Interesting horror FPS with good plot and real suspense, a rare find indeed.
The first thing that got my attention was the atmosphere. While it starts with the cliche dreary night in an old mansion, I got the feeling that this wasn't the average cheesy horror flick as soon as I saw the howling beast prowling just outside the manor gates. The period architecture and design with curtains fluttering in open windows, dark musty catacombs, and wind swept ruins are both fitting and fighting. What truly gives the gameplay its depth is the superb direction. Rarely has any game kept me in suspense and not alone truly made me jump in my set as Undying has.
The plot slowly begins to unfold when you meet an old friend, Jeremiah. The story, which in itself is a rarity in FPS, is an intriguing and horrifying mystery of a cursed family with twist befitting a novel. Most of it unfolds as you talk to the mansion's inhabitants or read lost journals and letters. While it's not entirely original it does add a great bit of depth to an otherwise ordinary FPS.
The monsters and beast in the game are fairly good, but not exceptional. The roster includes some that are rather typical for a horror game, and most are not original either. The others though are really inspired. Most of them are by far not weak and are sometimes surprisingly conning. Also most are quite viscous in close quarters. To make matters worse, for the player that is, some tend to be in groups, making encounters all the more challenging. This is somewhat balanced by the stronger weapons and spells that are acquired later in the game, but many are rather slow to reload or recharge, making some encounters a real fight for survival.
As for some of the more technical aspects, the graphics and textures are average and sometimes poor, but still fit nicely with the setting and architecture. The map architecture on the other hand is great, much better than Unreal, which used the same engine. The models and animation are somewhat mixed. Some are good, but others have too few polygons and wooden movements. The facial texture animation, however, at times was surprisingly well done, with realistic expressions. While these seem like minor gripes the game still fairs well for its time.
My biggest gripe with the game is how torturous dying in the game is. While watching the various fatalities that the enemies preform are interesting, they grow old quickly, yet for some reason you cannot skip past them. You are forced to watch them again and again and again. The same holds true for most cutscenes during the game. After that, instead of loading your last saved game, it loads a secret saved game that is created each time you enter a new section of the game. While this maybe be typical for a console game, it is simply inexcusable for one on the PC. So if your not fast enough to reload when you die, you have have to watch the enemies brutally deal its finishing blow and wait for the game to restart back to the beginning of the section before you can load your own saved game.
Also, the gameplay seems somewhat unbalanced. You have to travel a great deal before you meet the first boss, but the bosses and major beast become much more frequently during the second half. It's seems as if the ran out of ideas and started rushing the game to a conclusion, which is a merely a rather cheesy setup for a sequel.
Some of my other gripes are the game's linearity. While this is somewhat common in a FPS it is to the point of being ridiculous. The mansion is full of doors that seem to be stuck, even though the door might have opened before and some of them are even ajar, yet fail to budge. The conversations are also linear has they simply play out from beginning to end without any interaction whatsoever. Also the games creators seem to believe that there were silver bullets lying around a monastery in the 1200's!
The Bottom Line
Undying is among the best action games in the horror genre with a great story, settings and plot that will keep you hooked to the very end. I've played many and this is by far the one only one that has successfully made me jump or wince time and time again. This game is not for the faint of heart, but if you're game for a good scare then I recommend Undying.