Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a game I’ve been playing off and on since 2008 but have not really gotten around to finishing it. Until now… I bought it off Steam for $10 after seeing it had been reduced from $20. By belief for a game such as this is that it is difficult for anything slightly good to not warrant/justify a $10 purchase. But there are exceptions.
CoC (just gonna call it that) was released in 2005 for the Xbro and PC by Headfirst Entertainment. Headfirst went bankrupt shortly after the release of CoC and the rights were picked up by Bethesda which as far as anyone knows, is not doing anything with it. CoC is a unique survival horror game that is an adaptation of the H.P, Lovecraft story “Shadow Over Innsmouth” and it is one of the better incorporations of a book’s story into a game.
The year is 1918 when Jack Walters, a detective for hire is called to negotiate with some cultists in Massachusetts. Some crazy shit happens and Jack goes literally insane, but only for two years. After he is release from the asylum he was being kept in he got a call asking him to investigate the disappearance of Brian Burnham, a young man who lived in a New England fishing port town known as Innsmouth. The story involves alien beings, cults, sea gods and an unwelcoming group of townsfolk.
When you arrive in Innsmouth, the game truly begins. You interact with townsfolk who are less than compliant and sneak around crime scenes to find cold hard facts about the Bernham lad. It starts a little slow but fairly early into the game and event – and you will know what I am talking about the game begins to use it’s mechanics to their fullest potential. CoC isn’t a FPS, it’s a “You’re weak and You’re fucked”-sim. Jack can’t aim, can’t run and cannot stand against the super natural beings that be. Because of this, you’re forced to stealth or die. You do not get any weapons to fight until about half way through the game
The core of the game lies within hiding, healing, running and keeping sane. CoC is surprisingly realistic and that is good because it adds sincerity to the source material. There are no crosshairs, your arm will tire if you aim for too long and when you fire the affects feel and look accurate. There is no UI but there are health indicators such as blood on the screen, fading color and bone crunching noises from your broken legs. There is an inventory menu where you’ll manage your health in a Snake Eater like fashion. Supplies such as bandages, splints, anesthetic and sutures are gathered through med-kits scattered around the level Sanity is more than just a theme in Call of Cthulhu, it’s also a gameplay element.
Jack has a fragile mind, and is definitely not the right choice fro high-stress situations and eldritch horrors that he’ll encounter in Call of Cthulhu. Certain events in the game will cause Jack to be scared, being scared makes Jack lack sanity. He’ll hallucinate and will get tunnel vision, he will also lose a portion of his permanent sanity. Other things like blood, bodies, body parts, monsters cliffs and if you lose enough sanity – boulders will terrify the shit out of him. Sanity is a broken gimmick, it’s cool but doesn’t work. There was a time during a boss fight where I would step outside and begin the battle. The second I saw the boss I’d go into what I can only assume is Jack having a seizure and then I would stare at my hands and do clenching motions, this was apparently me going insane. You can also kill yourself if you go insane with a gun drawn. It’s cool the first time to experience, ridiculously frustrating later.
Levels generally involve a checkpoint, stealth/action/story/puzzle sequences with save locations sometimes thrown through out the level. Some levels seemed like they weren’t play tested as you’re not given any clue how to go about the level in the manner that is obviously intended, this leads to trial and error and more than likely death, which then starts you at the beginning of the level, which understandably is very frustrating. Luckily, there are few levels like this. CoC’s levels are all different and have very memorable things about them. Call of Cthulhu has some of the best scripted events in any videogame I’ve ever played There are a few intensely fun moments of just “OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT”. The intensity and horror aspects of CoC really redeem some of its flaws.
The horror is very true to Lovecraft, Plenty of unknown beings and disturbing imagery throughout. There are no monster closets or boo scares. All horror comes from fear of being caught, seen or the unknown. Although the game is from 2005, it is one of the finer examples of modern survival horror in videogames in a long, long time. The setting, context, weaknesses, and atmosphere all work very, very well.
CoC’s graphics and aesthetics are very impressive for a ’05 game. The game seems stylized in modern Victorian and everything is dipped in dank, gloom and disease. The lighting is static, but there are some moments that static certainly impresses thanks to the art direction. CoC uses film grain which cannot be disabled, some may find it annoying, but I find it fitting and pleasing. Due to bugs and un-optimization I had to run the game on the lowest resolution which made things very blurry and fuzzy.
Call of Cthulhu has some serious bugs, seriously serious bugs. I revoke my statement of Bully: Scholarship Edition being the buggiest game I’ve ever played For starters, the game would lag to all hell if it wasn’t played on the lowest setting and resolution. I originally started playing about two weeks ago, the game deleted my save file and I had to restart. There are some visual bugs and times where cutscenes play while the game is playing and you die because you’re stuck watching a cutscene. But the big bug was when I would not finish the game because boulders would scare me so bad and slow me down to the point of suicide so I would get crushed by falling rocks every time I attempted this part of the game. I inevitably had to download a third-party unofficial patch to increase speed.
Call of Cthulhu is an extremely unique horror title. It has great ideas that don’t go beyond a great idea. It is remarkably faithful to the source and the author. The gameplay is challenging and realistic which in context is great fun and very daunting at times. Some of the most intense moments in games come from Call of Cthulhu’s great level design. Unfortunately, the ridiculous amount of bugs and the necessity for a third party patch really suffer the game’s quality. However, if you’re looking to be scared and experience something different, than it is indeed worth the money and possible effort to play through this game. Perhaps all my technical issues were just bad luck.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth Pro-Tips:
•Use three saves and rotated through them. Very useful for any survival horror game or game with scarce resources.
•Just use this patch
it will eliminate a lot of frustration the game makes.
•Run the game in the lowest setting and resolution
•Beware of boulders
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