Clive Barker's Undying: Designed by complete morons

In the world of Undying, all Irish people speak with Scottish accents and if you are invited over someplace as a houseguest, you can expect 9 out of every 10 doors you try to be inexplicably jammed.

Game designers: locked doors make tons of sense when you have infiltrated a top-secret Soviet base where cybernetic piranha teeth are being grafted into the penises of pinko giggolos in the aims of infiltrating the CIA cruisin’ grounds of Spanish Harlem and I am actually a spy trying to steal such a penis for the USA, which I will then be able to use as a melee weapon for the rest of the game. That is precisely the sort of top-secret environment where there will be a lot of locked doors. But barring that sort of plot device, if you are going to needlessly jam doors to prevent me from going where I shouldn’t, at least tick off all the marks on your cliche card and have an earthquake cause a gigantic gear to tumble from the ceiling and block the door in conjunction with the floor suddenly sinking and the hallway filling up with acid. Because I’m no intrepid “superstition adventurer”, but in real life, a jammed door can usually be thwarted with a good shove or some oil on the hinges, so the Undying plot device of jammed doors holding up my progress is actually LESS realistic than any jammed doors you might find in Quake 2.

What a bitch to get running, too. When I first installed, it refused to recognize the cd in the drive. No problem - I downloaded the nocd executable and it booted right up. Then I kept on getting all sorts of fuzzy sound effects at the beginning of levels and during dialogues. There are no patches, so I had to pour through dozens of similar complaints on a 3dactionplanet forum until I found that you can solve the problem by changing the sound latency in the Advanced Options panel only to be encountered by entering in a cheat code. Now it is running and the sound is fine, but I’d never encountered anything else like that with other Unreal Tournament engine games.

By the way, brilliant approach to level design - each small room or bathroom is basically its own self-contained level. Walking five feet and finally hunting down the working door in the hallway filled with dozens of indistinguishable jammed ones results in a brief surge of accomplishment in your own process-of-elimination skills and then a ten second load for the next level. The first five minutes of the game are entirely linear and feature no less than four distinct level loads.

Despite all of this, I kinda dig the atmosphere of the game so far, but after only an hour’s worth of playing, there seem to be a lot of downright doofus design decisions. I know there are a lot of fans of this game here: does any of this stuff get more tolerable as the game goes on? I see there are pirates later in the game, which seems kinda out of place, but hell, I’m a huge pirates fan. Does it get better when the pirates show up, or all the pirate ship bulkheads jammed?

In closing, a great quote from a PC Gameplay review:

Like a bad novel, Undying is oppressively linear.

Or like a great novel, for that matter. I’m assuming this guy is a big Choose-Your-Own-Adventure literati.

I bought this one when it came out and was extremely disappointed in the “horror” angle. The designers seemed to think that mind-boggling frustration = horror – probably because it’s easier to keep the ammunition supply low and the monster toughness high, rather than bother with the intracacies of creating a mood.

The locked door contrivance Crypt mentions only added to the frustration by being a constant reminder that I was on rails right to the end. I guess if your (not necessarily you, Crypt) idea of horror is riding through one of those dark-tunnel carnival rides with the leaping animatronics, then Undying is just the creepshow you’re looking for.

For horror, I found Thief and System Shock (post-patch) much more satisfying.

I liked the atmosphere ok; it was creepy. But I share the thought that it was frustratingly hard, too linear, and buggy. Nowhere near as good as the old Realms of the Haunting, though it looked better.

Ooh, just wait till you get to the Turok-insipired endgame areas! Delicious.

I had some decent fun with Undying, mostly in the early goings when the ghostly apparitions and mansion exploration was the central focus. The various boss encounters you face throughout were creative and puzzly. Eventually the game broadens out though and you venture to new lands doing the FPS thing which weren’t so thrilling. Occasionally you stumble into some vortex dimension that offers the all-too-necessary 3D platforming, many of which weren’t all that irritating to navigate thankfully. It’s really one fo those games where progress (and my enjoyment) felt like a constant waning slope, good upstart leads to an abysmall conclusion.

Oh and if it’s locked doors that really haunt you, check out a Silent Hill game sometime for maximum thrills! “Is it this door? Damn! This one? Damn! This one? Damn! Wait, there is another 4 to check in this hallway, hope still exists!”

It’s one of those games you’re not going to enjoy if you can’t set aside you sense of disbelief. It’s a lot like a horror movie in that way – “Why are they staying in that house!”

I recall reading an interview with one of the designers, in which he explained the frequent level loads as map chopping to fit into the memory of a console (ps2 maybe?). Apparently they didn’t have the budget to go back and rework that for the pc. BTW, I thought it was a great game, but all your complaints are completely valid.

I read somewhere (a usenet post by one of the devs IIRC), not long after it came out, that up to a certain point in its development it was supposed to be a much more open game, encouraging exploration a la Deus Ex, hence the doors everywhere. However, The Man, wearing his EA identity card and suit, decided it would work better if the game was dumbed down. Hence all the doors being locked.

For most people an Irish accent and a Scottish accent are going to sound pretty similar. Sorry about that Finnegan Bronbuckle.

Also…can you tell the difference between an Australian accent and a New Zealand accent?

I didn’t think so.


For me, it wasn’t a sense of disbelief that killed it, so much as that it just wasn’t that scary. Sure, there were a lot of monsters jumping out of hiding places, but that’s not the same thing. And if one ever killed you, you go through a lengthy reload, and lo and behold it’s in the same place ready to jump out at you again.

Take the catehdral level in “Thief”, which was incredibly scary. You knew the haunts (or whatever they were called) were there, b/c they have those sound effects, but you never knew exactly where they were. The same with SS2, where every time you reload the monsters do different things. So, again, you know they’re there, but you don’t know where. To me, that’s much more nerve-jangling than the “Undying” experience.


I agree with pretty much all the criticisms, though I still think it was an entertaining game. It wasn’t as scary as Thief, but it had great atmosphere, and some really neat environments (mansion full of locked doors aside). It’s worth sticking with it, John–it gets better (and much more surreal) once you get outdoors.

Are you kidding me, Spoofy? An Australian accent is completely different than a Kiwi’s - hell, I could tell the difference even before I had Australian and New Zealand(er,ic,ish?) roommates. Although, then again, I thought those retard hobbits in Lord of the Rings were from New Zealand, which obviously invalidates my opinions about almost everything except the fact that Brian Koontz is the biggest doofus on the planet and people who read “cycles” instead of books are the illiterates of a new generation where everyone can - all too regrettably - read.

Queueing up some Neal Stephenson anger, I see.

excellent line :lol:

That’s easy.
Australian: “Got some noice kangaroos heah, mate”
Kiwi: “Ah sheepment of sheep will be hee-e sewn”

I thought the capitol of Australia was New Zealand :twisted:

Now that’s pretty funny DrCrypt. :D That’s one fine quote!

dang… i loved this game, although the end-game was hard as hell… my wife even watched while playing through the whole thing… YMDV.

I have to agree with the locked door bitching. I’m running up and down corridors knocking on doors when I’ve got dynamite in my knapsack? Screw that- the door is history.

And everyone knows that Kiwis say ‘sex’ everytime they mean ‘six’. Because it’s funny.

Okay, I need spoilers: is a big revelation in this this game that the waitstaff are actually dead? Because there needs to be some sort of explanation for why they are all such idiots. Two gardeners calmly lecture me on local geography as a howler disembowels their buddy in the solarium right behind them. A cook dices carrots while completely ignoring the eviscerated corpse at her feet. I fire a pistol at point blank range mere inches from the face of a cleaning woman and she continues to bovinely stare out a window, completely unperturbed. With the poverty and tuberculosis outbreaks and all, Ireland wasn’t a pleasant place in the early part of this century. But I think even the most hard-up Catholic biddy with seventeen gin-addicted fruits-of-her-womb at home to support would loudly say,“Fuck this. MOTHER fuck this,” the second her coworker got her entire throat ripped out while doing the darning.

Other than that, I’m still having my interest held by the game. There are some great mood flourishes, like the howlers rushing at you down a hallway that is clouded by diaphonous curtains fluttering from stormy wind coming through the open windows behind them. I’m sort of indecisive on whether or not the pacing of the game is a plus: it seems nerve-wrackingly laborious, and my opinion alternates on it being dramatic or just plain boring. For example, I’ve played for two-three hours and I’ve only gotten one weapon that I didn’t start off with and encountered two different kinds of monsters. That’s interesting at the beginning, but I’m kinda wishing things would pick up now.

I finally tried playing Undying a few months ago, but it didn’t do much for me. It just seemed like a corridor shooter.