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Dead Head Fred Preview

Chris_Hudak By:
GENRE Action 
DEVELOPER Vicious Cycle 
M Contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Strong Language

What do these ratings mean?

Put my head on your shoulders.

This right here is the notion of “a good head on your shoulders” taken to promising (if totally grotesque) extremes — if you can imagine a sort of transporter-accident involving the noir revenge tale of your choice and a drunken pass at Herbert West: Reanimator, you won’t be terribly off the mark. In this unique, morbidly-goofy, M-rated PSP title, “Dead Head” Fred Neuman is a recently-whacked private dick whose body is brought back online as a headless, experimental monstrosity courtesy of one Dr. Steiner. And you thought you were having a crappy day.

click to enlargeLucky for Fred (if “lucky” can be used here), the same Dr. Steiner has also managed to keep Fred’s brain and eyes more-or-less alive and kicking in a jar (there’s an image for you). Cue the violent revenge against Fred’s beheader, meanwhile save the perfectly-named noir-ish berg of Hope Falls, and be on the constant prowl for… new heads.

The hook in this goofily-grim, original I.P. title is that what Fred lacks in terms of his own, original cranium he soon makes up for in other heads: In place of the usual weapons, tools and special collectable items you’d expect to find in other video games, you’ll be gathering a collection of alternate heads (nine in all) which can be hot-swapped out to give Fred new abilities.

click to enlargeOne head, for example, lets Fred blow his enemies’ minds (literally, in this case: Think Scanners). Three others give Fred radically-increased strength, the handy ability to shrink himself for mobility in cramped quarters, or a ground-pounding, area-effect attack. Still another allows the intake and focused outlet of massive amounts of fluids (for use in flame-throwing / fire-extinguishing applications). There is also a Tiki head — because every game should have at least one Tiki head on general principal.

At least one has a far more straightforward application: The ordinary-looking mannequin head lets Fred walk among and actually converse with normal humans (instead of repulsing them in fear and disgust, as a walking, reanimated body with a jar/monstrosity for a head would otherwise likely do—you just never know how people are going to react to the unknown.

click to enlargeMany inhabitants of Hope Falls have been affected by the same radiation-leaking nuke facility in which Fred’s body was unceremoniously dumped, so there are lots of mutant enemies to off in the violent, action-based gameplay. In addition to standard attacks, Fred can damage single or multiple foes with special rage attacks (keyed to each unique head); rage is accumulated through combos followed by timed button presses and onscreen cues, as well through performing counter-attacks.

The monster-noir world of Dead Head Fred is weird and violent, but it’s also darkly funny—thanks in part to the excellent voice work from actor John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”). Check out Fred’s initial reaction to the good doctor’s restorative head-work, which is just priceless.

This bizarre, noir/horror mash-up offers 12 sprawling, themed levels, plus bonus games and missions (including mutant-rooster cockfights, “Dirty Pool” and some form of what is being called ‘rat-racing’).

We knew this one was trouble when it walked in: Dead Head Fred will shamble onto shelves and into our hands at the end of August, and we’ll be lurking in the cartoon-noir shadows with a full review.

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