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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Bethesda / 2K

 

Developer

Headfirst Productions

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

October 24, 2005

 

 

- Involving story and environments
- No heads-up display
- Some great heart-stopping moments

 

 

- Some annoying adventure game elements from 15 years ago
- Audio glitch near the end of the game

 

 

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Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Score: 7.9 / 10

 

call of cthulhu dark corners of the earth          call of cthulhu dark corners of the earth

 

I know who H.P. Lovecraft is but I think I can honestly say I’ve never read any of his creepy stories. (I may have read something of his in a thick collection of short stories from Weird Tales.) I only know of his work indirectly so I can’t comment on how well Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth sticks to the Cthulhu mythology but the game itself is a great mix of fear-inducing situations, adventure game elements, and an invisible heads-up display. It actually reminded me a little of the original System Shock, though with far less emphasis on role-playing elements.

You play as Jack Walters – a not entirely mentally stable private investigator from the 1920s. After living through six years that Jack can’t quite remember he’s hired

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to find a missing person in the ultra creepy port town of Innsmouth. Right away you know something is very, very wrong – the game conveys a foreboding sense of evil and malevolence all the way through with some very decrepit locales and plenty of dark corners. (And crazy-ass cultists shooting it out with police in the opening scene also help a bit.) This feeling is somewhat heightened thanks to the

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fact he goes without a weapon for a very long time. I’m not talking about Gordon Freeman finding a crowbar length – I was quite a few hours in before even being able to equip a gun! It’s a nice break from convention and it’s only one of a few areas where Call of Cthulhu tries to stretch the boundaries of the first-person shooter genre.

You can expect to spend a good amount of time not shooting things. After all as a P.I. Jack spends a great deal of time just sleuthing, but he’s no slouch when it comes to killing unholy terrors with a variety of authentic-looking period guns or the always deadly knife in the neck. Unfortunately Jack can fall victim to bouts of insanity and if his sanity drops too low – by witnessing horrific acts, etc. – he’ll actually decide to eat one of his bullets.

Jack’s sanity “meter” isn’t displayed onscreen at any time as Call of Cthulhu has no on-screen heads-up display to show you how much health you have left or how many bullets you have in your gun. Jack’s health is often indicated by red clouding that happens around the screen, the controller vibrating in tune with Jack’s heartbeat to indicate that Jack’s taking damage. It also throws off Jack’s aim making it a necessity to find a safe place to heal up. Again, it’s not as easy as walking over a health pack – you’ll actually have to use band-aids and/or splints to help with broken limbs. (Listening to Jack hobble on a broken leg… oh man, the first few times I heard it made me wince.) Jack can also inject shots of morphine to handle the pain. But if you do things right, sneaking whenever possible, some of the physical injury can be avoided.

 

call of cthulhu dark corners of the earth         call of cthulhu dark corners of the earth


Call of Cthulhu seems to be getting a bad rap when it comes to the graphics department. Though they do appear somewhat “quaint” as they’re admittedly a few years behind the curve they don’t detract from the horror/suspense story that the developers were shooting for. They wisely avoid the whiz-bang effects and stick to the drab, dark tone of the story, which is actually pretty good. (And they said a first-person shooter with a dense story couldn’t be done!)

As good as the story is – this coming from an ignorant reviewer that knows spit-all about H.P. Lovecraft’s writing – there are some downsides. The first is that no matter how crazy Jack might get, his monotone descriptions of things around him don’t really convey the kind of madness that’s creeping around the periphery threatening to take over his mind. My other real gripe is some really annoying throwbacks to adventure games of fifteen years ago. Any old school adventurer will know what I’m talking about when I describe going through a somewhat complicated series of movements only to screw up at the end then get shoved back to the beginning without so much as a hint as to what you’re doing wrong. This happens early on in Call of Cthulhu when Jack has to infiltrate the offices of the missing man. It took me ages to figure out why the watchman always found me even if I was crouching in a dark corner. (Damn you Splinter Cell for making me think all dark corners are viable hiding places!) But the friggin’ intense chase sequences mostly make up for this, plus the closing level is one of the best I can remember.

There is a well-reported bug toward the end of the game that turns the audio all scratchy. At first you’ll think it’s an insanity effect but it’s not. It’s hardly a game killer though.

Unfortunately for Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth it will likely fall into the 4th Quarter Quagmire and not be seen by many people, which totally sucks, because Call of Cthulhu offers a great (mature) story, some heart-stopping moments, and some great evolution of the first-person shooter genre, even if it does have some warts. This is sure to be one of those cult titles that “serious” gamers will refer to in the coming years as an underappreciated game, much like Alien Hominid or Psychonauts.

- Omni

(December 10, 2005)

 

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