Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about H.P. Lovecraft or any of his written works. Sure, I’ve heard of “The Call of Cthulhu”, but aside from always having to look up the correct way to spell and pronounce it, I haven’t had much interest. That being said, I was not expecting to enjoy Call of Cthulhu (from developer Cyanide Studios and Focus Home Interactive) as much as I did. My colleague Justin posted our official review of the game but I just couldn’t help but express some second opinions of my own. Who would have thought a slow-paced, methodical mystery game could be so engaging?
Call of Cthulhu is not for everybody though, in fact, I feel like it really only appeals to a small group of gamers. Taking place from a first-person perspective, it’s easy to think this might be a shooter or a hardcore survival game. In actuality, Call of Cthulhu plays more like a linear mystery game with light sprinkles of stealth, upgradeable skills and a few puzzles. The experience starts off quite slow with plenty of cutscenes and dialogue before things start to get creepy. Call of Cthulhu rewards methodical and thorough players who are willing to check every nook and cranny for clues. These clues vary from books (lots of them), letters or artifacts; and discovering them unlocks new dialogue options with NPCs. Some of the skills you can upgrade are: eloquence, which makes you more convincing, finding hidden items faster and increased strength, among others. Edward Pierce, your main character, will also have his sanity put through the test throughout the story. Depending on whether you interact with many occult objects and other factors like dialogue, your sanity will vary. I felt this aspect was not clearly explained to me as well as it should have. At various points in the game, your decisions will trigger a message letting you know that it has affected your story outcome. If I had to compare it to other games I would describe it as a mix of: The Evil Within, Murdered: Soul Suspect, and recent Telltale games.
While it wasn’t necessarily scary or full of depth with its mechanics, I enjoyed the 10 or so hours I spent completing the story. The graphics had their moments of beauty, usually involving some nice lighting effects, but nothing that really blew me away. I agree with Justin that the voice acting is hit or miss, as were the character animations. Call of Cthulhu is the type of “AA game” that we just don’t see much anymore, with a full $60 price tag to boot. Since it lacks multiplayer, the most replay value players will get is playing a second or third time and making different choices. Most of the achievements/trophies are tied to story progression, while others will require you do a specific action or trigger an event. After playing on both Xbox One X and Xbox One S, the biggest difference I noticed was the decrease in loading times on X. The S can take upwards of 100 seconds to load a level, while the X can shave loading times by nearly 40%. Thankfully, reloading a checkpoint is very fast on either console.
Call of Cthulhu is the type of game that I would either suggest people rent, borrow from a friend, or wait for a sale before buying. I just don’t feel confident in recommending it as a $60 purchase. The story hooked me after the initial setup, but that isn’t to say it will for everybody…regardless, I feel strongly that it is a story worth experiencing, as it only gains steam as it progresses. Fans of all things Lovecraftian should find a lot to enjoy in the mystery of Sarah Hawkins.