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Clive Barker's Undying

Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

In both movies and games that rely on fear, both the visuals and the audio must envelop you with an atmosphere conducive to scaring. The last game to really get this right (despite any issues with the gameplay itself) was Alien: Resurrection for the PlayStation. Undying hits it on the head as well.

There are a ton of environments in Clive Barker's Undying, and each one has its own feel. Mind you, these feels are generally some variation on 'creepy as hell,' but every area of the game is distinguishable. The estate was by far the most frightening to me -- perhaps it's the idea of a gigantic house infested with otherworldly demons. Perhaps not.

The game engine is also used for the in-game cutscenes, to great effect. It's a fantastic engine (a derivative of the Unreal engine, to be precise), and it looks gorgeous. It's not without its flaws -- there are some serious seaming issues with my videocard, which lets you see 'through' the textures into the background of the world -- but it's very solid for what it does.

And as good as the graphics are, they pale in comparison to the sound. Undying eschews a traditional soundtrack for a pure ambient angle. It works, and works frighteningly well. Every creak, growl, and scream is realized in 3D audio, and you will be scared by the various and sundry sound effects. The voice acting is also quite top-notch, with believable accents and some engaging conversations.

And there's no better thrill than walking into a room, hearing glass shatter, a scream, and an evil cackle.

I'm going to hide under my bed now.


Complementing the solid atmosphere in Undying is an engaging game. Yes, it's basically a first-person shooter, but if you go into this game expecting the same things you expect from a standard FPS you will die, die fast, and die horribly.

Undying tells the story of one Patrick Galloway, an Irishman who returns to his homeland on the behest of an old war-time friend, Jeremiah Covenant. Seems that all is not right on the Covenant estate, and the ailing Jeremiah needs help to find out just what's going on. Of course, things quickly take a turn for the supernatural, and you become embroiled in a plot that winds its way through many worlds and lives.

The storyline is a large part of the fun of Undying, so I won't give any of it away here. Suffice to say that it is engaging and relatively well-paced. You'll keep playing for more reasons than just getting to the end of the game, as many of the turns and twists are quite intriguing. The Covenants definitely have a lot more about them than they'd ever admit, and it only gets more interesting as the game progresses.

The actual gameplay is a story-driven first-person narrative, the closest of which I can think of is the System Shock series (although there are many more people in Undying). You'll find yourself having to do many 'adventure game' things, such as finding ways into buildings and searching out keys. The puzzles, such as they are, are never particularly challenging, but that doesn't keep the game from being fun.

Undying also has a bad habit of scaring the crap out of you with the enemies. They'll come from nowhere and rip into you while you're minding your own business, which caused me to jump damn near out of my skin on more than one occasion. It only occasionally feels cheap, however, and it's definitely well done.

To help you in your fight against Evil, you have an arsenal of both weapons and spells. The weapons start off unique (a pistol and a . . . magical stone?) and only get more interesting as the game progresses. The spells start off unique and get a little more typical as the game goes on. The first spell, Scrye, is perhaps one of the coolest ideas in a long time for this sort of game. It allows you to see into the past, and audio cues will tell you when to use it. Turn it on, and you'll often witness gruesome occurences in a past age. Fascinating stuff.

There are a few pacing issues -- a few of the areas were needlessly huge, and took too damned long to traverse back and forth. But for the most part Undying clips along at a steady rate, neither too fast nor too slow. There are some definite action-packed areas, and some that are mostly plot exposition, but it all works together in the end.


You can pick your difficulty at the start of the game, but even on Normal, the game is quite challenging for those who don't creep-and-save. Enemies hit, and they hit hard, and your main weapon (the pistol) is woefully inaccurate. If you're adamant against saving, you will die and die frequently. I never felt that it really broke up the flow of the game, though -- you are certainly fighting against all odds in Undying, and the challenges were usually quite fair. Well, no, they weren't fair at all, but they made sense in the setting. Nonetheless, perseverance should see you through the whole game. A word of advice: jack the volume up as high as you can. Quick responses to audio cues are necessary for success.

Game Mechanics:

The basic control scheme is much like any first-person shooter, although you have three different sets of things to scroll through -- your inventory, spells, and weapons. I found that spells were best managed with the mousewheel, and inventory and weapons with separate sets of 'next' and 'previous' keys. Your results, of course, may vary. The fact that the pistol does wildly varying damage may irritate some people, but it's certainly realistic for the time. Don't expect pixel-perfect accuracy unless the enemy is right in your face -- in which case you are probably dead. The menus are easy to navigate, and quite cool to boot, and the journal which keeps track of all the important events in the game is amazingly handy.

With only minor flaws, Clive Barker's Undying is one of the first truly must-have games this year. An intriguing plot, solid gameplay, and damned creepy execution all combine to make a truly memorable experience. Just remember to play after midnight, with all the lights out, in a house that creaks a lot. It will definitely be an experience you will not forget.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P2 400, 64MB RAM, 16MB 3D accelerator with DirectX support, 350MB HD Space, Win9x/ME

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Typing of the Dead Windows Uplink

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated