Game: Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Rating: M for Mature
Halloween has come and gone, but that does not mean the scares have to leave us along with the holiday. Grab a controller, switch off the lights, and prepare to enter madness with Call of Cthulhu.
The Call to Mystery
You play as detective Edward Pierce, a rather disheveled private investigator who—as it seems is the case with all private instigators—is at the end of his tether, a man who wouldn’t say no to a drink of alcohol, a man who is seeing his clientele dwindle with each passing day. So, when an elderly man named Stephen Webster enters his office before pledging with Pierce to take an assignment, he does not have much choice aside from taking the case, which leads him on a mysterious and macabre journey to the island of Darkwater.
Call of Cthulhu is a game driven by narrative above all else, so one would hope the story is both well-told and engaging, which, thank-fully, it is. Edward Pierce’s character—like many others around him—feels somewhat flat, yet the world he inhabits, and the ghastly trail of clues and the chronicles of outlandish events are anything but. The Hawkins family supposedly perished in a ravenous fire, how-ever, the matriarch of the family sent one of her paintings to her father weeks before her death, almost as if she knew of her soon-to-be fate. With a strange sense of unease already planted in our heads thanks to the case details, we are slowly but surely hand-guided into an increasingly thickening plot.
Enter madness. This is the prompt you receive every time you boot up the game, setting the mood nicely. But what kind of madness will it be? Well, that all depends on how you build your character. While there are no customizable aspects aesthetically, Pierce has a skill tree that can be tweaked prior to fully beginning the game. We can add allotted points to abilities such as Eloquence, the ability to influence people around you, which in turn can help you gain information or access new areas, or psychology, which can help you understand the meaning of objects more proficiently. There are seven of these skills that can be up-graded. Depending on which you chose to fortify determines how your version of Pierce can overcome a given situation or obstacle. For instance, he could talk his way by a henchman guarding a doorway, pick a lock, or use brute strength to break through.
The important thing to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to purchase Call of Cthulhu is your expectations, and what exactly you are looking to experience. Want an action-packed romp through the underbelly of evil? You will be sourly disappointed since this is the furthest thing from an action game. You won’t be running down hallways firing a gun from each hand. It is, instead, more akin to a point and click adventure from a first-person perspective. You will primarily need to inspect the environment, discover clues, useful objects, and, occasionally, make a decision that can affect the game’s outcome.
Call of Crudeness
While this is indeed a horror title, the scares are somewhat, well…scarce. Aside from a few extremely limited jumps, I remained in control of my senses, unlike Pierce himself, which is another game mechanic. When in intense or stressful situations, our hero will panic and his vision will blur, prompting you to escape whatever is causing the issue. Although the environments are not terrifying, they are gorgeously detailed. However, the same can’t be said for the characters whom inhabit them. The models are poorly defined, exhibiting unpolished texture works that resemble games from the last generation of consoles. Not only that, they are also crudely animated, making them appear akin to puppets when delivering dialogue.
Call of Cthulhu is not a game one should simply pick up and play. Gamers should do their research, view screenshots and watch game-play videos, because some will simply find the experience cumber-some. With that being said, fans of H.P Lovecraft’s classic series will adore the slow pace and riveting story. This feels like a game aimed at small group of fans, made by fans. With a little extra polish, it could have gone from good to great.