After years of development and delay after delay, Call of Cthulhu (referred to as ĎCoCí from here on, not because I donít like it but because I canít keep typing ĎCthulhuí and spelling it correctly), the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired game has been released. It's a pretty interesting setup too, mixing action, stealth and puzzle solving into a game played from a first person viewpoint. Naturally the story is very important to the game, and you play the part of private investigator Jack Walters, who is sent to a rather unusual town called Innsmouth, to try and find out what happened to a young boy who has gone missing. After a while things changed slightly and the boy isnít your only investigation anymore...
CoC is really set in two halves. At the start youíll be interacting with lots of characters within the town, trying to find out as much information as possible, and using the gameís rather neat sneaking mode to make your way past the townís people who want you dead. They donít like outlanders, see? After around the halfway point youíll find some firearms, such as pistols, shotguns and machine guns, and itís at this point where you are treated to meeting the real enemies within the town. Puzzles and traps still feature heavily in the game, and you really have to be careful as some attacks and even puzzles can kill you instantly if you get them wrong. Luckily save points are never too far away so you donít have to backtrack far.
In addition to your health, which you have to look after yourself by means of a first aid kit (quite similar in fact to that of Metal Gear Solid 3), you also have to take note of your sanity. As the story gets more and more involving and Jack gets more absorbed (either by other character interaction or from reading notes, and books), you as the player will slowly experience his spiral into insanity. What starts as slow vibrations through the controller, quickly moves onto on-screen blurring and texture warping. Itís a nice feature, although sadly it did give me motion sickness quite a lot that wasnít pleasant Ė but maybe that was the intention! Sound also plays a heavy part as you start to hear voices and whimpers, and Jack will even start saying random things to himself, and if you arenít careful you will turn your gun on yourself and blow your head off. You need to find out how to control your sanity, and if youíre really stuck you can help yourself out by injecting drugs to calm you down.
The story is really well written and is genuinely interesting too. The voices are all acted really well, and sound convincing Ė itís really nice to see acting in games being taken seriously and the developer actually hiring actors to do the voiceovers instead of the photocopier repair man doing it.
The world in which the game is set is really dark and grim, and itís really a rather unpleasant portrayal of 1920s America. Even the characters you meet all look like they could do with a tongue-wettened tissue to wipe their grubby faces. Clothing and skin textures are dull and muddy, and everything is a shade of brown. The game is almost too dirty, and some things are hard to make out, and things are definitely too dark at times, so the brightness on your display will need ramping up slightly. A nice touch in the game is a lack of on-screen display when walking around, just like in other games it really gives you a good sense of immersion.
There are some really intense sequences where you have to perform certain tasks in a set time, such as escaping from the townís people. Instead of just running you have to lock all the doors behind you, push cupboards in front of doors and climb down fire escapes and crawl through air ducts. These sequences are really quite hard as you have to do them in one go and you tend to panic a lot when doing it Ė this just adds to the already superb atmosphere the game sets.
The stealth mode in the game works well for a first person game. You move much slower in this mode, and the camera adjusts slightly so you get a better view of whatís going on. You can hide behind boxes, lean around corners and sneak past guards. You can use shadows to hide in so you wonít get spotted, although it doesnít quite as well as Splinter Cell in that department. Later when you have firearms you donít need to use the mode though really, as you can just shoot anyone that comes near you.
I enjoyed playing through Call of Cthulhu, itís an interesting story and itís told really well, and you want to keep playing to find out what happens next. Itís a genuinely scary game to play, and really will make you jump a lot in places Ė always a good sign of a good survival horror game. If youíre into the genre, and you havenít yet got an Xbox360 and Condemned, then I recommend picking this one up.