This is a game where you rarely leave the house fully dressed, if you catch my drift. You'll hop through gunfights the animation captures a great sense of grouchy good humour and even bounce around doing melee damage as a mere limbless torso. Your duel-wielded guns each have a separate triggers and separate reticules in the demo I got to play I was packing an SMG and a revolver and when that gets boring, you can draw out your sword and opt for a little Zelda-style trigger-targeting while you flail around slashing baddies with the right stick. Sounds mental? Try doing it on one leg, eh?
Destructible environments are the last part of the puzzle. The level I hacked through saw Arcadia and Bryce causing chaos in a glossy inner-city museum, bringing dinosaur skeletons and even entire chunks of the ceiling down onto enemies if they ran out of bullets - and doing as much damage to themselves as to the baddies in the process. The demons tend to be a faintly comical bunch - there's one that looks like a pig wearing its skull on the outside, another that resembles a tumorous football with a massive gob, and a sickle-headed quadruped who can only fall to the sword and they're all plenty of fun to shoot. That's if you can draw a bead before Arcadia's finished them off, or before you've accidentally done them in yourself with a chunk of the scenery. Meanwhile, pop-ups that I couldn't help but ignore in the heat of the slaughter hinted at things like XP systems and the ability to upgrade your kit. There's even a multiplayer component that's yet to be revealed. (It's probably head-to-head.)
NeverDead's unlikely lineage may go some way to explaining why it's such an unrelentingly bizarre game. The project is being directed by Shinta Nojiri, the designer responsible for, amongst other things, Metal Gear Solid 4's brilliant Prague level, and he's come over to the UK, I believe, to work with Rebellion as part of a kind of skills exchange program. It's a good deal; Rebellion gets to learn about the lively balance of thematic quirk and mechanical rigour that the best Japanese action games have, while Nojiri learns how to get a really good rap performance out of Mickey Rourke.
Either way, I suspect we're the real winners. I'm going to go out on a limb here (sorry) and say that I think the world needs a game like NeverDead: a quippy, modern-day demon-slaying dismemberment opera to get us through these tough economic times that Lord Sugar likes to talk about on The Apprentice.
It's a way out from release at the moment, there's a question of how long the developers can keep the action feeling fresh, and it's rough when it comes to collision detection and camera stuff, but between its swords, its guns, and its fondness for letting you bounce your own skull around, NeverDead already shows a rare streak of characterful Phantom of the Paradise brilliance. Keep an eye out for this one, then (sorry): I'm genuinely counting the days until it's released.