STAFF REVIEW of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (Xbox)

Thursday, December 1, 2005.
by Davilis

Call of Cthulhu:  Dark Corners of the Earth Box art Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a first person horror genre game based on the mythos created by American author H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft\'s horror and fantasy works have influenced such writers as Stephen King (IT, Salem\'s Lot et al) and Anne Rice (Dragonriders of Pern, Interview With The Vampire et al). Published by Bethesda Softworks, and developed by Headfirst Productions, Call of Cthulhu is set during the 1920\'s and features a good deal of period-specific items and goods which you will come across during normal gameplay. It should be noted that Headfirst Productions chose well to collborate with Chaosium Inc., the developers of the award-winning pen & paper RPG \"Call of Cthulhu\" to preserve the integrity of the final work.
Unlike the typical \"reality horror\" genre, CofC-Dark Corners doesn\'t rely so much on ample health packs lying about, but rather incorporates a detailed damage and healing system breaking one\'s overall health down into conditions and treatments. There is also no HUD whatsoever; adding well to feeling of being immersed in the game...and it\'s pretty !&%$@#* scary too!

The game AI is a thing of beauty, as creatures pursuing you will actually open doors and tracks you, either alone or in groups! I can\'t tell you how many times I turned around during the course of my gameplay to find some creature or person \"sneaking\" up on you! Creepy man! In this game you assume the guise of one Jack Walters, a former police officer turned Private Investigator. After answering the call to a large suburban home where shots having been fired were reported, Walters becomes temporarily trapped inside this nightmare house, only to stumble upon some sort of other-worldly evil that breaks his fragile mind! When the police find Jack in the house later that night, he is immediately taken to a psychiatric institute, where he is diagnosed with severe amnesia and schizophrenia. Worse yet, Jack loses 6 years of his life trying to come to grips with what he saw in the house that night?
The game is extremely well-crafted in the puzzle solving and exploration aspects. I must admit that I didn\'t make it far enough into the game to comment on actual combat, save my having gotten the boots laid to me by a bunch of irrate fisherman in the dismal port town of Innsmouth. The game environment is rich in detail, and you can go most anywhere in it. You would do well to remember that the least obvious route is probably the correct one in this kind of game! Special mention MUST be made of the games ingenious use of a \"Dynamic Sanity System\". Essentially, due to the still fragile state of Jack\'s mind, he must maintain a constant grip on his sanity or he will begin to suffer hallucinations, anxiety attacks, vertigo and paranoia. These conditions begin to manifest themselves after Jack witnesses anything visually disturbing...and in this game there\'s plenty! The game screen will become blurry and lethargic, and eventually, if left unchecked, Jack will need a shot of Morphine (which he carries with him) to quell the symptoms!

Graphically, Call of Cthulhu-Dark Corners of the Earth is stunning! The level of detail put into virtually everything from a mundane article in a grocery, to the fixed death gaze of a hanging corpse (oh yes...there are LOTS of corpses) really bodes well for game designers. Facial expressions and mannerisms of the multitude of interactive characters you will come across in the game are extremely well done. Earlier in this review I mentioned that sometimes you\'ll turn around and have somebody right in your face...well, try to put THAT into perspective? Its dark...fog all over the place, you\'re in a creepy-ass town where everybody looks like a bloody zombie....and BOOM! The ignorant bus driver or some such is literally breathing down your neck! The game does a great job in re-creating the \"feeling\" that you\'re not alone...what was that? Behind you? Oh...sorry, just a shadow. lol

From the scraping noise of a bookcase being dragged or pushed, to the wet slapping sound of a corpse hitting the ground...the sound effects for Call of Cthulhu-Dark Corners of the Earth are dead-to-rights. I found that the added effect of actually hearing Jack\'s pulse rise when he\'s having a \"spell\" was well done. It really helped add to that close feeling one has while in shock? The ambient music was just as foreboding as the utter despair one felt wandering about in the \"dark corners of the Earth\". In a nutshell-appropriately creepy tunes for a creepy game, that\'s sure to have you playing with your lights on!!!

No specific suggestions for improvement here...they managed to take a very dark and ecclectic horror RPG and successfully port it to console! Brava guys! Definitely a \"should-be\" on the horror fan\'s Xmas list!

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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