Name: Call of Cthulhu
Publisher: Focus Interactive
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Acquired: A copy of this game was provided by a publisher for review purpose*
Call of Cthulhu was a big surprise when I got my hands on it for a few hours during Gamescom 2018. I ended my hands-on article with this sentence “I almost didn’t want to stop playing because I wanted to find out more of what is happening.” So it can’t be wrong to say that I was really excited to get a chance to play the full game. I have searched high and low for clues in Darkwater and I’m ready to give a verdict.
It is based on H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Call of Cthulhu“ or rather it has elements from the lore that H.P. Lovecraft created. The game follows private investigator Edward Pierce as he investigates the death of an entire family on Darkwater Island near Boston, Massachusetts. Beginning with Edward Pierce getting visited by a grieving father that thinks there is something that is not right with the death of his daughter. The villagers in Darkwater think she’s responsible for the death of her husband and their son, and he wants us to investigate to give her justice. We are then shipped to Darkwater to start the investigation but quickly realize that there is something/someone that is hiding the truth. And a dark presence is hiding in the depths of the island, ready to make its return. Edward Pierce is a World War 1 veteran with a drinking problem and struggles with PTSD. The amount of cases has drastically declined, so he seems desperate to get something new to work with. It seems like that is his motivation to actually accept the assignment. As you might understand and learn when playing, he is going to regret saying yes to this. Things will get worse, and your mind will be tested on what is real and what is not.
The story was really interesting, with many questions I wanted answers to. The waiting period from August when I got the chance to play it, to now when I finally could play more to find out what is actually going on in Darkwater, might have given me more hype for the game than for others. But from the start, you will be eager to find out what is really happening. It felt like a good book that I just had to read through to get answers and suddenly the time had passed for hours. Edward Pierce might seem bland at the beginning, but your actions and what traits you choose to upgrade will affect how he responds and how much knowledge he has. But I will dive more into that later since it is a part of the gameplay. So I was really satisfied with the story, it really dragged me in and motivated me to play through each chapter and explore to find more clues and secrets.
For once I like to start with the negative since there are some issues, but I have so much more to talk about. Is Call of Cthulhu the best looking game? No. Is Call of Cthulhu the smoothest game? Also no. There are some textures that stood out and made it look outdated at times, and characters that had some weird facial expressions. The occasionally frame-rate drop did occur, and transition from cutscenes to gameplay could look a bit odd. But apart from these minor problems, CoC did one thing really great and that is the atmosphere. Old mansions, Psych wards, sewers, and caves are just some of the areas we will have to explore to find the truth or escape to survive. At times it was almost as if I could smell the environments I was in, with the scorched wood, slaughtered fish or underwater caves where sea water has made its mark. It all looks gritty and like it has lost its soul decades ago, with only small fractions of the once great places they were previously. The whole island feels this way actually, where it looks like the Islanders just have settled with how everything looks. Living off the glory Darkwater once had, letting nature take over and ruin the once great whale catching community.
Sound also plays a big part in the game, I can’t stress it enough that a good headset or surround sound really helps the game. It might help the game feel a bit scarier, but that was also the part I loved the most. It just immersed me deeper into what happened and made it even more chilling when hearing a sound that there is no explanation too.
The investigation begins and searching for clues is essential, you play as a private detective after all. Your actions will affect how the people will look at you and respond to you. You can search for clues that can give you information that again opens opportunities when interrogating people. Your actions will also affect your sanity level that will change how you see things around you. Pierce’s sanity will take its toll on him, so dark rooms, small spaces or things that just seems out of this world affect how well he will be doing through the game. As mentioned earlier as well, you can upgrade Pierce with upgrade points that makes him better in certain areas. That also opens up how much he understands of what he finds in clues, or you can make him better to talk with people, getting more information out of them. Medicine and his knowledge of the occult get upgraded by finding information about it around the island. So exploring really helps you upgrade Pierce, where it all feels like a puzzle. Every upgrade gives you opportunities to open up new areas, or knowledge to easier reach your goal. Pierce has this ability to see what has happened to places by looking at clues, how this is shown works like the crime investigation parts from Batman: Arkham series, where the clues tell and show what happened or rather what he thinks happened. After all, we can’t always trust what we are actually seeing like mentioned earlier.
There is also the occasional puzzle that you will have to use information and clues found to solve. Some of them were actually really difficult, where you had to use a bit of imagination to find out where the information is hidden. Or objects that you need that I had to look for and weren’t exactly lighted up for you to see it. Those puzzles weren’t always as fun being stuck on, but those where you used your attention to detail to find hidden clues in paper or pictures were immensely fun.
Then when you are not searching for clues or exploring, what more do you do? Well, CoC also contains sneaking parts and combat/escaping, that wasn’t the best part of the game, to be honest. Especially the sneaking part was not one of my personal favorite parts, not being really difficult but rather annoying at times. AI that sees me and automatic knows where I am at all time, and feeling stuck in a labyrinth sneaking back and forth trying to find items to proceed. It could feel a bit stale at times, and really stopped the flow of the game. But since you are defenseless, it really makes your heart jump when you get the hang on it. It could at times remind me of the gameplay that we have seen previously in games like Outlast and Amnesia.
I often was a bit scared about what I was going to be meeting in the game, and often felt chased by something. Sometimes it could be something ordinary, but at times you will see and meet things that might not be so easy to explain. The only thing I can say is THANK GOD they didn’t use cheap tricks to scare me, unnecessary jump scares or sounds only made to give you the occasional scare. Here it’s good old horror, where the problems most often are not what you see but rather what you can’t see. And the environment and situations you are put into are responsible for the horror you feel.
The controls work really well and are as straightforward as it gets if you have played a first-person game before you know automatically how to play. Every “special” action you will have to perform is highlighted. Interaction is controlled by one button, and moving around is as easy as it gets. The only time there could be some issues was when trying to pick up some items, since you had to be positioned correctly. I had to switch on crosshair because I felt a bit motion sick without, which was a good thing being available and also made it easier to keep track of objects I was trying to choose.
I chose to exclude a score on this category in this review because I felt it wouldn’t be fair as it didn’t have all the things we are looking for usually in this category. Call of Cthulhu’s strongest asset is its story and mysteries that we have to find out about, which makes it a game you might not play through more than once, but rather enjoy for what it is.
Story - 9/10
Graphics - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Controls - 8/10
Call of Cthulhu delivers an interesting and exciting experience that gives you a mix of lore and psychological horror. It delivers a story that kept me on the edge of the seat, but also at times puts me as far back as possible (so I don’t have to sit so close to the tv when it gets scary.)But it wasn’t too scary either, so someone like me who hates horror games managed to play it. This is a type of game where you always want to proceed to find out more. Some stale moments when it comes to the gameplay, but the mystery keeps it interesting through the entire game.
- Exciting story
- Great atmosphere
- Intriguing gameplay
- Some boring sneaking parts
- Weird textures