Game: "Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth"
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: This game was in development for an incredibly long, and I was ecstatic when it finally came out for the PC back in 2006. Granted, it had suffered a bit from being in development too long, but at the same time not long enough.
You play Jack Walters, the detective who's answering the Call of Cthulhu this time around. Jack has a reputation for being able to handle particularly difficult cases. Unfortunately, he also has a reputation for spending a couple years in a mental asylum after temporarily developing a split personality. Nevertheless, he is still able to find abundant work as a PI. For his newest case, he's been asked to track down a missing grocery clerk in the quaint fishing village of Innsmouth, Maine.
I don't want to give away too much of the story, even though the game's own opening cutscene gives away the ending, but suffice to say, Jack encounters a few minor setbacks while looking around Innsmouth. If you've ever read The Shadow Over Innsmouth, you've probably already figured out a lot of it.
The entire game is in the first person perspective with no HUD to provide you with any information. If you want to aim your gun, you have to use the iron sights. If you want to see how injured you are, you have to examine yourself for blood splotches or protruding bones. In that same spirit, damage is location-based on Jack, with different affects for each location. A broken leg will slow your movements to a crawl, accompanied by a pained grunt, until you can bandage and splint the injury. A broken arm can be even worse, as you can't very well aim with your wrist shoved up into your forearm. Dressing wounds takes time, though. In a heated battle, you may have to settle with a more temporary solution: morphine. And that leads into the best part of the game.
An insane cultist shooting at you is a threat to your physical wellbeing, but you also need to be mindful of your sanity. Jack will come across many situations that will put a strain on his sanity, such as shooting up with too much morphine, discovering rotting corpses, and even looking down from a great height (Jack suffers from acrophobia). When these episodes start to pile up, you'll start to experience hallucinations both audible and visual, decreased controller sensitivity, and even panicked chatter from Jack himself. And if things get too crazy, you could even find yourself staring down the barrel of your own gun.
And it's that presentation that the game does particularly well. The atmosphere of a Lovecraft story is captured perfectly. Not a thing feels out of place, not even the character dialogue. And the game is legitimately scary! Admittedly, some of that scariness is lost when you first get your hands on a gun (elder horrors or no, a headshot is a headshot), but the whole of the game is still quite frightening. I know I was particularly tense during the scene in which you first meet none other than J. Edgar Hoover, though not on ideal terms.
There have been a lot of attempts over the years at bringing H.P. Lovecraft's work to other media, but I have to say that Dark Corners of the Earth is one of the best. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from a number of nasty bugs, and with developer Headfirst Productions now dissolved, you'll have to look to fan patches to fix them. The worst part, however, is that Headfirst had planned a few sequels to DCotE, none of which ever see the light of day. That alone is enough to make me crazy.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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