Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
What's the price of immortality? In many stories, protagonists or antagonists have dreams of becoming immortal. So what happens when someone who isn't expecting it suddenly becomes unkillable? Would that make for a good video game, considering that dying is a major part of most games? I had the chance to sit down with creator Shinji Nojiri at the Konami booth at E3 to talk about his newest game, NeverDead, and get some answers!
NeverDead is a story about death. Pryce is a demon slayer who lived 500 years ago and saw his wife, also a slayer, die at the hands of the enemy. Stricken with grief, Pryce goes on a rampage and, in a twist of fate, ends up getting infused with magic by an enemy demon and thus turned immortal. Fast forward to present day, and he's still alive and hunting down demons as part of AGA, an agency created for the express purpose of fighting Hell's army. He's even got a partner, who sadly does not share his unique powers.
The catch of being immortal is that Pryce cannot die no matter how badly his body gets mangled. In a Stubbs the Zombie sort of twist, he can even dismember himself and use his limbs in defense. For instance, a ripped-off arm becomes an explosive projectile, which can clear a group of enemies in a pinch. The coolest body part by far, though, is Pryce's noggin, which can be launched long distances in order to explore and spy on foes.
Body parts don't always work as weapons, either. If Pryce so wishes, he can rebuild the rest of his body off of an ejected limb, thus getting a jump on enemies. This ability wasn't really used during the E3 booth demo, so I couldn't see the extent of it, but it did look very useful.
Thankfully, body part chucking isn't Pryce's only means of defending himself. He has access to an array of guns and melee weapons that can be used in conjunction with his limbs in order to create combos that do more damage than just button mashing around the stages. The way your sword slashes is controlled directly via the analog sticks and proved to be deadly during the demo—at least against the relatively unintelligent enemies that don't do much other than run straight at Pryce (and their deaths).
Pryce can also incorporate the elements into his arms, like electricity off a light pole, and use it against enemies or as a puzzle-solving tool. The elemental absorption was used with fire during the demo and proved truly explosive. Nojiri pointed out that there will be more elements in the game once it goes retail. One can only hope we'll get creative uses for these powers and not just a simple earthquake for earth or tornado for wind.
The level through which Nojiri took me was a museum. He mentioned that levels are linear and any destruction that you inflict upon them is permanent, as long as you're around. The mission was to infiltrate the museum, which was apparently taken over by demons. His choice of entry was to throw Pryce's head inside and regrow his body from it, but Nojiri said that there are other ways to get inside.
Eventually, Pryce reached a section of the environment which was blocking his path, which he circumvented by using the aforementioned elemental powers to destroy a leaking pipe. He then got to an armored-clad boss character that required Pryce's explosive arms to defeat. Shinji Nojiri pointed out that bosses in NeverDead are going to be rather large and will require smart usage of Pryce's special powers. I only hope these powers stay relevant and go beyond gimmicks that are picked up and only used once or twice during the game.
In terms of multiplayer, Konami is providing no details in regards to modes or number of players, only mentioning that there will be cooperative and competitive modes which will reward experience points and will let players pick from a varied catalog of characters, including Pryce. When I asked if only one person could pick Pryce, Nojiri said that everyone could pick Pryce if they wanted. Who would ever want to play as someone else? Maybe he isn't the only guy with special powers? Nojiri kept his mouth shut and didn't go too deep with his answers.
Konami has an interesting concept for a game in NeverDead. I hope they develop it further than just a darker, grittier and much less personable Stubbs the Zombie. Nojiri promised that later builds of the game as it nears release will reveal more details. NeverDead is set for a release during holiday 2011, for both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.