- Some incredible artwork
- Appalling test of patience
- No sense of progress
- Very choppy frame rates
- Consistently annoying