Call Of Cthulhu Review
The H. P. Lovecraft stories are based a lot on atmosphere, the horror is found in the not knowing, the not seeing. The environments that the writer created were oppressive and dark. Cynaide Studio has tried to replicate this atmosphere in it’s new Call of Cthulhu game, and in someways it really managed to hit the mark. But in others ways though, this is another game based on the books that makes us feel like sometimes, things are better just written down.
Call of Cthulhu is a dark game, both in it’s visual appearance and it’s tone. This is a horror game that plays out a little differently to most games in the genre. For a lot of the game this feels like something of a walking simulator, with you going from place to place and clue to clue to piece together what happened to a (in)famous painter and whether she murdered her family. There are puzzles to solve and all is fine. But the problem is this game tries to be more than it really should be.
The piecing together of clues has a lovely feel to it and the story progresses in a nice way that doesn’t feel forced. You feel like you are making things happen and progressing through your own efforts. But then the game decides to mix things up with sudden, jarring changes in gameplay, whether this is a forced stealth section or actual combat, at one point even involving a gun. These areas of the game takes away from the tense feeling of not knowing whats coming next, and makes it into something that has to be got through to get to the next part of the story.
The story is where Call of Cthulhu excels, the pacing is almost perfect and you find yourself perched on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what is going to happen next. This is where the throwing in of different gameplay mechanics completely ruins the flow of the game.
There is a leveling up system that at first feels benign but later on in the game you will either be thankful of where you had invested your points or wising you had put them elsewhere. We played through the game twice putting our points in very different places and having a very different experience.There is an obvious path that you can take with your skill tree but as with a lot of things with this game, the obvious isn’t always the best.
Call of Cthulhu suffers from a problem that quite a few of these kind of games has and that is the movement is a little clunky. The way the protagonist, Edward Pierce, moves is not smooth at all and the animation feels a little off. The lips of the people talking also don’t line up with what they are saying at anytime or in anyway. As well as this a big thing that disappointed us is that the subtitles also often didn’t say the same thing as the speech.
Because at its core this is a detective game, you play a private detective after all, you have the obligatory detective mode. This is a vision that can be activated so that you can piece clues together and suddenly you can see exactly what happened. Unlike in some games where you can activate this mode at anytime, in Call of Cthulhu you can only activate it at certain times when the game tells you. This almost makes it feel like a cutscene that you just happen to be taking an activate part in.
In the H. P. Lovecraft novels one of the things that really ramps up the tension is the fact that the monster is often unseen. You know that it’s there but you never see it so the only image you have for what is hunting you is the one created in the depths of your imagination. Horror games often have a problem with this, right at the start you see the monster so the horror of it is greatly reduced. Up to a point Call of Cthulhu does really well here, you know that there’s a monster, you know that there is something horrific here but you don’t see it. Then suddenly the game shows you the monster and the atmosphere is lightened slightly. It is almost as if the developer felt like there were things that they need to put into the game just because it’s a video game and they need it. This is a case of not knowing that you are on to a good thing.
Call of Cthulhu is a game that starts out well even if the controls are a bit clunky but then starts to deteriorate due to a need to put in a lot of video game tropes that the game doesn’t need. The atmosphere is set up really well but the game is broken up by gameplay mechanics that don’t feel appropriate for a game like this. These sections also breakup the flow of the story which is one place that this game really excels.