Call of Cthulhu is not your typical horror experience. This title does not fill you with constant death, undead or some crazy science experiment lurking in the shadows. Call of Cthulhu rather goes in the direction of questioning your own sanity whilst dealing with the occult.
From the start Call of Cthulhu promises to be that something different. As booze laden Private Investigator Edward Pierce, we do not chop our way through cult members and giant squid like monsters – but we rather take our time, investigate what’s happening and try to keep a rational mind. Call of Cthulhu is a slow burner. There is a constant build up of dread and a general foreboding atmosphere all wrapped up in an unsettling tone that keeps you guessing to what is actually happening.
The plot of the game takes place in 1924 and is set on the Island of Darkwater. It is here where Pierce is called to investigate the deaths of the islands well-to-do Hawkins family and in particular to try and prove the innocence of Sarah Hawkins who just happens to be a famous painter.
Darkwater is a dark and gloomy, decaying whaling town that is filled with a host of eccentric characters, all of whom live in the shadow of the foreboding Hawkins residence.
These characters and the island really drew me into finding out the secrets that Darkwater contain. What actually happened to the Hawkins family that fateful night? It’s not just the foreboding atmosphere that works, the game also features an investigation focused style of gameplay.
Pierce is tasked to find out what happened to the Hawkins and that’s exactly what we do. Once inside the Hawkins estate we get to piece out scenes of an ever expanding jigsaw. One cool tool in Pierce’s arsenal is his investigation mode, this is very a-kin to how Batman investigated crime scenes in Arkham City. We are able to focus in on the small details and Pierce, pieces together the scene.
On particular investigation scene sees Pierce focus on the families final meal, and we get to see that things are going to get worse for the Hawkins family. Away from this we are able to roam the environment looking for other clues that happen to be shown on screen as green dots. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing it does take the fun out of exploring and finding clues and interactions yourself.
As we progress through the game Pierce will earn character points that we can invest into a few skills. These skills; such as Eloquence and Investigation open up expanded dialogue options and expand on Pierce’s understanding for the characters motivations. Other skills such as Medicine and Occult knowledge task the player to find items in the world to increase Pierce’s skill within that area. These all go towards our character sheet and essentially allows for different builds for a replay-ability factor.
Call of Cthulhu is not without its faults though. One particular issue I encountered was within the games stealth sections. One section had me sneaking around the cultists lair in a Splinter Cell style, to then realise that it did not actually matter. The characters would not react to me running to the door that I had to go through.
Another section had Pierce inside a mental asylum. This time asked to create a distraction to escape, there are a couple of ways to do this – the first is getting an inmate to scream or following a cable to power up a machine. Once your chosen path has been done, the patrolling guards will leave their post to investigate. However they then stay there, rooted to the spot of the distraction – which then allows Pierce to waltz on by. However, if during the stealth sections we are seen, we are greeted with the game over screen and sent back to try again.
The game also suffers from wonky NPC dialogue that is stuck on repeat. There is an argument taking place on the Darkwater docks about a dead Whale. Once completed this argument starts up again which caught me in a state of deja vu at first but then sets the NPC’s into an infinite loop. This is a shame because the dialogue between characters is rather impressive.
Character models seem very similar, in particular to Pierce himself. This is more apparent in Darkwater Harbour, mostly all the generic characters have Pierce’s face albeit with facial hair or a different hair style. If styled this way then the game is pure genius as a way to show Pierce’s madness closing in, but in one particular room Pierce does not notice that a picture on the wall is a very close likeness to himself so I would guess that this is not the case.
In spite of the vocal disparity and graphical mishaps, the music score is cleverly used and the hunting melodies do not outstay their welcome and are used in a clever way with the environmental sounds to really display Pierce’s increasing descent into madness.
In summing up: Call of Cthulhu offers a change of pace to other titles that have been released this year. There is a replay-ability factor with the games RPG style and different builds will offer a wider experience of the story and multiple playthroughs.
Engaging too much with the Occult can be a bad thing and its definitely worth seeing that play out, like I did… Don’t jump into Call of Cthulhu and think of Outlast or Resident Evil, as you won’t get that experience here. What you will get however, is a slow paced game built on its themes of mystery and madness. Call of Cthulhu is not a bad game and as someone who’s never dabbled with Lovecraft, I was intrigued with the story and stuck with Pierce all the way through and invested my time in reaching the horrifying conclusion.
Call of Cthulhu is available now and is priced as £54.99 on the Xbox Store.
A review copy for Xbox One was provided for the purposes of this review and was played on the Xbox One X. Thank you!
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- Tension that builds as the game unfolds
- Great use of musical score
- Adaptation of HP Lovecraft
- Poor NPC cast design
- Occasional graphical glitches
- Unecessary stealth sections