Bullets and extremities fly in Konami’s latest
Shinta Nojiri is ready for a change. With more than a decade of tutelage under renowned director Hideo Kojima, the lead designer of Metal Gear Acid is ready to show the world what a purely Nojiri-produced game looks like. “After working on the Metal Gear series, I wanted to create my very own title,” he explains. “When this project started, Konami was asking for somebody to work with an overseas developer to create a game for the Western market. I said me! “Soon after, Nojiri linked up with U.K.-based developer Rebellion (Aliens vs. Predator) for a third-person action game called NeverDead.
In previous press materials, NeverDead looked to be shaping up as a sort of macabre, apocalyptic comedy. Bryce, the titles immortal main character, preposterously flies to pieces when he takes damage. Because he is more than 500 years old, he also has his share of pithy musings about various historical events. Nojiri indicates, however, that Bryces flippant attitude belies his cool affectation. “What was depicted as humorous [is just] Bryces personality,” he clarifies. “The actual game is very serious. Bryce has lost all hope and has no reason to live.”
The dilemma of immortality forms the crux of the story. Five centuries ago, Bryce lost a battle to the vile Demon King, who cursed him with eternal life. Nojiri points out that the pain of unending aimlessness has turned him into a sarcastic boozehound. “He was a very serious, handsome man who had a very strong sense of justice. In a way, the past Bryce and the present Bryce are on completely separate sides of the spectrum.”
Immortality also brings in novel action scenarios. While NeverDeads combat fundamentals resemble Devil May Cry, invulnerability adds an interesting tool to Bryces repertoire. He can move among enemies and destroy everything around him, including himself. “The majority of the levels will be destructible,” Nojiri elaborates. “If a group of enemies are standing under a destructible bridge, Bryce can shoot the bridge so that it collapses on everyone, and Bryce will be able to defeat the enemies all at once.” Since Bryce cant die, you can roll his head out of the rubble and reassemble his body Katamari Damacy style.
If it all sounds too easy, Nojiri ominously asserts that invincibility doesnt equate to facile gameplay. “Balancing the game has been hard, he admits. However, even though you are invulnerable, the game will still be difficult. If you get dismembered and reach your worst state, you will only have your head. If you cant recover from that….” Bryce also has a female companion named Arcadia, who is mortal. Though Nojiri says that she can hold her own pretty well, the characters mortality is a liability since her death means game over.
Luckily, NeverDead features a myriad of power-ups. Over time, Bryce acquires points that he can apply to three aspects of his combat style: gunplay, sword-fighting, and dismemberment. Damage reduction will help players who favor Bryces sword, the Butterfly Blade. For those who prefer going all to pieces, exploding limbs might prove more effective.
The design team is also including competitive and co-operative modes. “Players will be allowed to select not only Bryce, but other characters as well. Though the others will not be immortal like Bryce, they have their own advantages,” Nojiri says. “It will also be possible to have four Bryces, with limbs and heads flying all over the stage!”
With body parts crisscrossing both multiplayer and single-player and an interesting plot conceit, NeverDead looks like it might be just the thing Nojiri needs to make a name for himself.
PARTING SHOT: Neverdead represents a big risk for Nojiri and the team at Rebellion, but their passion for developing new IP might be enough to seperate Bryce and co. from the pack, even if he has trouble keeping his limbs together.
Source: EGM, Vol. 248