Review by Empty_Eyes
"Titalating Horror with heaping amounts of Substance"
For me to be writing about those events that transpired so long ago must mean the last few strands of sanity I was clutching to have snapped, and sent me spiraling. It surely can't be long until this shadow consumes me. Sorry for the dramatics, but the atmosphere of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the earth is simply put, perfect. I can't helped but be sucked in. For those who have either read Lovecrafts books, or played the Call of Cthulhu pen and paper, an immediate sense of satisfaction will wash over you. And in this case it's not just the graphics, and music I'm talking about but the difficulty even on the lower settings. Things remain, furiously hard throughout the game. And for those not familiar with Lovecraft, it may seem as though the developers were trying to make you go insane for real, but through out the books from which this game is based there is always a feeling of helplessness, dread, and shear horror. Don't let looks deceive you this isn't just another first person shooter frag fest testing your trigger finger, though at times you will be praying you can reload that gun before being lunged upon by a cosmic horror. This game has strong and steady build up, that requires some patients on the part of the player. If you think you can't handle not having any weapons for the first two hours of playtime then you need to stay away from this game, but everyone else be prepared to be wrapped up in suspense.
Through out most of the game Jack Walters, the main character, is pulled push and dragged from all types of sources, most of them unseen. You dig through the history of the city of Innsmouth, uncovering the horrible truths, and trying to save your own life. I would rather not give too much of the story away, because it's a slow burn and it's direction and production are very top notch. There are few places where the voice acting drops out on you, and you come back to reality but aside from the music and voices add layers of tension and fear. When you start taking massive sanity loss, Jack's vision will begin to blur in and out, the controls will become less then responsive, and my favorite part he starts mumbling about voices, and needing to get out of Innsmouth, or where ever he may end up. The further down you spiral into maddening oblivion the more frequent and easier these effects seemed to pop up, and will I have yet to experience it others have told me of deadly consequence for letting Jack suffer to much mental anguish. And really this sanity system is so wonderfully done, it adds to that overwhelming fear that permeates every street, building, and next turn.
Gameplay wise track controls fairly well, with different look sensitivity settings, and controller options, though sticking with the basic is probably the best idea. At times there seemed to be a hiccup when trying to select different weapons using the D-pad, but I blame this on an overly sensitive D-pad, and not on sloppy programming issues. While you won't find anything really inventive with the control scheme it works well, and feels comfortable going from both puzzle solving, to fighting for your life. The designers implemented something wonderful, that didn't quite work out the way it should have. The wound system in the game has you addressing the different wounds Jack incurs. If you break your leg, you want be able to move fast enough to escape so you need to apply splints, take a gash to the head, or arm aiming becomes more difficult and you slowly bleed to death you need a suture. However there wasn't enough micromanagment, in this area as you eventually just hit the quick heal button on the controller and hoped you had enough stuff to get the job done. I think it was a great idea that didn't get fully developed for whatever reason. Hopefully Headfirst will get another chance to add this to a game and flesh it out more.
One of the things that helps set Cthulhu apart from other games in the same genre are the puzzles. Almost none of them involve, ridicules fetch quests that have you back tracking for whatever reason. Instead of pushing the three statues, with the gems that appear at the beginning of the game on to the off colored squares on the floor, you are given clues to the combination of the safe and must decipher them. It helps keep you in the world, and is very satisfying when you finally figure out that one puzzle that you've been dealing with for so long. The enemies are very unforgiving at times, and at others not as smart as you would think. Sometimes I could hide from enemies by merely going back into the door from which I came, even after they get a good look at me. But most of the time, your running scared for your life, dodging into what ever Dark Corner you can find. They don't wait for you at all in this game, and they never run away their devotion to their elder god is to much, and they will be hunting you. Hunting you through the streets of Innsmouth in what is the most intense chase scene I've ever experienced in a game, or the movies. Minor issues do crop up and most can be worked around, Sneak mode is really not all that useful as I found myself utilizing the crouch button by it's self and a well staked out corner. Sneak feels unnatural, and feels like an out of body experience, more then anything else.
There were a few times the game froze on me, but everything else involved in this game more then makes up for that problem. Just remember to try and use more then one save spot on the save screen, you will thank yourself later. At times the creators seemed to get overly ambitious with what the would have the First person mode do, but really it requires diligence and planning on the players part. Your going to die a lot, so be prepared, and don't let that deter you from digging through all the meaty parts this game has to offer. If own an X-box you need to pick this game up, it's defiantly in my top ten as far as the X-box is concerned. In my mind it's 9.0 out 10. Just remember play with the lights off, it's just game .
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/21/05
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