“Uhh, here Sir”
Just imagine it… a class full of kiddie horror authors. Naught could be heard but the soft and slightly irksome scratching of the chalk upon the blackboard, as the raven settled on the sill of the open window, its cold, beady yellow eyes traversing the room, flicking its head gradually around, searching for something.
Ahem. These guys probably had their lunch, pocket money and conkers stolen every day, with a cruel monotony that coloured their souls with a taint of black, which in time became a smudge, a blot, ground into a smear, until it was all consuming, burning with fear, anger and a portentous helping of revenge.
Horror childhood’s aside, is it a good thing that Mr. Barker has turned his hand to PC games as well as books and films? Fortunately, the answer is yes, as Undying has a superbly crafted horror atmosphere that has obviously benefited from the Barker touch.
Okay, some of it might be a touch clichéd… the lightning storm outside the haunted old mansion you enter at the start of the game, the disturbed bats flying off as you open the door. But it is genuinely chilling… walking down a corridor all the lights go out, and a bloody, chained apparition flashes in front of your eyes. Looking into a mirror, a ghostly figure appears behind you.
What’s really creepy is when you use your spell to scry into the netherworld – by the way, you happen to be an expert in the supernatural, who’s handy with a gun and the odd magic incantation – and other worldly phenomena are revealed. A simple portrait of an old bloke turns into a demonic apparition, for example (and later on you meet the guy).
All these little touches add up to make this one of the most atmospheric 3D shooters ever to grace the genre. In terms of gameplay, it’s well crafted too – there are many different conventional weapons and spells to tackle foes with, and they can be combined by the resourceful. For example, you can fire the speargun while blasting a lightning spell to charge the spear with electricity and give your foe a real shock.
The monsters all require different techniques to be utilised to take them out (with some more effective than others) and the end of level style encounters are terrifically and terrifyingly realised.
Undying is superb – although quite tough to beat even on the medium skill level. Its gameplay balance and atmosphere are so finely tuned it’s a joy to play – though whether you can play it when you’re alone in the house, at night with all the lights turned off is another matter!
Company: Electronic Arts