Review: Be afraid.
H.P. Lovecraft's weird tales are one of the most bizarre compilations of horror stories to ever be penned. They have sparked imagination and nightmare alike since being originally printed in pulp magazines in the early 1900s and have sparked the Cthulhu Mythos. His influence stretches into film, literature and television. Now, with Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, you can actually step into the unusual world that he created.
Dark Corners of the Earth jumps right into the unexplained, taking the camera on a trip through one of the most stereotypically creepy sanitariums every crafted, leading right up to your apparent suicide. It isn't often that you start out a game knowing how it will end, though the sequence does a brilliant job at casting a macabre shadow over the gaming experience. As private investigator Jack Walters, you spend the entire first quarter of the game building the mystery that you must unravel; trying to remember a missing six years of your life, finding a missing shopkeeper, and figuring out just what is behind the isolated port town of Innsmouth.
As you make your way into Call of Cthulhu's game world you find that no one from Innsmouth wants you around, a fact made abundantly clear when the action finally kicks in an hour-plus into the game. Headfirst Productions does a fantastic job of crafting a Lovecraftian feel over these opening sequences and introduces you to a number of equally mysterious characters that come and go throughout your adventure. At the best of times, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth feels like a story that belongs on the silver screen.
While Call of Cthulhu is technically a first person shooter, the gameplay feels more in line with your survival horror titles. There is an emphasis on stealth over gunplay; puzzle-solving over huge weapons. Several conventions are tossed out of the window in favor of creating a more involved gameplay experience. Gone is any kind of HUD. Instead you need to pay careful attention to what is happening on-screen and in your hands to get the full story on what is going on. Get whacked by a Deep One and blood spatters across your field of vision. Look at something traumatic, something that just isn't right, and your vision and controls go askew. Start to panic and your controller mimics Jack's heart rate.
All of these new ideas and aesthetic affects come together into a well defined package that should make Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth a memorable game. And it is memorable. I'm thinking about going back and playing it again and looking for that last 5% of the game that I apparently missed. Unfortunately, there are a few blemishes that tarnish this little gem. The largest being that if you happen to overlook something, be it a pile of furniture that you can use to climb over an obstacle, a can of weed killer, or a bucket of Monster-Chow (I'm trademarking that now), you can spend enormous amounts of time having to go back and look for it. While some of the repetition that comes from the action can be easily overlooked, this overly linear approach to the story gets significantly derailed by the slightest misstep.
I am going to make a couple of recommendations to you. First: Don't play Dark Corners of the Earth on Boy Scout if you want to maintain the intensity and atmosphere that are crafted at the beginning of the game. Most of the tasks wind up being a little bit too easy. Which makes for a strange dichotomy when combined with the sheer difficulty of certain tasks. Second: Do yourself a favor and go online to figure out just what the ending means. I guarantee you that it makes a lot more sense when someone explains it. Most of the rest of the game feels like you are figuring things out along with Jack. This ending just leaves you saying, "I think I figured out what just happened."