-Error reading from ESRB datastream-
You play as Bryce, a 500+ year old immortal demon hunter that works for a modern day demon hunting agency called NADA. Bryce became an immortal 500 years ago when he and his wife were fighting a powerful demon. His wife was killed, and he was cursed to live as an immortal forever. Bryce is partnered with Arcadia, a mortal NADA operative that accompanies you throughout the game. Arcadia, like most of the characters in the game, is a nothing but a cliché. She is your typical all business, confident career woman. She spurns Bryce’s advances at the start, but obviously his “charms” will win her over by the end. She is also dressed in an unnecessarily revealing way, and there several suspect camera angles during cutscenes throughout the game. Bryce is your typical valiant hero turned curmudgeonly old drunk, who still believes in good even if he doesn’t show it. The characters are nothing more than cardboard cut-out archetypes, and they aren’t helped by the writing.
The dialogue is painfully cheesy almost all the time, with tons of ridiculous puns and one liners making up the majority of the combat dialogue. The cutscene dialogue doesn’t fare much better, with several instances of painfully dry, extremely lazily delivered exposition. There is one point in the game where Arcadia explains Bryce’s back-story to another character, the annoyingly vapid pop star Nikki, and all the exposition is given while the two sit on couch, looking straight forward, with no animation, while you the player stand in front of them and listen to her speak. I actually laughed out loud at the how absurdly haphazardly this scene is composed. There could have been a much more elegant way of revealing this information (information I had already mostly inferred based on a lengthy CG flashback not 1 hour earlier), and this example is really indicative of most of the storytelling in the game. As for the plot, it is your typical “super powerful demon is being summoned, we have to stop it!” type plot, with twists I saw coming ten miles away, and a fairly unsatisfying resolution.
NeverDead is best described as a linear third person action game with both shooting and melee combat. The whole game is spent moving forward through fairly narrow levels, defeating enemies along the way, and usually fighting a boss at the end. The crux of the design is that you must destroy what are basically monster generators to stop the enemies from spawning so you can move on. This makes the game simply a chore to play. The fact that you have to hack away (or shoot at) monster generators before you can move forward is tedious and simply not fun. These things can sometimes go down easily if you exploit their weaknesses quickly or have environmental hazards nearby to use, but oftentimes they are left with only their armor remaining, which you can only slightly chip away at while enemies continue to pour out. The game has Zelda-style barriers that block the doors until all the enemies are dead, which is not inherently bad, but the fact that the enemies can keep spawning as long as just one generator remains makes the barriers all the more annoying. The enemies themselves are not very interesting, and there are only a handful of enemy types, with the first enemies you see still being the most common throughout the entire game. There are boss fights as well, which are typical “shoot the glowing part” fights. Some are okay, some less so, but they re-use the same fights multiple times, which feels lazy.
The combat itself certainly doesn’t help alleviate the tedious repetition of the level design. You have both guns and a sword, and neither are very fun to use. You are dual wielding guns at all times, with the left and right triggers controlling the guns individually. You can zoom in by clicking the right stick, but I never really found that to be much use. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll have access to a pretty standard array of guns; SMG, assault rifle, shotgun; the typical stuff. You can dual wield any of these guns, which is cool enough, but I find that all the guns, save for maybe the grenade launcher, share a common flaw; they feel weak and ineffectual. Every gun feels like a pea shooter, and are extremely unsatisfying to shoot. It’s a perfect combination of weak sounding effects, lack of controller vibration (or very minimal controller vibration in some cases), and low damage dealt that make all the guns feel like toys; they are simply not fun to fire.
The sword combat is not much better, with a needlessly complex and unintuitive control scheme. Instead of effortless switching between firearms and swords like Devil May Cry, you have to take out your sword, lock on to the enemies before you can even swing it, and then use poorly implemented analog controls with the right stick. Analog controls could have been cool if they were done right, but you actually feel like you have less control than you would by simply using a button (mostly because the only way I found to effectively use the sword with any kind of speed was to simply flail the stick back and forth), and even more confusingly, there was not one moment where the game demanded any kind of precise sword strikes. I got through the game fine by simply swinging wildly at enemies.