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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 96 MB    Hard Disk: 600 MB    4x CD-ROM    Graphics: 640x480

Clive Barker's Undying
July 8, 2002 | Chris Barylick

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The time has come to be honest about something: I was never meant to hunt the undead. Truth be told, I could even be classified as somewhat squeamish about this whole survival horror thing, just as content to let the horrible, slobbering, heavily-clawed nightmare du jour bound around the corner and tear my face off. Not that I won’t happily take a few shots at the thing before it inevitably removes my kidneys before my very eyes with one deft movement. Crack open a dictionary and take a gander at my picture next to the colloquial term “fraidy-cat”, my unique Rhode Island upbringing making me a poor candidate at best for ghost and/or demon busting of any sort.

Clive Barker’s Undying, developed by EA Games, ported to the Mac by Glenda Adams’ programming prodigies at Westlake Interactive and published by Aspyr Media might just change all this.

Economically-Priced Ghostbuster For Hire
In 1920, Patrick Galloway (your character) is summoned to the Irish estate of Jeremiah Covenant to investigate the strange happenings that have occurred within the area. 25 years earlier, Jeremiah and his siblings had performed an innocuous ritual near the Standing Stones, summoning all sorts of nifty evil. Jeremiah, dying, has asked you to help contain the evil and purge the curse from his family, a chore for someone who tires of being associated with hunting demons for a living, but a necessary task to perform. As you arrive at the estate of your old commanding officer, you notice only a skeleton crew of staff and servants on hand, the power having failed in most of the house on this classic dark and stormy night. Armed with only a revolver, a mysterious stone taken from a shaman that attacked you unit back in World War 1 and your wits, you open the door to see your dying friend…

And with this, Undying begins. Starting slowly and picking up the pace, the game is worth the anticipation around it, even if the Macintosh gaming market has always suffered from a lack of horror-themed first person shooters. Not for the skittish, Undying combines elements of Quake, Alice and generic horror to create an effectively eerie mood that hangs with the player. Between detailed gothic structures, excellent use of audio capabilities (including surround sound that makes you glad you own external speakers), realistic pools of blood, clever enemy AI, the feeling that there might just be something hiding in the shadows, immersive levels and the genuine shock of something that jumps out to tear your head off, the game is worth the time a player would invest in it.

Skin Deep
Graphically, EA Games, Aspyr and Westlake Interactive have done their homework. Undying’s blood, gore and charisma does everything but drip off the monitor, the enemies and fellow characters looking great but not superb given the game’s rendering engine. While the enemy models may seem to retain the pointy artifacts of non-top-shelf games, other strengths make make up for this shortcoming. Walk into a strange room in the mansion and look down at the corpse of a former servant, the pool of blood reflecting the surrounding light sources perfectly and with a level of detail that I had never seen before. Small touches add to the ambience, the game’s designers having grasped the idea that players would be a tad freaked out by not knowing exactly what’s around the next corner and tapping into that knowledge.

There’s something to be said for subtlety, the moment where the mood builds before something attacks your character and Undying uses this well. Walk down a deserted hallway filled with curtains gently billowing in the dark from the wind outside and the mood is completed, your attackers often coming with only a second or two of warning. Ambient noises like the classic creaking of wood, the slamming of doors and the footsteps of other characters add to the feel, the rats scurrying across the wooden floors or birds tearing across the sky completing the creepy feel for which the game strives.

From an environmental standpoint, the variety of scenery in the levels is diverse enough to get beyond the hunting-demons-in-a-creepy-mansion feel, the game taking its own strange twists and turns in order to keep things interesting. One minute you may be in a master bedroom, a few minutes later you might be jumping from platform to platform in an Alice-esque alternate dimension and still a few minutes later you might be outside in a rocky valley, making your way to a distant tower for an item. Well-designed and intricately textured, players won’t find themselves in the same place for very long, the variability surprising me at times and earning points in what could have turned into a boring motif had the game kept the same feel throughout its entirety.


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