Call of Cthulhu - Dark Corners of the Earth Review

Most survival horror games are just not that scary. Games in which I have to assault a Nazi machine gun nest put me more on edge than those in which I must shoot slow-moving, shuffling targets with a taste for brains. Besides, they far too often rely on cheap scares of the monster in the closet variety. This might work well enough to frighten teenage girls in a movie theater, but it takes a lot more than that to stand the back hair on end of a gamer sitting in a dark room in his boxers. Yeah, buddy, a lot more. It takes atmosphere, suspense, and a pervasive undercurrent of dread. Nothing builds fear more than an imagination sown with these seeds and then left to nurture the terror on its own. This is not an easy thing to do in a game – if it were there would be a lot more scary games out there – which is why a game that gets it right is so enjoyable. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is one of those games.

This is where it all begins.
In Call of Cthulhu you are detective Jack Walters, the goto guy for the police force in 1920s Boston. You are called in to help negotiate with a house full of well-armed cultists, but before you can get to work shooting breaks out. You make your way into the house in an attempt to calm things down and are surprised to see that the few cultists left alive seem to recognize you. As you move deeper into the house you find pictures of yourself everywhere. A trip down a secret passage soon leads you face to face with an unspeakable horror … and then all goes black. Fast-forward a few years and you find that your blackout lasted for a lot longer than it seemed. For the past few years you’ve been confined to the Arkham Asylum for the Insane, a victim of total amnesia. You’d think that karma would give you a break after that but there’s more bad memories waiting to happen for you. Your first case since recovering your memory sends you to the small New England town of Innsmouth in search of a missing person and Innsmouth is not at all happy to see you. Needless to say there is a dark secret behind the disappearance and a sinister evil pervades the town, but the rest of the story I leave to you to uncover.

Call of Cthulhu is based on the works of horror pioneer HP Lovecraft. If you’ve never read Lovecraft, don’t worry – you don’t need to be familiar with his work in order to enjoy the game. If you’re already a Lovecraft fan, though, you’ll be in heaven while playing this game. It not only stays true to the mythos created by Lovecraft, it does an excellent job of creating settings that look like they leapt straight out of the pages of his books. You’ll also be able to pick up on all of the little details and references to Lovecraft’s work that the developers have sprinkled throughout the game.

Part of the magic weaved by the game is due to the feeling of immersion that it generates. This immersion begins with the interface which is completely devoid of any HUD devices – no health bar, no ammo count, nothing. Everything that you see in the game you see through Jack’s eyes. Even the cutscenes do not take you outside of Jack’s head as you will see them all play out through his eyes. The game does have an inventory screen that lets you monitor your health, but it doesn’t intrude upon your experience unless you want it to. There are plenty of visual cues to let you know when things are going grim for you, such as blurry or red vision, so there’s no need to constantly monitor your health directly anyway. Speaking of health, you’ll take damage exactly where you’re hit so don’t be surprised if a brutal attack to your leg leaves you limping with a broken bone.