Review by Antpants

"An unsettling and unique game - horror fans, be sure to snap this up"

After what seemed like an eternity in production, this game was released late in the Xbox's active life. Many Lovecraft fans waited with baited breath for this, and when it did finally arrive, most fans of the genre were not disappointed. Cthulhu takes your standard FPS and tweaks it to become less of an FPS and more of RBS (Reality-based shooter). Set in the early 20th century, this game creates an atmosphere rife with tension and anticipation. Jack Walters find himself awake with no memory of the past 6 years. He travels to a place called Innsmouth to try to fit the pieces together. While investigating a murder, he finds something sinister about the town, and the townsfolk become aware of his actions. When things do go from bad to worse, you, the gamer will be caught up in a torrent of frenzied action and very unsettling sanity effects.

Graphics
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This is one area that can be classed as passable. Since Cthulhu took so many years in production, it does show it's age. The game engine does not sputter or slow down, but the general graphical presentation has a bit of a 2 to 3 year old feel to it. There's definitely less bump-mapping than you would see in most FPS games released for the Xbox at this point. However, this slight shortfall made up for by the developers overlaying the game with a sanity system. Jack, you see, has a bit of a problem with heights and gore, along with a few other issues. When he's put in this situation, it isn't uncommon to find your screen blurring or spinning in a dizzying fashion. This lends a ton of immersion to the game and is almost fun to experience. When Jack is injured, his vision will redden, or fade, and should Jack be subjected to too much insanity-inducing effects, he could very well go insane. The interface is bare, meaning that there is no HUD or on-screen information. This is a great implementation and truly immerses you into an alternate reality.

Sound
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Sound is very well done in this game. The narration is spot-on and the main actor voices himself perfectly. Supporting actors do a spectacular job of bringing that element of horror to the game. There's a good deal of creepiness to this title, thanks to the excellent voice work of the entire cast. Weapons sound great and realistic and the music waxes and wanes as fitting to the mood the level is trying to set. The sound effects (eg. banging on doors etc) are also done well.

Story
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You play as Jack, a man with amnesia, trying to piece 6 years of his life together. He travels to Innsmouth to investigate a murder and uncovers something far more sinister. Little does he know, but eyes are upon him and he finds himself becoming the target instead of the investigator. The road to insanity is a meandering one, and shifts gears well from level to level. This is one compelling story. It would be, considering that the material was inspired by Lovercraft.

Gameplay
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This game does not in any way play like a traditional FPS. With the absence of any HUD or aiming reticle, hardcore FPS junkies might find this game a bit annoying. The obvious intent of the developers was to immerse you in the game and bring a sense of reality to your character. This is pulled off very well. As you continue on your way, you will pick up new weapons, most of them authentic to the period that the game is set in. As mentioned, the lack of aiming assistance in this game means that running and gunning isn't likely to provide any measure of success.

The game seems more of an FPS adventure than a FPS shooter. There's a good emphasis on the dialogue and atmosphere that surrounds the main character. Trying to shoot with no assistance, with the gamer being wounded and redding out, plus doing this in a high place that causes dizziness and the controller pulsing a mile a minute, one can see that a ton of attention was placed in immersing the character into the game. It is one of the best atmospheric implementations of any game to grace this console.

Difficulty
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The game has a few choke areas where you will find yourself replaying often to get through. There is also a notable lack of clues, so you will find yourself running around a bit, unsure of your next move. This is one area that could have been given more attention. However, the FAQ on this site is excellent at helping the gamer on his/her way without giving up anything of the story. Do not be afraid to consult it as there are some confusing areas to this game.

Overall
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This game gets an 8.4 from me for sheer inventiveness and immersion of character. The atmosphere is thick with mystery and highly oppressive as any survival horror should be. Cthulhu oozes uniqueness and does a wonderful job of keeping you, the player off-balance. Included in this game is a rooftop scene chase, worth noting here as it is one of the most gut-wrenching, nauseating and fear inducing levels on any game for this console.

Rest assured, I will never step foot in Innsmouth again.

8.4


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/26/07


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