I've always been a big supporter of creativity in video games. I love when developers go off the beaten path and try something fresh and original. Quirky titles like "Catherine" and "Shadows of the Damned" would have never been possible if developers were afraid to take chances on new concepts.
Unfortunately, just because an original idea looks good on paper during a preproduction meeting doesn't necessarily mean that it will translate into a good game. "NeverDead" is a prime example of this.
Konami's latest effort is a hybrid first-person shooter built around the notion that its immortal hero, Bryce Boltzmann, can be dismembered and decapitated, but not killed. When Bryce is attacked, he literally falls to pieces. You then have to roll his head around "Katamari"-style to collect your rogue body parts and make yourself whole again. This concept plays directly into the gameplay, as you'll need to tear Bryce apart in order to solve puzzles and defeat certain enemies.
On paper, this sounds like an interesting premise for a video game. But "NeverDead" stumbles over the very ideas that could have made it a lot of fun. As a result, the game quickly dissolves into one frustrating moment after the next. Forget that Bryce's limbs become detached by the slightest contact, which means you'll spend more time gathering arms and legs than actually moving the story forward. Never mind that Bryce, himself, and his secret agent sidekick, Arcadia, have absolutely zero redeeming qualities as characters and that their "witty" back-and-forth banter failed to elicit little more than a smirk from me. And try to look past the horrible camera that alternates between failing to keep up with the action and getting caught behind Bryce, effectively eliminating your ability to see what is going on around you.
I actually could have forgiven those missteps had the most basic elements of the game - moving and shooting -- worked well. But they don't. I understand that Bryce has had a rough few centuries, but that doesn't mean he should control like one of the zombies from "The Walking Dead." Part of the blame for this undoubtedly lies with the aforementioned camera, but the lack of responsiveness makes every combat scenario an exercise in frustration. It got so bad that I actually switched exclusively to his giant blade - which is cumbersome to use in its own right -- and hoped for the best.
I'm not even going to get into the convoluted story, drab visuals or weird audio issues because I don't want to pile on, but suffice to say there's very little that "NeverDead" does well.
Even though I'm thoroughly disappointed by how "NeverDead" turned out, I applaud Konami for giving developer Rebellion the green light to attempt such an off-the-wall project. Not every game is going to be a home run (or even a ground-rule double, in this case) but more companies need to be willing to take a swing on a fresh idea.
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($59.99)
Rating: M for mature