Clive Barker Undying Review

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Graphics: 0
Sound : 0
Gameplay : 0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 9.0
Review by Dennis Sloutsky
Minimum Requirements:

400 MHz CPU
64 Megabytes of RAM
16 Megabyte 3D accelerator video card with DirectX support
350 MB of free hard drive space
Windows 95/98/Millenium (note: WIN NT/2000 ARE NOT SUPPORTED.)
DirectX 8.0

Reviewer's machine:

AMD K6-2 500 CPU
64 Megabytes of RAM
32 Megabyte Asus v3800 TNT2 video card
Yamaha XG based sound card
Windows Millenium
DirectX 8.0

Clive Barker's Undying is a brand new first person shooter from Electronic Arts. The game is based on a slightly enhanced Unreal Tournament engine, while the story was written by the famous horror writer Clive Barker (who among other things wrote and directed the movie "Hellraiser"). The plot is fairly simple: the place is Ireland, the time is 1920's. You are Patrick Galloway, somewhat of an expert in the sphere of the occult and mysterious. And you've been called by your old WW1 friend, Jeremiah Covenant to help him solve the mystery that surrounds the death of his 4 siblings and the strange events that he had witnessed in his estate. You see, a long time ago, Jeremiah and his four siblings have visited a nearby island, called the Island of Standing Stones, and since then they have been doomed... While Jeremiah was gone to war, all his brothers and sisters have died. And when he came back, strange things started happening at the Covenant estate. Shadows started lurking around the place, strange beasts have started attacking and killing the servants, as a result of which most of them left. And even worse than that, Jeremiah's dead youngest sister was seen alive... Jeremiah is emotionally broken, and he is convinced that his family came for him. That's when you come into the picture. What you both don't know, is that Jeremiah is cursed with the Curse of the Undying King, but you bravely begin your expedition in an attempt to save your friend. On your rather long journey (it takes 25-30 hours in average to finish the game) you will explore the huge family mansion, mausoleum, caverns, tunnels, an abandoned monastery, the Island of Standing Stones itself and even other worlds. Your journey will be separated into four different quests, during which you will fight some truly horrific critters of the dark, and at the end of each quest you will meet head to head with one of Jeremiah's undead siblings and your archenemy Kiesinger.

"Fine, the story sounds okay... But what is the actual gameplay like?" should be your question now. Well, to tell you the truth, this is the most enjoyable first person shooter that I played since Half-Life came out. Why? The answer is rather simple: the game combines the finest elements of the best games out there... It has a good plot, just like Half-Life does. The story flows logically, there are no jumps between levels; the entire thing goes like one book. In fact in the inventory menu you will be making notes of your progress in your diary, so in the end it WILL be like a book. During the course of the game you will see many Half-Life'esque (game rendered) animated sequences that you will have to observe... The game as well was extremely well scripted, so certain events happen at certain point... Example: you walk towards a big mirror and look in it. While you look at it you notice two monsters running towards you from behind... If you wouldn't look in the mirror, the monsters simply wouldn't appear... As well you will see some animated sequences of monsters slaughtering NPCs (there are a lot of them in the game), and during the gameplay you will be given the chance to save some of them from otherwise imminent death (remember the scientists in Half-Life?). The game is wonderfully well tweaked, when you walk through a pool of blood, you will see bloody footsteps left after you for a while... The switches between levels happen like in Half-Life: there are no actual predefined levels, the maps are simply separated into smaller areas, so when you walk through a certain door, a new part of the map loads, alas the loading times are very short. The gameplay, is very fun, the game is somewhat like Blood, very gory, however without any twisted humor, which makes the very grim atmosphere of death and decay even more real. The sound and graphics enhance the atmosphere of fear even farther, but I will write about it separately in a bit. The game is very action oriented, so you will spend most of it slaying creatures from beyond the grave, although there are some (fairly easy) puzzles to solve in the game. The action is very fast and furious, and except for a few short episodes in the game (that will appear too monotonous to most of you) you will be drawn to sit in front of your monitor day and night.

There are hordes of monsters to fight, and while at the beginning of the game there won't be many different typed of monsters to fight, their number will make it all worthwhile. This is almost the first game since I played Doom 2, where I had 10-15 monsters attacking me at once, which is a very good thing. Because believe me, there's no really better feeling than exterminating an entire army of Howlers, thirsty for your blood. The bad news is the weapons: there are only 8 weapons, and they're badly adjusted... While the first few weapons are very slow and don't cause much damage, the weapons that you will acquire later on in the game will be very fast and very deadly, so using them will feel almost like cheating. But then again, in Doom one could use the BFG 900 to clean out entire rooms full of monsters, so it shouldn't be that bad. Another weird thing that I noticed is that one of the weapons is Molotov Cocktail. For those of you that don't know what it is, Molotov Cocktail is a bottle that contains explosive/flammable liquid. You throw it, on impact it explodes, "kaboom". Problem is, it was invented by Russian engineers during World War 2 (therefore the name), while the game takes place in 1920's. Oh well, I guess they missed this part J. And the spells make up for the low variety of weapons. There are different spells available in the game, and they play different functions: with some of them you can attack your enemies, while others can remove magical barriers on your way. However my personal favorite spell is Scrye. It shows you what you can't normally see with the naked eye, whatever it may be. Invisible enemies, dark areas, but the best part is that it can let you see events from the past, and alternative dimensions... So in some parts of the game when you see whispers around you that say "Look... See..." etc... you just have to activate it in order to see something spectacular...

The graphics are very good. The architecture of the buildings is very complex, there are a lot of various objects in the game (although not many of them that you can manipulate), and accordingly lots of textures. You can see that level designers have done their job very well. The 3D feeling is yet another part where the game excels. You will be able to actually feel like you are a part of a real world... Objects and buildings really appear to be located at a certain distance from you. There are shadows everywhere, and they are very well done as well. However the best part of the gfx is the fluidity of everything... You will see curtains moving on the wind just as if they were real; the movements of your enemies, NPCs and yourself appear to be very real. In fact I will go farther than that, I claim that the human characters are photo realistic, and not many games managed to do that. As you see the NPCs speaking to you, you will notice that their faces move like a normal human face would, so the characters don't look cartoonish at all, like they do in many other games. When you will look at yourself in the mirror, you will often wonder if it is a drawn skin model, or an actual photograph used. The waves, sky, birds, water, plants, etc. all look very "real life". Cut scenes are engine generated, and mostly boast some very impressive lightning effects. The only downside of the graphics engine that I can think of is that at times the colors look a bit the same, but it's really not much to talk about. Another great thing that will really score more point for this baby is that since the game is based on UT engine, it doesn't need a supercomputer to run on. My computer right now is beyond mid-range, and yet I managed to play with medium details at 800*600*16bit at very good frame rates.

Sound... Now this is the REALLY good stuff. Sound is the thing that creates about 75% of the fear atmosphere. You will hear it all, and hear it better than in any other games. The game has support for 3D surround, A3D and positional sound. You will hear the wind blow, curtains move, waves splash, water drops fall, but above all that... Inhuman screams of the undead monsters, howls of the Howlers, and even scarier you will hear them consuming their meals: those that were unfortunate enough to be killed by them. You will hear voices whispering something to you, or madly screaming at you. At times there will be small music pieces in the background, usually to support the story. The NPC characters speak to you with this funny sounding Irish accent, so the game will sound authentic. Overall, this is THE best sounding game that I have ever played.

In short, the game is a must buy for every action loving gamer. The atmosphere is awesome, this is one of the only truly scary games out there (even Blood 1 doesn't come close to this baby, and Blood 1 in fact was scary). The audio, graphics, level design, plot, animated sequences and level design are great. The action is great. Only possible downsides are lack of multiplayer (however, unofficially, multiplayer support is actually planned to be introduced in one of upcoming patches for Undying), the UT engine is simply not enough at times and a small selection of weapons. However even with all this mentioned, this game is still one of the top FPS titles ever produced. Well, now that I am done with this review, if you'll excuse me, I am going to play some more Undying.