Gamescom 2011: NeverDead Hands-On Preview - Don't Lose Your Head!
Written Sunday, August 28, 2011 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Ever fancied rolling around as a disembodied head, trying to defeat an army of demons? No. Well you’re going to get the chance to do so anyway, so prepare yourself to be blown up, set on fire, dismembered and generally given a harder time than the regular corpse, as NeverDead looks to provide an alternative way to play the regular third-person action adventure. We caught up with the game's Producer, Shinta Nojiri, who showed us just what to expect as well as answering a few fairly frank questions.
Things seem fairly straightforward when we were introduced to Bryce, an immortal demon hunter, who was cursed with his current condition when a botched attempt to slay the Demon King occurred over five hundred years ago. While most people would be happy to live forever, Bryce has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is seeking a way out of his eternal punishment. Though to pass the time he is still up for a bit of demon slaying on the side – no point being bored now is there?
The action is split across two eras of the game, with Bryce looking back on his 500 year old self and also focusing on his current mission, a seemingly unwinnable war against the same demon that defeated him soundly so long ago. The gameplay is what you would expect with Bryce having a plethora of firepower with which to unleash hell against, well, hell spawn. Obviously if that were all there was to it then things would get stale pretty quickly, so it is quite handy that Bryce can utilise his unique nature to dispatch foes.
Due to his immortality Bryce can set himself on fire and then leap at foes to do the same, he can destroy explosives while stood next to them and also drop whole buildings on himself and his foes to deal massive damage. The onus is really on taking as much damage as possible rather than avoiding it and the fully destructible environments enable you to come up with a variety of ghoulish ways to dispatch foes. Basically you are encouraged to fight as dirty as possible, and use that to take down enemies. Bryce may well lose a limb or two along the way, or even be reduced to just a rolling head, but he can reattach limbs assuming he can find them, or even re-grow them entirely at certain points.
The ability to detach limbs can also be used strategically as Bryce can throw his head over obstructions in order to open a path, or detach an arm and fling it down a demons throat to shoot it from the inside. The possibilities are certainly intriguing but a careful balance has been made to keep the game challenging. While Bryce is dismembered he is at risk of being eaten by enemies, resulting in game over, and he is also tasked with keeping his female partner alive at certain junctures. Obviously players will need to balance the risk versus rewards of each situation, as standing on top of a train while it crashes may not make much sense in most games, but here it could be the key to defeating a horde of monsters.
It's a strange concept and one that even Shinta Nojiri himself admits to being a challenge to get off the ground. His initial idea was to use an immortal player but also to have a unique mechanic that would set NeverDead apart from other games, which is where the idea for dismemberment came in. He went on to say that even the team working on the game had trouble understanding how it would work, and there were a lot of problems and fights in getting them to understand the philosophy of the title. Initial discussions were tricky as at first the team hated the idea of dismemberment, and tried to avoid having it in the game at all as they found it “annoying” to the player, however, Shinta believed in his vision and pushed through the idea by making the gameplay as fun and varied as possible.
Shinta explained the game could be played as a straight up shooter, with players avoiding dismemberment as much as possible, but it would be a lot harder and less fun. When asked how the team felt now that the game was pretty much complete, he laughed and said he wasn’t sure how they felt about the dismemberment, and in a way didn’t care as he was happy with the final product, but they had made the game as enjoyable as possible. While he agreed that dismemberment could look strange, it served an important function in the game and helped it to stand out, plus he was happy that the vision he had created at the start could be fulfilled in such a unique manner.
With seemingly such resistance behind the scenes then, it will certainly be interesting to see the final product once it arrives, and just how players can manage the various stages of dismemberment. As losing a leg could slow things down, while having no arms reduces the chance of being able to attack, so there is certainly a lot of risk here between having that unique selling point and making a game that is enjoyable rather than frustrating to play. With so many third-person shooters flooding the market though it is refreshing to see a producer willing to go out on a limb (see what I did there) to make a title that offers something new, and the fact that he had so much passion to stick to his beliefs and vision should speak volumes.
On the most basic level, the game looks to have an interesting story and plenty of action. Plus it certainly looks good enough and the level or destructibility, and outright crazy violence, is pretty over the top. Whether the unique mechanic will help or hinder the overall flow of the game remains to be seen, but you can rest assured that this will not be like anything else you will have played.
Expect to be reattaching limbs and kicking demon ass when NeverDead is released later this year.