Call of Cthulhu Review
Call of Cthulhu: The Official Game is a survival horror RPG developed by Cyanide and published by Fox Home Interactive. The game is based on Chaosium's pen and paper RPG of the same name - this is where "The Official Game" subtitle comes into play. The game delves deep into HP Lovecraft's iconic universe of Old Gods, otherworldly beings, and the overall Cthulhu mythos and it definitely does all this with style. It's easy to see the Lovecraft influence while playing it and fans of HP Lovecraft really need to try this game for themselves since it is definitely aimed at the Lovecraft fan base.
Players take on the role of Edward Pierce, a private investigator that drowns all of his problems away with liquor. Pierce is approached by a man that has recently lost his granddaughter and her entire family to a fire in the town of Darkwater and he wants Pierce to investigate her death. Pierce journeys to the island and is welcomed by unfriendly locals and untrustworthy police reports while conducting his investigation. As he delves deeper into the case, he is plunged into a world of conspiracies, cultists, and otherworldly creatures. The overall story to this game has some excellent pacing. It starts out slow but the developing plotlines and interesting characters continue to get better. By the time the game gets into full swing of its plot, it is very hard to put down.
Call of Cthulhu plays out much like a first-person RPG. Most of the time is spent searching environments for information and collectibles and there are tons of conversations to go through. Conversations take on a query style, much like Mass Effect or Vampyr, where you get tons of information from one person by branching a conversation to new topics. There are also conversation subjects that can be unlocked through viewing certain objects or getting information from other sources. Besides dialogue changes, conversation decisions can lead to a change in objectives and a change in the way the plot will advance.
Pierce will gain Chapter Points (CP) while advancing through the game and these can be used to level-up his skills. Skills can unlock new conversation options, such as influencing a person with a high enough psychological or eloquence skill. A high enough investigation skill allows for Edward to pick locks that were usually too complicated to open. A strong enough strength skill allows Edward to influence conversations through force or solve puzzles through physical means.
The puzzles in the game require some good thought, but none of them are truly mind-bending. There is one good one that involves listening to tapes to gain hints for finding environmental clues that will help in solving a puzzle, but many of them are rather simple. There are no true fights in Cthulhu - just about every type of fight is set up like some sort of puzzle. The majority of objectives require finding an item or knowing how to use a certain item. Speaking of finding items, Cthulhu is loaded with documents and other items to collect in each chapter. Some items are very well hidden. There is a "Spot Hidden" ability that Pierce has access to that will display a question mark with a circle around it in the lower corner of the screen to show when a hidden item is in the current area. Sometimes hidden items can open up new paths in the story.
A common theme in HP Lovecraft's works is the mind's inability to comprehend what it is seeing, thereby driving a person insane and that is explored in this game as well. Sanity can be lost by staying in dark hiding places or looking upon otherworldly creatures. When sanity starts to fade, Pierce's vision will distort as if he is looking through a small green portal with dark tentacles closing in all around him. There are also collectible sanity moments where Pierce looks upon certain sightings that will cause an entry to be placed in his diary recording his thoughts on the event. The collectible sanity moments are basically unlockables since some of them are optional based on the path you take.
Cthulhu's environments are pure Lovecraft - they are dark and full of green. Whenever you find a light source from a lamp, the lamp will have a gas vapor coming from it and give off a green light source in the darkness around the surrounding area. The harbor of Darkwater looks ancient just like it has a history to tell. Blood and guts are greatly emphasized in areas where they appear. You don't just come upon a dead body in this game - you come upon a slaughter as if a creature went wild with its meal. It's amazing to see the difference between a certain mansion at night and the same mansion during the day. The mansion looks completely hideous at night but the same place looks perfectly normal by daytime - it just goes to show how good the darkness effects are in this game.
It's really too bad that the character models don't match the game's environments in overall quality. Character models look dated in the face and during facial movement. The overall character animations are dated as well. Whenever character's talk, the mouth simply opens the same way with every word that comes out. Character voices are overall good. The same person that did the voice for Jonathan Reid in Vampyr lends his voice talent to Edward Pierce in Call of Cthulhu. I played this game on both a normal PS4 and an Xbox One X and both of them run the game about the same. The game seems to have a steady framerate on both systems but it gets pulled down by slowdown at times on both. The upgraded system seemed to run some areas better than others (slight higher framerates) but overall the system upgrade doesn't do much.
The game took me around 7-8 hours to complete which comes in a bit short for a full price game considering that total time includes exploration and wasting time figuring out some stuff. Thankfully, it does have some replay value with its multiple endings. There are two standard endings that you can get by going through the story normally, and there are other endings that require dedication in order to achieve. If you're an HP Lovecraft fan, you owe it to yourself to try Call of Cthulhu: The Official Game. This game was carefully designed for HP Lovecraft fans so you will get the most out of it. For the rest of horror fans, it's still definitely worth a try.
+ Overall environment and atmosphere are perfect for HP Lovecraft material
+ The story to the game is really good - excellent pacing
+ Multiple endings (with some that require dedication)
- Character models and animations are dated
- Doesn't always keep a steady framerate (even with upgraded systems)
- Kind of short for a full price game
Final Rating: 80% - Call of Cthulhu is such a dark game that if you turned off the lights while playing it, you might get sucked into the void.