Review by Garbol Shora
"'Clive Barker's Undying' is a dark tale of a cursed family with a gruesome backstory that will leave you disturbed for days..."
FPS shooters are usually two-player, multi-player, offer plenty of modes and seldom have a truly deep storyline. Well, how about we mix in FPS with a horrifically scary author named Clive Barker? We get a deep and dark storyline along with a lack of everything else previously mentioned.
But how does Clive Barker excel if it doesn't even have one a staple of many FPS shooters inherit? It's oddly an extremely disturbing FPS with a storyline that tells a tale that not many companies enjoy delving into.
So what is this horrific tale? Well, 'Clive Barker's Undying' is a dark tale of a cursed family with a gruesome backstory that will leave you disturbed for days. To add to this, you'll be exploring an old Victorian mansion with an old and classic family with those old dresses and suits. It has a feel of uneasiness to the story along with the atmospheric discomfort that one will receive. However, is the gaming experience truly a gaming one or a plethora of eye-candy and nothing more?
The gameplay elements not only utilize the basic weaponry of FPS, but also uses magic spells. Before I delve anymore deeper into that, you basically are an investigator of the supernatural named Patrick Galloway, who has inherited arcane magic. One day, a letter arrives from your good friend from the war named Jeremiah Covenant, and it seems he is mortally ill. In a hurry, you rush over to see what is the matter with your bud. The gameplay is a basic first-person shooter and the basic mechanism of any of this type of genre is implemented into it (for example, you left-click to shoot a monster with your weapon).
The weapon variety may not please many a FPS veterans. The weapons vary from your trusty revolver to your generic shotgun to your crossbow to your scythe. There are other weapons in here like molotov cocktails, but it may disappoint some gamers that the weaponry doesn't consist of uber-powerful machine guns and the like. You'll be utilizing mythical weaponry of lore such as mysterious objects that, when thrown releases a burning phoenix which plummets at an enemy. The weapons are, in that respect, unique but may not be familiar enough for FPS gamers to feel at home to.
However, nobody can argue that the addition of magic is a poor addition. The magic addition is excellent and adds a more mystique feel to it. A good thing is that these spells range from the more direct like the cackling burning skulls that bolts itself towards the enemy or the small blue energy bolts swirling out of ones hand to the more bizarre like the ability to resurrect an enemy to join ones own side or the ability to move at lightning speeds. To deepen the magic concept, amplifiers are spread out throughout the game. Amplifiers are small purple orbs that increase the magic potency of your choice.
I'd like to mention a magic spell that truly did enhance gamplay and fear. This magic spell was called Scrye. This is a spell that increases lighting effects and the gamers vision. However, it isn't always a comfortable issue as you'll be running through things you won't normally see without Scrye. Scrye is a spell that enhances vision... even the paranormal! For example, without scrye, you may see a collection of rats seemingly nibbling on food. However, when you activate the spell Scrye, you will be introduced to a man who has hanged himself on a pole, blood and his neck bleeding, dripping dark red blood onto the floor, of which the rats are drinking from. It's not a pleasant thing, and it truly makes the game scary!
Now, how about the enemy AI? They are fast, they are relatively smart and some of them hunt in packs. In short, I liked the enemy AI, it kept me on my toes and often kept me in a panic. However, I would like to mention that your character's view shakes a bit when hit which makes targeting extremely difficult and frustrating. While shaking the screen of your monitor may seem like a realistic concept, it just makes shooting and attacking that much more difficult and irritating, often causing useless and unnecessary deaths that could have been avoided.
Scares are apparent, but how does this game go about to accomplishing it? An amazing environment with a fair share of disgusting images add to uncomfortable claustrophobic feel. Scrye implements this very well. However, other things including randomness makes this game what it is. For example, once you're running through an ordinary hall, the lights shut out and everything becomes pitch black, and the only thing you can hear is the clicking and the cackling of ferocious monsters approaching you, getting louder and louder.
One thing I've heard many gamers complain about is the large requirements for this game to be quick and have short loading times. I, personally, experienced this with my computer as well. The loading times can be exhausting for some people with a poor PC. I remember waiting for 5 minutes just to get through to another room. There are a lot of load times by the way, and the large requirements for good RAM and memory makes this game a poor choice for some gamers. I eventually had to install more RAM into my computer and also add some more memory. After some more updating and some tweaks, I finally began to enjoy Undying.
Another large problem is the lack of any multiplayer, internet connection, optional modes and such. Connecting and playing with your friends could have really improved this game. Perhaps be able to play as a villain, or be able to have a shooting duel between your buds would have truly improved this game's potential. Mind you, the potential is already there, but games nowadays offer things on the side that help lengthen the game. This game, unfortunately, does not include that.
The game has potential, it's magic and weapon variety is great and the enemy AI is acceptable and sometimes smart. However, the constant shaking of the camera when hit and the annoyingly large PC requirements make this game somewhat a touchy purchase for some gamers. The lack of multiplayer options or additional modes and the like make this game an experience, but nothing truly prolific. I did have a blast shooting skulls at the enemy though and experiencing the effects of Scrye! 7/10
Very good. If not for the detailed environments and the uncomfortable atmosphere, this game's fear would not impact gamers as much. For one, the environments are large and detailed. Let's examine the primary parts of an FPS, which is the environments and level design. Characters are also part of a visual presentation and will also be discussed later.
The game is essentially split into 6 locations: The manor, the mausoleum, the otherworld, an underground pirate's cove, a bizarre jungle and the dank crypt under the mausoleum. The manor, is your first location and is truly an image to behold. It is large, beautiful and resembles every likeness to a Victorian mansion. There are large and terribly disturbing paintings that enhance fear in this manor. The manor is very frightening in terms of classic horror. You'll be running through a greenhouse and you can see the flashing thunder flashing wildly outside the enclosed greenhouse. While this is unbelievably impressive, it gets even better with your next areas, the mausoleum and the crypt. Bones and coffins sprawled on the floor messily and bloody hands on the walls are only some of the detailed graphics.
However, the images after that become a mixed bag and not all too scary. The jungle, for example, seems like a completely different atmosphere that loses its edge of macabre-like horror. It will feel most like what it implicates - a jungle. The atmosphere goes downhill after the crypt, and while still detailed, the atmosphere required to scare gamers is gone. This is also apparent in the Pirate's cove and the the otherworld.
The characters itself are very well detailed. Fear is a very apparent thing once you face off against these monstrous images. You see, Jeremiah has four siblings... and these four siblings died. And now they have risen to kill Jeremiah. However, the mascara, the sunday-church clothes and the combed hair are a thing of the past as the siblings look truly deformed and hideous. Particularly, Lizbeth, the youngest and the socialite plays a grotesque gremlin-looking monster with ragged clothing and blood dirtily covering her mouth. However, the character design also suffers what the scenery suffers. For example, Bethany, the second oldest sibling (oldest female sibling) plays an ugly witch... but she isn't really ugly. She looks like a generic... alien. She has some horns coming out of her head and looks very unimpressive along with her jungle scenario. She is unimpressive.
However, the other siblings do a good job of looking grotesque and truly intimidating. The siblings of Jeremiah go from youngest to oldest: Lizbeth, Ambrose, Bethany, Aaron and (Jeremiah is the oldest). Lizbeth and Bethany have already been discussed, but Ambrose truly is impressive with a large axe, pale skin and ragged clothing. Aaron is by far the scariest, with his jaw ripped right out of its place and his body entirely skinned. Not very pleasant.
The monsters also suffer the same fate as the characters and the scenery. Some of the monsters, like the howlers are quick and frightening, looking like a hybrid from a hyena, a gremlin and a wolf. Hunting in packs, these howlers make for frightening enemies. Others, however, are not so impressive such as the tribesmen in the jungle scenario (Bethany's scenario), which are only wearing loin cloths, savage make-up and spears and crossbows.
The graphics are top-quality, but the fright is a mixed bag. You'll be immersed in complete fear in the beginning, but near the end, things just don't stack up to the unmatched horrific atmosphere of the beginning. While the graphics are detailed, I was disappointed with the second half, which was not nearly as frightening as the first. 8/10
The audio presentation is amazing. I have to say that Clive Barker's Undying can easily take the cake for most convincing audio presentation. Music is not something that appears often, but it is ambience that is so convincing.
You'll be immersed into a world of realistic environmental sounds. What I mean by this is that much of the ambience in this game create an effect you don't really realize is there. For example, Galloway's footsteps are varied for every type of platform you run on. But with this, you'll also hear the rushing waves in the distance, and it almost seems like these waves get louder as you approach the shore. Other things include extremely creative monster sounds. Some include screeching, some include cackling and these sounds are so convincing and even the tongue-clicking of a howler becomes something to be feared.
Voice acting is good, to the exception of some quirky accents from Patrick Galloway that seem out of place at some times. However, kudos to Jeremiah for acting like a scared man fearful of his life. More kudos to the ugliest of them all, Lizbeth, who sounds hoarse and monstrous, almost a feel that her deformation has infected all parts of her. Even more kudos to the annoying Aaron who laughs and mocks you, sings riddles and screams at you like a madman. The voice acting is interestingly well integrated with the script and it suits the time of the game's settings. In other words, you won't hear slang or the like.
The environments are extremely realistic, and one distinct memory I have is the thundering roar of the greenhouse. What's impressive about that you say? The greenhouse is a large and somewhat empty room due to its large see-through glass ceilings. You can literally hear the rain clattering on the pane on top of you and around you. The thundering roars of thunder echoes in the distance of the greenhouse and meshes well with the clattering of the rain.
I have to say that I am impressed in this category and I find that the ambience in this game is very well done. It's a great addition to the fear and without the audio presentation mixing so well with the visual, I highly doubt the fear in this game would be as successful! 10/10
Story and Composition:
Patrick Galloway, a man of the macabre with knowledge of the paranormal receives a letter from an old war-friend named Jeremiah Covenant. It seems that he is mortally ill and desperately needs Patrick's help. However, once arriving to the Covenant Manor, he discovers a curse has been laid upon the family. The curse was invoked by a playful prank by Jeremiah and his fascination to the paranormal. However, things go awry and something goes terribly wrong. However, Jeremiah disregards this childhood event until he realizes some things are terribly strange. Deaths become frequent and the house looms with a darkness one has not truly experienced.
The siblings act strangely, and Jeremiah soon becomes the father figure as the Covenant father passes away. We are introduced to Lizbeth, a socialite who was the cause of the Covenant mother's death. Lizbeth, therefore, often visits the mausoleum to communicate with the dead. However, it seems strangely uncanny that Lizbeth visits the mausoleum all too often. Strangely enough, it seems Ambrose the rebel also seems to act strangely enough. His impulsive and murderous actions have forced the police upon him, and he too falls upon a strange exaggeration of his persona. Aaron, the anti-social artist also experiences a strange hex, as he and his sister, Bethany begin to fight all too often. It seems that Bethany has discovered the dark magics and is using this to gain more power. She uses this as well as her passion for gardening to find her own sense of individuality. However, her selfishness also impacts the family. Eventually, Jeremiah's entire family falls prey to the curse, and it is often that Jeremiah hears the whispers of his angry siblings.
In comes you as Patrick Galloway. I am truly happy to say that the story is extremely deep. You have only read the personalities of these characters, but the actions they unleash upon each other are not only violent, but truly disgusting. There is one incident between Bethany and Aaron of which I felt truly disgusted at the immoral actions of a once-loving family. The characters all gain an uncanny ability to be completely individual from the other. The level environments incorporate this as well. Aaron is an anti-social artist, therefore, he stays at the manor. Lizbeth enjoys communicating with the death, thus, she most often enjoys staying in the mausoleum and the crypt. Ambrose is a rebel, and leads a pirate faction, thus incorporating the Pirate's Cove as his base. Bethany loves gardening and magic, thus, the wild and chaotic jungle being her throne.
The characters are extraordinarily well-done, and I have to applaud Clive Barker in creating such creatively such original characters. The cursed family tale will truly disturb you. Not solely because what they do is frightening, but the fact that the deterioration of the family seems all too familiar. 10/10
Replayability and Extras:
The replay is truly disappointing. You probably will not play this game completely through once as the scares will be expectant and not as frightening. There aren't any special modes that can truly make this game any better as well. The game is an experience, but unlike some good adventure games, this game is not long. While adventure games may be excused for its lack of replay, this FPS is short and does not have any sort of multiplayer. While I've heard this option is in the works as a patch, we can only hope this comes soon and does not cancel itself.
The extras come in invincibility, all weapons, unlimited things, level warp and donkeys (yes, donkeys!). The only replay I have done thus far is replay some of the exciting beginning levels, for example, warping myself straight to the crypt, where I still feel a sudden chill due to the frightening environments. Again, this game is an experience, but it is a relatively short experience and no modes backing it up makes this a bit disappointing. However, the ability to level warp may make you want to re-experiencing some of the more frightening environments such as the manor or the mausoleum! 4/10
This game has a very deep storyline and characters with an ability to run chills down your spine (to the exception of Bethany, of course). The game is original in many ways as the scare factor is one of the best in any FPS. For blood-lovers, there IS blood, but with the amazing presentation of this game, that becomes a rather insignificant aspect of Undying.
You will enjoy this game if you have a remote interest for FPS' along with an interest in deep storylines in games. It is not often that FPS' can create memorable characters and a genuinely frightening atmosphere that relates to dark macabre and cult-like rituals. This game is truly dark, and it is no wonder that this game is Mature. Most of the disturbing aspects of this game is through reading some of the genuinely ugly backstories of this game. Things get really ugly in the Covenant family, and as you progress through the game, you will realize that this experience may be an experience that only comes once in awhile. Albeit the lack of replay and the absence of online/offline multiplayer, this game is a truly frightening experience, and while it might not inherit as much fun as the FPS that are out right now, you may simply want to buy this game for the sole purpose of seeing the amazing presentation and the genuinely creepy story!
How it stacks up!
(Average is determined through the importance of criteria. In this case, gameplay is most important, followed by presentation and story, ending with replay/extras)
Gameplay Elements: 7/10
Visual Presentation: 8/10
Audio Presentation: 10/10
Story and Composition: 10/10
Replayability and Extras: 4/10
Final Score: 8
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/03, Updated 02/09/03
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