If you’re a fan of Lovecraft and horror games you’ve probably been looking forward to the release of Call of Cthulhu. Though if you decide to pick it up, the game will leave you scratching your head for the first couple hours. Terrible animation quality, audio inconsistencies, and lack of important PC settings are some of the issues you’ll experience right from the start. But if you push through some of those frustrations, you’ll be left with an amazingly well-crafted atmosphere with a great story and some good scares.
Limping out of the gate
The beginning of Call of Cthulhu was a painful beginning. From the start I was immediately met with frustrations. 21:9 resolution is just a cropped image giving you less of a view than normal 16:9 mode, there’s no field of view settings, and the extreme amount of film grain can’t be altered.
When I loaded into the actual game frustrations continued to amount. Character animations were some of the worst I’ve seen in years (let alone a game with this high of a price tag), audio was all over the place with cutscenes being extremely quiet, and fairly long loading screens taking up a good portion of the first hour or so of gameplay.
Within a couple hours, I was already ready to give this game a huge thumbs down, but I’m very glad I didn’t give up on it.
You play as Edward Pierce, a private detective that isn’t quite killing it at work when a man named Stephen Webster asks you to accept an eerie case. He believes the police botched the investigation of the death of a woman he calls Sarah Hawkins. She was a renowned artist who supposedly died in a fire along with the rest of her family.
You decide to take up the case knowing that you are the best prepared detective to find out if Webster’s ideas are true or not.
So, you set sail to Darkwater Island, the Island the Hawkins family once called home, to see if anything surrounding the death of Sarah Hawkins is amiss.
Arriving fashionably late
After the slow, boring, and low quality first couple chapters, things start to finally kick into gear at around the 3rd chapter. You’re finally put into an atmosphere worthy of a horror game, and the Lovecraftian lore starts to come to the forefront.
The game starts to really make you feel like a detective too. A new “reconstruction” mechanic is used that allows the player to see glimpses of the past to piece together what may have happened. This mechanic is used throughout the game and is a real treat every time it shows up.
More than meets the eye
As the story continues Edward begins to lose his mind. At least for my first playthrough he did. The 12 to 15-hour story has multiple endings based on the choices you make. Edward’s sanity is also affected by your choices giving the game a good amount of replay value to see the different outcomes.
Your journey will also be affected by where you decide to invest in Edward’s attributes. Throughout the game, you’ll earn CP to level up some of Edward’s attributes. Having higher leveled attributes can effect the things Edward sees and knows.
Call of Cthulhu also has a strong amount of dialogue choices to make when talking with NPCs. It allows you to pick what you really want to know, and includes unlockable options based on how well you investigated. There’re also some timed dialogue events when the tension is high.
A change of pace
What makes Call of Cthulhu an especially refreshing horror game is the multiple styles of gameplay it uses throughout the story. For much of the game you’ll be exploring the multiple locations you’re thrust into, but the game also mixes in stealth and combat sections. The stealth is very simplistic, but it’s a nice mix up from the detective work. It’s fairly reminiscent of Outlast’s style with hiding from enemies’ paths being the key element.
Combat exists, but that’s all that can really be said about it. It isn’t anything special, and it ends up feeling like something they thought to put in at the last minute.
What Call of Cthulhu does so well though is its atmosphere. Excluding the first couple hours of the game, every location is filled with sights and sounds that pay respect the the source material.
While the graphics aren’t anything special, the dull lighting, grimy corridors, and maze-like caves and hallways do more than make up for it.
Many games are guilty of throwing the best they have at you from the start and letting off the gas as the game goes on. Instead, Call of Cthulhu has one of the worst first impressions but makes up for it with one of the best horror games to come out in some time.