Call of Cthulhu

Review

posted 11/22/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox

It's been nearly ten years since Resident Evil single-handedly defined what a console horror game should be, and in that time we've managed to be scared in all kinds of different ways. When I first started playing Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corner of the Earth I wondered how effective it would be; I worried that after a decade of scary games I would be too desensitized to appreciate its creep out factor.  But I was wrong.  Cthulhu is easily one of the most frightening games I have played, managing to freak me out in ways I hadn't even considered.

It's not that Call of Cthulhu has a lot of cheap scares; it's that the subject matter manages to get under your skin in a way that will stick with you long after you've shut your Xbox off.  Games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil like to shock you by throwing out enemies when you least expect it, but Cthulhu is a lot more subtle.  This is a game that is very deliberate, it understands how to pull you into a world that on the outside looks creepy, but when you start pulling back the layers you quickly realize that it's among the most disturbing games you will ever play.

Call of Cthulhu is based on the writing of famous horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, an author who has managed to leave his mark on the horror genre long after he died.  By using Lovecraft's material the makers of Cthulhu are able to weave a unique adventure that is never dull, and always full of surprises.  We all know how terrible games based on movies can be, so perhaps that's why it's so refreshing to see how well a book adaptation works.  Cthulhu is a real gem!

In Call of Cthulhu you play Jack Walters, a private investigator who is suffering from some serious post trauma-induced amnesia.  Six years earlier Jack had a fateful meeting that resulted in him losing his mind and being hauled off to the insane asylum.  Ever since then he has had a deep fascination with the occult, reading every book he can find on the subject.  Jack is hired to track down a missing person in the town of Innsmouth, a broken down fishing community that has very little tourism and a lot of unfriendly citizens.

Unfortunately you quickly realize that this case is more than just a missing person investigation; this is just the start of what ends up being a truly memorable adventure.  It doesn't take long before the town's people start hunting this outsider, but not before Jack uncovers what appears to be a secret cult called the Order of Dagon deadest on doing something dastardly.  I won't spoil the secrets of Cthulhu, but it's safe to say that these creepy individuals are up to no good and it's your job to figure out how to stop them … like it or not.

But that short description of the game hardly does Cthulhu justice, it's really just the tip of the iceberg.  Call of Cthulhu has a story that is all over the board, from helping the FBI to battling strange creatures of the sea to simply rescuing innocent people caught up in tragic situations.  And the best part, just when you think you know where the game is heading it has a strange way of completely flipping things around; making you always second what comes next.  You expect twists and turns from a game like this, but Cthulhu has a funny way of constantly being one step ahead of you, successfully creating an atmosphere of unknowing and dread.  Just when you get sick of one area, you're thrust into something completely different, giving the game a good sense of pacing.

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