previews\ May 20, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth - PC - Preview

E3 2003 First Look


H.P. Lovecraft is widely considered one of the great American horror writers of all time.  Bethesda Softworks has taken a series of his books, the Cthulhu Mythos, and turned them into an equally frightening FPS/Horror title, Call of Cthulhu.  From the looks of the game I got at E3, the game should do a great job of getting gamers to take shelter under their covers just as Lovecraft sent his readers reeling from the dark. 


The story takes place in 1920’s New England during a time when America was still shaping itself.  Police Officer Jack Walters’ quest is to unravel a mystery wound up tighter than a ball of rubber bands.  Trouble is his convictions and ‘crazy’ stories landed him in a lunatic asylum, so he has a hard time convincing others he’s legit.  While discovering the truth, he’ll face danger, lurking insanity, time travel, and a mystical race of beings. 


Call of Cthulhu successfully mixes the horror and FPS genres by totally immersing the player into the game.  There is no HUD (Heads Up Display); you see what your character sees.  Not every solution is apparent, and it takes more than a quick trigger finger to escape many of the challenges.  Call Cthulhu encourages gamers to think beyond the simple ‘point and shoot’ mentality that so many FPS rely on.  During a chase sequence early on in the game, the player must barricade doors with wardrobes to slow down pursuers and duck under windows to avoid gunfire.  It’s a refreshing twist on a genre that’s wearing a little thin. 


Call of Cthulhu also features an insanity meter much like the ground-breaking Eternal Darkness for the GameCube.  Because Cthulhu is first-person, the insanity elements tend to have a much greater effect on the gamer.  The tentacled time-traveling beings of the Cthulhu Mythos set fear in the heart of men, and Walters’ accumulating psychosis really makes holding a gun steady difficult when facing one of these beasts.  Walters will also face vertigo and audio effects, such as hearing voices that may or may not be there.


Another impressive feature of the game was its near flawless graphics.  The world of H.P. Lovecraft has been represented so well that Lovecraft himself would stand and applaud.  The air that the developers have created fits the story like a glove.  It’s often dark and rainy, and always suspenseful with something horrifying lurking around the corner at all times.  Every object in the game (save the sci-fi technology) is authentic to the time period further enrapturing gamers in the moment. 


The artificial intelligence in the game is also to be commended.  The enemies in this game know how to pursue, avoid objects, and work as teams.  An impressive early chase scene sees men jumping through windows and from building to building to get to Walters with an ‘at-all-costs’ attitude.  Even the developers weren’t quite sure what their creations were going to do when they were demonstrating the game. 


Call of Cthulhu will begin giving nightmares when it hits shelves in early 2004.



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