Clive Barker’s Undying Review21 Apr 2008  by
Undying comes to us from Electronic Arts and the master of terror, Clive Barker. It is set in Ireland during the 1920’s as you a*ume the role of Patrick Galloway. Galloway becomes embroiled in supernatural events surrounding the estate of his friend, Jeremiah. It seems that Jeremiah’s four siblings met rather untimely deaths and they are now seeking to bring Jeremiah into a family reunion from h**. Sounds like a cool Clive Barker story, doesn’t it? Well, don’t get too excited – the story is nicely told through journal entries but don’t expect the gameplay to capitalize on the literary elements. Instead, the gameplay opts for a simple linear approach to the storyline, which is really too bad since adventure elements similar to “Alone in the Dark” would have made for a nice match. Make no mistake about it – this is strictly shooter material, which fortunately is done right.The immediate things you’ll notice are the quality of the graphics and the thoroughly creepy atmosphere. The design team has done an exceptional job of producing as much as they can in the graphics department. There are some really nice touches such as bloody footprints, shimmering puddles, reflective water, and hailstorm weather effects, just to name a few. All of these show how powerful the Unreal Tournament engine can be. You get to experience this graphic goodness in a nice mixture of indoor and outdoor environments. The entire game is just plain creepy and should be played with all the lights out. Speaking of creepy, the sound effects are awesome especially with headphones on – just thinking about the howls of the Howlers gives me goose bumps. The killer graphics and sound combo produce a truly terrifying game experience that conjures up memories of System Shock 2. If you aren’t scared while playing Undying, then you must be already dead.In terms of creatures, don’t expect any pinheads here but the creatures are still bizarre enough to warrant a stamp of approval from Clive Barker. My personal favorite is the Flickering Stalker. These flying, eel-like creatures seem to come out of nowhere and swoop down on you like a pesky bee except they happen to be the size of a large dog! Enemy AI is satisfactory but the enemies do tend to use blitz tactics so the key is having the right weapon and spell combo before firing away. This is not always a simple chore since your weapons aren’t exactly the standard Arnold Swarzennegger fare and it takes a fair number of direct hits to bring down these ugly dudes. The effectiveness of the weapons and spells force you to make strategic decisions on selecting the right ones to use against your foes. Standard weapons range from the pistol (which is pretty weak), all the way up to a personally guided projectile via the mighty Phoenix. My personal favorite is the melee weapon, Scythe. You have to get close to your enemy to use this weapon but after some use, you’ll be the master of head lopping. This talent comes in very handy, especially against level bosses. There is a wide collection of spells and other goodies such as dynamite and Molotov c**tails, which should satisfy most action gamers. My favorite spell is the Skull Storm, which enables you to conjure up skulls for some explosive tossing. It’s fun just to hear the blood-curling scream of these craniums before they inflict their payload! As a fan of first-person shooters, I did hanker for some type of automatic weapon. Didn’t they have Tommy-Guns during Al Capone’s reign in the 1920’s? Whoops, wrong continent.The only real flaws with Undying are the long and frequent load times, and the uninterruptible death cutscenes. The long and frequent load times are unfortunate since they tend to disrupt the flow and interrupt the fear-factor of the game. Speaking of interruptions, the death cutscenes are well done but come on guys – how many times do we need to see Galloway eviscerated by an enemy? There is no way of skipping the cutscenes after you die so you have to wait all the way through it before getting back to the game. After a few times, this just becomes a major annoyance.I could see how some might view Undying as just “another” first-person shooter but that a*essment would truly miss the point here. EA set their sights on creating an action game based on Clive Barker’s imagination. I would have to say they’ve succeeded by the sheer fact that first-person shooters don’t get any scarier than this.