Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth Xbox Review

May 30, 2010 by Simon Wigham  
Filed under Retro Content, Retro Reviews, Xbox

HP Lovecraft was a writer who got much of his inspiration from the strangest of places: his nightmares. Sadly during life he wasn’t exactly a bestseller, it was only long after his death that people really started taking notice of his work and the long delayed Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth from Headfirst signifies this. Unfortunately it seems that the developer too has drawn inspiration from its worst nightmares as on occasion Call of Cthulhu features some truly nightmare design and we don‘t mean that in a scary way either.

It’s such a shame as there’s certainly plenty of potential here, but in the end the execution is at times severely lacking. The game kicks off so promisingly too with a nice introduction, telling the story of one Jack Walters (you) a private investigator who it turns out has been locked up in a mental confinement for six long years all because one particular case sent him straight off the rails, a perfect video game protagonist then! Released, Jack resumes his work and in the hope that he will find a store manager who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances heads off to the small fishing town of Innsmouth. Here you must chat with the unwelcoming locals, who you’ll soon discover are scary looking, worse still, they don’t take too kindly to an outsider trudging on their turf. The narrative features plenty of intrigue, befitting of any Lovecraft novel and is certainly one of the games’ greatest of assets.

However, when we came to the realization that the game is filled to the brim with poorly executed stealth sections, any promise of a slow burning, though adequate horror adventure abruptly dispersed.

As you don’t have such luxuries as high tech radars or for a sizeable portion of the game even any form of weaponry, these sections must be tackled with the pace of a turtle with two broken legs. Any other method, will likely see you kicking the bucket and perhaps your Xbox, both at the same time! For the most part, they’re horribly frustrating and at the fault of this game we can see even the most meticulous and patient of gamers being transformed in to very angry people, who despise the world and every living thing on it, it really is that nasty!

When we finally did get our hands on some guns, we were deeply relived that we no longer had to creep about the same and didn’t waste any time in blowing our enemies to bits and getting our own back on them for forcing us to endure such painful trials. But even the shooting has its fair share of flaws. For starters as it doesn’t feature rag doll physics the shooting is unsatisfactory and in an attempt to be cinematic, there’s no such things on the screen as health bars, ammo counts and yes crosshairs. The lack of a crosshair, results in enemy targeting being more tricky then need be and means as you desperately attempt to score a hit many a bullet will likely be wasted.

As bad it sounds, Call of Cthulu is still not a total disaster. We particularly like the Eternal Darkness like sanity effects, that for instance sees your vision blurring whenever you look down from a high place, evidently simulating the effects of vertigo and we also were impressed with the fact that different areas of your body can be injured, meaning for instance if your leg is damaged you’ll limp.

Call of Cthulhu tries to do so many things, but doesn’t manage to execute any of them in anything but a mediocre fashion and as a result it’s only recommended to the most ardent of Lovecraft fans, who don’t mind an average game to accompany the intriguing yarn, which is the greatest strength of this otherwise frustrating, dull but by no means awful game.

5/10

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