Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth – The Stuff of Nightmares? [RETRO – 2005]

RETRO – Private detectives are usually sitting in their office smoking just like Humphrey Bogar, and blonde femme fatale-s ask for his help to solve dangerous cases. Jack Walters, unfortunately, is the protagonist of a Cthulhu game, where instead of blonde women he meets terrifying monsters that eat Private Detectives…

 

H.P. Lovecraft is a type of writer that many gamers talk about, but not many of them read his novels. Not because we read less and less, but because Lovecraft’s books are difficult to digest, and are not soft-sci-fi horror games.

However Call of Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most famous universe: It inspired several adventure games, and survival horror games, and even served as a basis for tabletop games. Bethesda Softworks decided to let Headfirst Productions take a crack at the IP with a First Person Action Adventure game.

However Call of Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most famous universe: It inspired several adventure games, and survival horror games, and even served as a basis for tabletop games.

P.I. in trouble

Lovecraft fans might be interested to hear that the story takes elements from The Shadow Over Innsmouth and Shadow Out of Time novels, although more regarding location and ambiance, and then the actual narrative. Our protagonist is Jack Walters an old cop – who we get to know a bit from the intro and the short cinematic – that something horrible has happened to him in the past that got him locked up in the loony bin.

A few years later he was let out but even does not know what happened to him fully as he suffers from amnesia. Jack pulled himself together and became a Private Detective. As an assignment he travels to Innsmouth, and when arrives he has to face that none of the townsfolk like him (maybe dead). The people that help Jack in any form end up dead pretty quickly.

The story is rather complex, and I do not want to spoil it for the reader, but simply put the investigation soon becomes a race for survival against horrifying monsters.  While the townsfolk end up doing some nasty rituals, and there’s even a weird „infection” as themes. If we only look at the story, Headfirst Productions did an excellent job…

However Call of Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most famous universe: It inspired several adventure games, and survival horror games, and even served as a basis for tabletop games.

Not an (FPS) cartoon, my child

Those that are used to the usual FPS games where you just go, slaughter, pick up health packs and survive multiple bullets will be a weird departure from such mechanics in this game. Our protagonist, for example, reacts life-life to every injury: If he gets hit on a critical body part or if an organ gets damaged, then he can only survive for a few minutes until he collapses and dies. Even if his injuries are not that bad, we still need to treat the wounds in a calm place so that they can heal. Healing takes time, and if we cannot rest than Jack will not be able to get his self together.

However Call of Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most famous universe: It inspired several adventure games, and survival horror games, and even served as a basis for tabletop games.

Of course, this would be ignored by almost everyone, but here if Jack gets worse and worse his vision gets blurry, movement becomes slower, and aiming ends up being more difficult. If this would not be enough, we still have to look out for Jack’s mental health. The more gruesome and wicked things he sees the more he will lose his mind, so we have to protect Jack from such sights.

This gameplay is revolutionary and can add new depths to the old tropes of FPS. At the same time, it can be a little bothersome to bandage constantly ourselves, or to regain our strength after a mental fatigue section that gives us dizzyness – these can happen quite often in the game.

However Call of Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most famous universe: It inspired several adventure games, and survival horror games, and even served as a basis for tabletop games.

Splinter Jack

The story luckily is interesting and has enough twists so that the embedded realism will not take away. Sadly because of this some of the gameplay elements were overclocked by the developers. For example, it takes awhile to get an ordinary weapon to counter all the monsters. (The first weapon is a crowbar which we probably got from Gordon Freeman since he’s on vacation). Due to this we have to be stealthy a lot of times (oh yeah another Splinter Cell/ Thief idea theft ) which gets boring after awhile and is tiresome. That is why I tried to choose the gory way and tried to shoot my way through the enemy. Unfortunately, this where we see the game’s biggest fault: we can only save in certain sections of the games, and sometimes these are far from each other.

If we were to die before reaching such a point, we would have to restart from the previous save point. A pretty stupid move to make the game more annoying with this. Speaking of annoying, to make the game realistic there is no targeting reticle. I get that realism is important, but I like it better when I can take my shots properly instead of messing around while getting clawed to death…

The game also has puzzles which as the story progresses become less and less frequent, and some of the puzzles are repeated later down the line. In one chapter we have to open a safe to which the code is hidden in a journal, so we have to look carefully to find it. This is okay, but unfortunately, the open the safe section got repeated two times in the game (Ouch…)

However Call of Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most famous universe: It inspired several adventure games, and survival horror games, and even served as a basis for tabletop games.

Horror Noir

As the events take place in the previous century and the story is rather terrifying the developers wanted to bring this ambiance to the player. Dark Corners of Earth is full of neat visual effects, which are reminiscent of old film noirs, and horror movies. Sadly the textures are rather lacking, and the polygon numbers are small.

We can see that this an Xbox conversion with this game. Luckily the ambiance and the excellent sound effects (When Jack whispers to himself when he is going crazy!) can make us forget the engine’s weakness. All in all Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a game that we can say is „okay,” not bad, but not the greatest thing ever. Unfortunately the listed issues (especially the annoying save system) limits this game from becoming one of the big survival horror games, but if you are a true Lovecraft fan, or just like to try out a new thing, this game is worth a shot.

-BadSector-(2005)

Pro:

+ Realistic FPS simulation (injury, fatigue, etc.)
+ Superb story
+ Scary ambiance

Against:

– Stupid save system
– Old graphics
– …


Publisher: Bethesda Software

Developer: Headfirst Productions

Genre: FPS/Survival Horror

Relase date: 2005

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 6.3
Story - 8.3
Music/Audio - 8.3
Ambiance - 8.2

7.9

GOOD

Interesting action adventure horror game that could have been more if the developers did not mess up certain elements.

User Rating: 3.75 ( 1 votes)

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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