Clive Barker’s Undying – OVERVIEW

Your friend, Jeremiah Covenant, has called you to his giant spooky mansion to investigate the curse on his family. Your friend, Jeremiah Covenant, confesses that he once took his brothers and sisters down to a sinister ring of stones and read dark passages from a book not entirely unlike the Necronomicon, unleashing dark forces from beyond the Abyss that threatened the fabric of reality.

Your friend, Jeremiah Covenant, is a bit of a pillock.

Horror games have rarely gained much critical acclaim on the PC, despite the invaluable assistance of some of the worlds’ finest novelists, and we at Daily Radar UK are at a complete loss to explain why.

Meanwhile, in a top secret bunker…

Designer We’ve made a few crappy sub-games and put your name on the box. Any questions?

Clive Barker Can I have some money now?

One of the best was an adventure/FPS hybrid from Gremlin called Realms of the Haunting – an unsung classic, and probably more of an inspiration for Undying than Barker (who was a consultant on the project). However, unlike ROTH’s primitive Doom engine,Undying has the Unreal Tournament engine under its belt, and is easily one of the most promising scarefests on the PC to date.

Undying is an FPS in which you explore a variety of sinister locations, piecing together the detailed storyline and stopping the local monsters from tearing your face off. There are a few simple puzzles, but the bulk of the game involves getting from Point A to Point B in one piece. Although in many games this gets old fast, Undying’s ever thickening plot should keep the player’s attention, and the story is far deeper than most. The “Scrying” spell, always available, shows you a darker world behind the mundane one where paintings of young children change into cannibalistic demons, shrieks echo through rooms and sheets become stained with blood. These scenes, conversations and documents bring the plot very much to the fore, and regular visits from slobbering enemies and cruel ghosts keep your trigger finger primed…

Undying’s development team has done a superb job so far, with the monster designs especially good. The Howler is the first on the scene, a fast moving gremlin creature capable of jumping across huge distances in a single bound and, perhaps more importantly, ripping your throat out in a single swipe. Its fluid movement is a world away from Deus Ex’s lumbering characters, and the gunplay when you fight them is much more satisfying. Little touches appear throughout the game, with our favourite (read into this what you will) being the way that when you die your enemies finish the job like proper zombies – by ripping out your heart and chowing down on it. The levels are varied, ranging from the halls of Jeremiah’s estate to a horrible otherworld of ruin and depravation (we’ve always said that there aren’t enough games set in Milton Keynes) and although they are utterly linear they somehow manage to convey the feel of exploration.

We do have one major concern however. In its present state Undying is about as terrifying as a Clive Barker novel. Not the contents of one, the paperback itself. On a shelf. In Oxfam. Enemies show up exactly where you expect them to – you get so used to them sneaking up behind you whenever you step into a corridor that jogging backwards through the Covenant estate is the easiest way to stay alive. Much more careful use of light and shadow is required – Unreal is capable of some stunning effects that are woefully unused at the moment and would boost the atmosphere tremendously.

More fundamentally, Undying doesn’t seem sure whether it wants to be a tense, scary game or an action filled blaster – there aren’t really enough monsters for the latter, but after the first (very easy) section you are handed weapons with unlimited ammunition, two of which can be fired at once. Being chased through shadowy corridors to a safe spot by a fanged beast with no ammo and next to no health is scary. Knowing that you can spin around and melt it with ectoplasm at any point is not. And while we’re on the subject – ectoplasm? It’s the first spell that you acquire, and a bizarre choice. We’re aware that many folks went through a stage of wanting to be one of the Ghostbusters, but we doubt that they were thinking of Slimer…

Hopefully these worries will prove unfounded – Dreamworks has plenty of time to polish Undying, up before it hits the shelves, and it has both enormous potential and a capable team at the helm, so we’re optimistic. We’ll be back soon with the finished code, a full review and industrial strength brown pantaloons.

Deep story with Clive Barker’s seventh seal of approval
Unreal Tournament powered visuals
Powerful guns meet upgradable magic spells for a varied arsenal
Varied arsenal meets original monsters for muchos carnage and fast paced action
One of the bosses reminds us of Chris Evans. You can shoot him in the face. Excellent.