Review: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (XB)

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (Xbox)
Developer: Head First
Publisher: Bethesda
Date Released: 10/26/05
Genre: First Person Shooter

First things first. This is my 100th video game review. Is that insane or what?

Ah Lovecraft, an author I’ve been familiar with since I was in single digits. The Cthulhu Mythos is something I’ve always had a fondness for. In fact, the name of my folklore column, Nyogtha, is a direct reference to the Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraftia. I have about half a dozen papers published on the genre as well as the author, and I have to say I’m a huge fan of his writing, from the vocabulary that sends most readers scurrying t o a dictionary, to the fact that his tales of Eldritch Horror from beyond the stars aren’t about gore or violence, but instead revolve around unspeakable things, no human could neither view nor even receive a description of, lest their sanity dwindle down like an ebbing candle down to the tiniest bit of wick. Lovecraft made it quite clear mood, theme, and the understanding that Humanity could NEVER compete with the Elder Gods or the Great Old Ones outright.

And this is why Lovecraft never translates well into video games. Because most gamers want to see direct visuals of what is trying to disembowel them. Because most gamers want to kill things and overcome crazy odds defying logic and reality. And because Lovecraftia honestly just doesn’t translate well to a video game. Let’s take a look at previous games that actually used Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos in their video games:

Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of The Comet. Infogrames published this PC game back in 1994. And in fact, it’s still probably the closest to getting things right. The game balances puzzles, thinking skills, and includes some abject violence, but it also holds very close to the source material in writing style, theme, and most of all, by including a “Lovecraft Museum.” It’s very cute. But the game falls short in 1 very big way. Your character ends up taking on not one, but 4 Great Old Ones. This alone has old Howard Phillips spinning in his grave. Let me explain to those of you totally ignorant of the Cthulhu Mythos. Just being in contact with a GOO is enough to melt your brain. Your sanity is pretty much guaranteed to say “Well…bloody hell,” and run from your psyche screaming in terror. And it’s a lock that you’ll be dead within 30 seconds of this occurrence. 4? Yeah, that destroys the value of the game by completely defecating on Lumley, Bierce, Chambers, and all the others who have added to the Mythos.

Necronomicon. This PC game by Dreamcatcher, made in 2001 gets the mood and storytelling aspects of a Lovecraft story perfectly. However, this game is a perfect example of WHY Lovecraft doesn’t work as a video game. You spend 20 hours reading books, doing research, and occasionally solving a puzzle or twelve. The ending is anticlimactic, there is no violence, and you spend a lot of time listening to long convoluted stories told by people who have encountered Things That Should Not Be. Thematically, Necronomicon is perfect, but it’s also a perfect example of how Lovecraft is for reading, not for immersive gameplay.

Personal 2: Eternal Punishment/ This PSX game made by Atlus is in my top 5 RPG’s of all time. It really doesn’t capture the mood or theme at all of Lovecraft. But it doesn’t try to. There are a few Mythos characters, such as Hastur and Nyarlathotep in the game, but aside from one big bit of EP, all Lovecraft references are in-jokes or tributes to the Mythos. The Crawling Chaos is portrayed very accurately, but from a sheer Lovecraftian point of view, the game merely takes the concepts and gives them a Japanese twist. Which is understandable, as Japan has been doing this since Makai Suiko den by Kurimoto Kaoru, which is the first book that really introduced Cthulhu and pals to the Japanese. And these Mythos characters do fit the Japanese mold very well.

Often though, it’s games that don’t actively use names and places from Lovecraft and his cronies’ writings but instead really capture the essence of what Lovecraft wrote about that have been the most successful. Games like Eternal Darkness, Alone in the Dark, HellNight/Dark Messiah, Koudelka, and others are the crown jewels in the genre of Lovecraftian inspired video games, and are by far games any fan of HPL’s writing should devour with enthusiasm. Well except HellNight, as it was only released everywhere EXCEPT America.

So enter Bethesda’s recent release. Dark Corners of the Earth has been plagued by controversy. Most games never make their original release date? But DCotE? This game was delayed for SIX years. How insane was that? People actually doubted whether or not this game would ever be released or if they would finally outright cancel it.

The second controversy was in play style. By making DCotE a first person shooter, the game instantly pissed off diehard fans of the mythos. Anytime you take a concept totally based around “You can’t hurt these things” and make it into a “Let’s blow the shit out of monsters,” it sends up a red flag to your target audience that you know bupkiss about what you’re doing.

The third controversy was the adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, The Shadow over Innsmouth. Would the game be modernized? Would it be set in the early 1900’s as the story was originally? Would it come off something like the film Dagon, where things were changed like the story going from Rural MA to coastal Spain and where the Deep Ones ended up looking like Star Spawn instead of fish people?

So now, I’m finally reviewing a game I was supposed to have in 2001. This generally denotes a game is going to be really good because they took the time to tweak everything, or it will be amazingly bad as the developers and publishers finally threw up their hands in the air and decided to release the buggy piece of crap in order to recap some money. Star Wars Galaxies, anyone?

So what do we have here with DCotE?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Once upon a time there was a well written 48 page short story by a man named Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It was called The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Then Bethesda came and published a game that pretty much dug up Lovecraft’s remains, raped his corpse, and shat on the story that was adapted to become Dark Corners of the Earth. At least in regards to holding true to the Mythos and mood set by writers ranging from Robert W Chambers and his, The Yellow Sign, to Henry Kuttner’s “The Salem Horror.” But before I get into my massive tirade about how this game is only going to appeal to faux Lovecraft fans who don’t even read his work and just like playing Chaosium’s pen and paper RPG or watched “Cast a Deadly Spell” on HBO, I should actually get into the plot of the game.

The story of DCotE revolves around one Jack Walters in Feb, 1922. In the prologue of the game, we learn Jack is a slightly famous police detective with a sixth sense for solving crimes. Then he encounters a cult that worships Yithians. Jack accidentally summons a being of Yith and he goes schizophrenic from seeing it, spending six years in Arkham Asylum.

Jack gets out, as one day he wakes up totally normal again. And so they just let him out. And yes, I am banging my head in stupefaction on my desk while writing this. Jack becomes a private detective and receives a call from the district manager of the First National Grocery Store Chain to locate a young manager of a store in a sleepy town called Innsmouth. Said manager was missing after a break-in, and the district manager believes that the young man in question is in trouble and not the cause of the break-in as the Innsmouth police believe. Jack takes the case and from there, we are exposed to a homage to Lovecraft so amazingly gobstopping awful, that I have expect a character to jump out and say, “I NEED SPINAL FLUID TO FEEL MY BABY!”

Now don’t get me wrong, done right, SoI would be an amazing game to adapt. The problem is that Head First only took names and locations of things. They only used the outer layers of anything Mythos related, and gutting out all the depth and horror and feeling that Lovecraft and crew portrayed in their writing. Sure it’s cute to see “Unausprechlichen Kulten” just lying on a desk haphazardly. It’s a nice aside. But then at the same time, it also destroys the mood of the game utterly. Why would this be just lying on someone’s desk? There are only six copies in existence! The casual Mythos fan that gets most of their stuff from RPG’s and movies will go “YAY! This game is SOOO true to Call of Cthulhu! Rock on!” The person who has actually read and enjoyed the works of all the authors who have laboured with the Mythos with love for a century now will basically shriek at how random and casual things are just thrown out at you. “Hey! Book of Eibon!” It’s like Head First decided to they needed to desperately prove they actual knew something about the Call of Cthulhu setting and threw in everything they could to legitimize themselves, and in fact, caused the exact opposite to happen. It blew my mind how awful this game was in adhering to the Mythos. This played like a Gary Gygax Monty Haul campaign for power gaming munchkins. “Sure! You can fight Dagon with a gun! That would make Lovecraft rise from the dead to bitchslap our entire development team!” Ugh ugh ugh.

And then there’s the writing. Holy hell is the writing awful. The dialogue is so poorly scripted, it makes people outright wince. First of all, the game is set in 1922. So why is everyone talking like its 2005? Look, I realize the idea is to make the game more appealing to Modern Gamers who seem to have stopped caring about plot and just want to shoot the heads off of things, but still. Go look at Eternal Darkness. They managed to balance time periods with modern speaking. Why couldn’t Head First? They only had SIX YEARS OF DELAYS! What were they working on?

And it’s not just the speech patterns. But it’s the actual lines delivered. “Holy Shit! That noosed broad hung herself?” That’s the closest this game comes to capturing the time period’s essence, and you know what? People didn’t even talk like that in Sam Spade novels! And the casual use of terminology “This painting seems to depict a cosmic horror.” Who would every actually verbalize that? Look, half of the appeal of the Cthulhu Mythos is in the alliteration, vocabulary, and the mood set by the underlying verbiage of the characters and narrator. This game has NONE of that in the game, save for the load screens.

So what we half is a very poorly, almost soulless story being told. Head First has tried to market their version of Shadow Over Innsmouth to the lowest common denominator. Characters are disjointed in speaking and phrasing, and the game comes off like a really play dramatization where the authors were like, “Holy crap! The majority of people won’t get 95% of what’s going on. So let’s appeal to them even though they probably won’t pick up the game as they can’t even pronounce Cthulhu, but let’s try and pull shenanigans on the 5% who will know what we’ve done by random name-dropping.” Ugh. This game holds about as “true” to the Cthulhu Mythos lineage as the following stream of babble: “Holy shit! Tarnation! Squamous cosmic beast! Book of Dyzan! Devermiis Mysteriis! It won’t budge! It won’t budge! Outsider, stop! Shub-Niggurath! Zoth-Ommog! Yog-Sototh!” And I have the deep seated need to punch myself in the dick after writing that, because half of that is actually FROM THE DAMN GAME!

And guess what folks, I’m not done yet. There are still two big issues that need to be covered. Let’s talk foreshadowing first.

See, in the actual The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Lovecraft was subtle and slowly drew out the obvious conclusion and horrific aspects of his tale? In DCotE, you are hit over the head with the plot that it is both insulting and aggravating. You want to see two examples before the game is even on? Watch the face of Jack Walters when lighting strikes on the menu screen? And three different people saw the same thing I did: a big cloud on the screen is the facial shape of The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I noticed this within 30 seconds of looking at the menu screen, as did three other friends of mine who all noticed it separately and brought it up to me. Jesus Christ, does Head First really think their audience has the intelligence and problem solving skills of a kitten? They must, because the game continues to slam you over the head for the first few hours. Hey look! Book of Dagon. Watch as the game actually spells out for you what you are facing and the entire history of the fish-race. You can’t see it, but I am gritting my teeth with rage while writing this. Again, part of the love for Lovecraft is how drawn out things are. How the reader has to put things together. How they must solve along with the main character the dark forbidding mystery that now taints their existence. The entire game’s secrets should NOT be summed up in a page of written text that you collect from a bloody safe!

Here’s a thought people. Besides SoI, go read Lovecraft’s The Outsider/ Perfect example of how DCotE is the EXACT OPPOSITE in stylization of what Lovecraft would do. This game am Bizzaro Lovecraft made.

Finally, let’s just talk sloppy. Hey, this game takes place in February 1922 in Massachusetts. That’s funny. No one is wearing coats. There’s no snow on the ground. Why it’s like a balmy spring day! In a region of New England that damn near killed the Pilgrims due to the crazy harsh winters they had to deal with. ARRRGH! Little things like that that could have been noted upon if the developers had just actually put some common sense and effort into the development of the game plot and story wise. Sadly no, this game is full of snafus like that that built up to the discerning critical eye.

Okay. Whew. I think all the needless elitist anger is out. Deep breaths there Lucard, deep breaths.

Bottom line, this game is below average story quality wise even for a normal video game, but it is bloody awful in regards to actually holding true to the dozens of authors who have taken the Mythos and made it so beloved. From classic writers like August Dereleth to Ramsey Campbell, or modern award winning authors who have used the Mythos and even managed to respect it under a comedy setting like Neil Gaiman and Christopher Moore, this is pretty much an insult to all of them. Just using terms and monsters and grimoires mentioned by other writers does not make something hold true to Lovecraft’s legacy. It just shows the shallowness and ignorance of those involved with this project.

Plotwise, this is quite easily the worst Lovecraftian adaptation I can think of. It’s on par with the film “Bleeders” which was an adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear. Andrew Migliore described this film as, “…another Lovecraft adaptation to bleed the horror out of the original story, reducing what HPL wrote to a terrible puddle seeping into a waster hour and a half of video.” Change it to 10-12 hours, and that quote is perfectly apt for the plot of Dark Corners of the Earth

Story Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. After the last three pages of me ripping this game’s plot several new assholes, you’re probably thinking I hate the thing more than a furrie convention. But you’d be wrong. Yes, the story is worse than having to compete in a shit-eating contest, but there are things about the game that manage to be…decent.

Take the graphics for example. If the game had come out when it was supposed to, DCotE would have been the measuring stick for all Xbox games visually. Back then everyone was open mouthed in amazement at the quality and brilliance of what was shown in demos or at large gatherings such as E3. But now, due to massive delays stemming from removing most of (but not all) the bugs in this game, politics, and other such jargon, we have a game that still looks good, but has decidedly not aged well from its inception half a decade ago. Many games have since passed DCotE by in terms of pushing what the Xbox can do graphically, but that’s not to say this game still isn’t good-looking.

DCotE uses shading and shadows better than a lot of games that attempt to be spooky or horrortastical. The backdrops such as buildings, the night sky, and the like are well rendered and fun to interact with. The ability to kneel down and peer through a basement level window and seem something inside is enjoyable, as are added little touches like looking through certain windows and seeing things you wouldn’t necessarily expect…

Where the game falls a bit short is in the character models. At least, the human character models that is. Most of them look very generic and are in between PSX and PS2 quality. In fact, a lot of the characters reminded me visually of the ones from Necronomicon, which was a very pretty game back in 2001, but is just kind of decent when compared to today’s games.

The same can be said for the residents of Innsmouth, even those with “The Innsmouth Look.” The residents of the town all look so much alike, it’s jarring. Yes, there should be some physical similarities between all considering things I can’t say because I don’t want to spoil the game even though DCotE spoils itself rather magnificently. They’re well done, but they’re missing that level of greatness due to the obvious aging of this game compounded with its release at the tail end of the Xbox’s lifespan.

However, that being said, the full-on Deep Ones are marvelous. They’re straight out of the artwork one would find in Chaosium’s RPG. And when you get to a certain scene on a boat, there’s a very large “Deep One” that is by far the best looking thing in the game, even if plotwise it’s total bollocks re: staying true to Lovecraftia, which was what this game preached it would do for years.

Good looking game, even in spite of it not being the brass ring of Xbox graphics anymore. If you’re looking for something to visually entice you with body parts strewn all over and some well made rural hamlet type buildings, this is for you.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

The sound of DCotE is an area than leaves me pretty apathetic. For every good voice actor, such as Hotel Clerk Charlie Gilman or a certain aristocratic looking lady, there’s some dreadful voice acting like Ruth Billingham or the lead character of Jack Walters. Jack sounds so monotone he might as well be a Vulcan in disguise. I realize he had a 6 year long psychotic episode (hey, like the length of delays that plagued this game. Hmm…), but the guy sounds like he’s recovering from mono not schizophrenic induced amnesia. Very mixed bag here.

Then there are the sound effects. These are actually well done. Such as the sound you make when plummeting from a great distance. Ouch. The gunshots, footsteps, and other assorted little bells and whistles that get lost into the background of your mind while engrossing yourself in a gaming experience are all well done here and very realistic.

Finally, we have the music playing throughout the game. The score/soundtrack is pretty decent. There’s nothing memorable that will stick out after you’re done playing or will get caught in your brain pan like the Legend of Zelda theme, but there’s nothing that will assault your ears like the shriek of a banshee or anything featuring Carrot Top.

Really, aurally, DCotE is slightly above average. It’s a decent package tempered only with some voice actors/actresses that could have used emotion and a sense of urgency in their delivery of their lines.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control and Gameplay

You can some up the controls of DCoTE with a single sentence: The game handles pretty darn well until you actual need some degree of precision and accuracy from your character, when it basically breaks down into gobblygook leaving you frustrated and uttering profanity.

What I mean by this is that the game requires your character to be in very specific spots or it will take the wrong action. And said wrong action will generally get your ass killed quickly. The fact that life and death can be a hair’s off is awful to do to a gamer.

Let’s give you an example with the chapter of the game I have the biggest love-hate relationship with. It’s called “Attack of the Fishmen.” This occurs about a fourth into the game and is the first chance your character will engage in combat. And by combat I mean, getting killed repeatedly without the opportunity to even punch something.

In this part of the game, Jack is awakened in his hotel room by an angry mob of residents who wish to kill him. His goal is to flee through the hotel, jump across to another building and repeat for what feels like an eternity until you’re finally safe. It’s thrilling and frustrating all at once, and typifies what is great and awful about DCotE all at once.

The problems are that you can’t even PUNCH your enemies. Now, you’re a private dick. The fact you can’t hit an inbred freak of nature and that you went into a strange freaky town without even a GUN tells you something about the sloppy planning that went into this game. But besides that, your character must basically do everything perfectly straight through or you will die. Again and again, and have to sit through a 2 minute+ cut scene every time you die. This just adds to the annoyance.

In order to survive this section, your character must run through rooms, bolt doors behind him, shove heavy pieces of furniture VERY SLOWLY why guys with axes and shotguns are after you, and then eventually leap through the sky to where if you do not time your jump exactly right, or are in the one specific spot your character needs to stand, you will plummet to your death, even after you have become so adept at dodging the pre-Deep Ones that you take no damage at all in the first building. It’s simply awful. I can’t tell you how many times my character would be staring at the bolt to the door and then just OPEN THE DOOR instead, allowing an angry mob to gun him down instead of being bought precious seconds of fleeing time. Or when I am standing where I swear I did last time to push a heavy wardrobe, but it won’t move! And wondering why I couldn’t move said bookcase before this scene even though the game hits you over the head with the fact you’ll need to move this eventually. Sigh.

It’s amazing how well the game for the first few hours and then it plays like it was designed by someone with a massive case of OCD. Again, Head First had 6 years to work crap like this out, and they failed miserably. Was the game actually playtested? Because things like this, along with a few bugs you’ll encounter just don’t add up to quality assurance issues being addressed.

That being said, there ARE times when the game is supposed to go wonky on you in several ways. DCotE mimics the far superior Eternal Darkness by having sanity effects in this game, including to where your character will commit suicide if his sanity reaches zero. However, you never come close to that danger zone or to any real sanity losses through most of the game, which not only flies in the face of the CoC RPG license Bethesda got for some reason and then never actually used, but also prevents you from seeing some of the best stuff in the game. Your controller with vibrate in time with Jack’s elevated heartbeat, your character will react with jerky twitchy movements, you’ll develop vertigo when looking down from high up places, and your vision may blur. These effects, albeit rare, are well done, and can be countered by Jack’s unlimited supply of morphine. Yes, the game has a private detective who somehow has a suitcase full of morphine, but who forgot to pack a gun or at least a sock with rocks in it. Yeesh.

What is worth talking about is the fact the first 1/4th of the game involves no killing and only sleuthing. It’s very Lovecraftian in this respect. But by this point, they’ve probably pissed off the core FPS audience because hey, nothing has its brains splattered against the wall. So even in spite of a poorly done story, the game was progressing as one would expect from an interactive version of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Then it all goes to hell and you’ve got a crazy ass New England Murder Machine game claiming to be “HARDCORE MYTHOS.” Again I must sigh and shake my head.

Bottom line: The game plays like ass when you need the controls to be responsive the most. But thankfully half the time it does this on purpose due to the sanity effects. Still, the other half of the time, you can scream and throw your joystick and have your 9 year old-esque temper tantrum all you want. Just you know, not in front of the ladies.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 5/10

Replayability

DCotE offers four difficulty options, as well as 5 grades ranging from A-E for each level. So if you’re a massive masochist, then I heartily suggest playing until you achieve all possible 20 combinations. But in truth, there’s no point playing through the game more than one. Everything is amazingly linear and you’re forced in some situations to do a single action and only that action. I didn’t WANT to open the attic containing a Deep One, but guess what; I didn’t have a bloody choice. And the game is loaded with this constant shoving forward like you’re working in a chain gang.

You can only access two difficulty settings right away: Boy Scout and Private Dick. Boy Scout mode is for those who, and I quote this from the manual, “are more interested in the story.” Ho ho ho ho ho. My sides, they are splitting. But in all grounding of reality, go with Boy Scout as you can finish the ten hour ordeal and then return the game to your local Blockbuster or trade it in for something of quality. You can unlock the other difficulty settings on further playthroughs.

And trust me, the one ending you get is as anticlimactic as the Dreamcatcher Necronomicon game. Short, insipid, and if you were playing through simply to say you beat the game, welcome to disappointment alley!

You get no noticeable bonuses for playing through DCotE, and really, only the most delusional gamer will want to play again or make claims that this is anything close to an actual Mythos story is setting or theme save from the outright “Let’s gut everything that makes The Shadow Over Innsmouth a great story and replace it with guns and the ability to kill Dagon with four shots from a gun!” attitude.

But hey, twenty possible ways to replay the game and get the same ending. That counts for something, right? RIGHT?

Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

Balance is probably the trickiest part of DCotE to review. Unlike most games, there is no real bar or numerical data indicating your health and/or sanity level. Instead you have to use visual clues such as the sanity effects or your screen getting splattered with blood/losing colour. The other option is to go into the menu screen and see how badly damaged Jack appears to you on that. If he’s got a bloody stump for a right arm, it’s a good indication that you should heal that bit of him. There are also various forms of healing in the game, each with their own special effect. The problem is healing takes time, and under certain situations, it may be better to stay injured than take that vital time to risk healing yourself.

The other aspect of balance is of course regarding combat. And sadly, here things get wonky. Battles are either crazy hard or so easy you have to wonder what the developers were thinking making it so say, JACK WALTERS CAN DEFEAT FLIPPIN’ DAGON WITH FOUR SHOTS OF A WEAPON! Of course, when compared to things like the chase scene I mentioned earlier, it almost seems like Head First had a form of schizophrenia itself, half the team made the game a cakewalk, the other made it frustrating and annoying.

Aside from that, there are several excellent puzzles. The safe puzzles are a nice idea, and something I haven’t seen since Still Life by The Adventure Company. There’s also a good deal of sleuth work to engage in and a nice “how to sneak” intro towards the first 30 minutes of the game. With things like this, DCOtE has provided some excellent tutorials and hints which you can turn on or off in the game menu. Good for them!

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality

Well, let’s see. Original story? Nope. Adaptation of a HPL story instead of doing a new one. Sanity Effects? Nope. Been done in other games. First Person Horror title? Nope. It’s been done with games like HellNight. First Person Shooter with monsters? Umm…Doom anyone?

Really there’s very little in this game that when separated into the component pieces has any originality whatsoever. But with all the pieces tied together? It’s the only Mythos inspired First Person Survival Horror Shooter where you can die from going mad as well as being eaten by Fish People that I can think of.

I will say I enjoy the difference you will encounter between aimed and standard attacks. I’m not the biggest fan of FPS games, but I will say I like the reality of recoil and a nervous/going mad Jack has shaky aim.

In the end, there’s nothing highly original nor anything truly cliche and overdone in the game. It fills a niche, and a very small one at that, but at least it gets filled.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

Well, one thing I will say for DCotE, is that it was hard for me to put the bloody thing down. Of course most of that was wanting to beat the game from spite and checking the “% completed” screen so I knew how much longer I’d have to deal with this game. But things like the chase scenes and a few other places in the game where you’ll die a few dozen times before finally thankfully getting through the scene are where you’ll be so tempted to stop playing for a while and let your ire die down, but as the game only quick saves at the start of new scenes instead of fully saving the game, you’ve got two choices: massive backtrack or forge ahead. So you keep playing, although it’s kind of a negative form of addiction rather than a “Holy hell, I love playing this wonderful game. In no way does it make me want to drink lye!”

As well, when you’re dealing with the more Lovecraftian aspects of the game, such as sneaking around to get some forgotten tome of unspeakable lore, or putting the six year gap of Jack’s life together, it’s quite fun. Heck, even the FPS aspects taken without being scrutinized through a Mythos microscope are enjoyable, and I generally do not enjoy FPS games unless they’re Eye of the Beholder or the like.

The game does go by quite quickly as well, not counting the time you spend repeatedly dying of course. And as it is so short, you do get draw into it very quickly. It may sound funny to say that the first 2-2.5 hours have no violence whatsoever, but that’s 20-25% of the game!

So I’ll have to say DCotE has a decent amount of addiction to the game, but in a negative way, and most people will get frustrated with the game/simply put it down. Remember, the FPS aspects will put off the core CoC audience, and the lack of heavy violence for a lot of the game will put off the FPS audience.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

9. Appeal Factor

Well, that was a nice segueway, no?

As mentioned throughout this entire review, Head First has managed to make a game guaranteed to alienate any real audience. I’ve asked three gaming stores so far, and heard the same thing from all the clerks: People are curious but not willing to buy. Why? Lovecraft does not mix with an FPS. Cut and dry. Not an intelligent decision. Of course, neither was taking a pen and paper RPG license and then NOT USING IT AT ALL. That’s like taking Shadowrun’s license and making a platformer out of it. Or why not Vampire: The Masquerade and turning it into a cell shaded 2D shooter! It makes about as much sense!

The Cthulhu Mythos is all about brains over brawn and Bethesda has published a game where you blow the heads off of Deep Ones. Hello? You’ve basically alienated your average Cthulhu freak. And First Person Shooter fans? They’re going to go nuts with rage over the lack of violence for the first fourth of the game and that some times they can’t fight back, and half to run like this was some fish filled version of Clock Tower/ And trust me, Scissorsman is an enemy I’d rather go into combat against over amphibious scale encrusted spellcasting greater servitors of Cthulhu himself who are naturally smarter, faster, stronger, and tougher than any hairless ape!

Much like Shining Force Neo was a game created without the glory of common sense (Let’s take a strategy RPG and turn it into a Diablo Clone!), a game that should have been an action adventure or RPG game is instead in a genre that typifies everything that would make Lovecraft sick to his stomach.

The overall reaction I’ve seen is “CoC should not be an FS game” save from a few people who utterly ignore this is the antithesis of almost everything written as part of the Mythos collective.

Plus, the total lack of marketing for this game coupled with the six year delay doesn’t help getting those copies off the shelf either. Unless you are a diehard person who will buy anything Lovecraft, CoC, or Mythos related or someone who can try and rationalize a Cthulhu game chock full of gunshots, this game isn’t for you. It’s destined for a small cult appeal where the general public thinks the game sucks and it sells poorly, while a small fanatical audience that utterly loves this game for some odd reason will exist. I call it Beyond Good & Evil syndrome.

Appeal Factor Rating: 4/10

10. Miscellaneous

I’ve really ragged on this game for 12 (soon to be 13) pages now. And trust me, every last bit of it is deserved. However, the game isn’t awful. On it’s own, it’s a decent FPS that tries to do something different from “Run around with guns and kill things.” Sure that’s there in spades, but they have branched out a bit. If you’re looking for a quick weekend rental and you’ve run out of First Person Shooters to play, than give this a shot. It may click for you where it utterly failed with me.

But as a Lovecraft homage game, it’s pretty poor. It gets little right which is utterly baffling considering the amount of delays put on this game was enough time to make an entirely new game in its stead.

If you can ignore all the anger and anal retentive nit picking I mentioned in the Story section of this game, you might be able to enjoy this game a bit. But Cthulhu ANYTHING should be about story first and foremost, so I have to give this game a thumbs down. It’s like setting the foundation of a house and using cake batter instead of mortar or cement. No matter how good you try to make the finish product, it’s still going to crumble easily and the fault will show to any sort of knowledgeable person inspecting the end result.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story 3
Graphics 7
Sound: 6
Control/Gameplay: 6
Replayability: 4
Balance: 5
Originality: 5
Addictiveness: 6
Appeal Factor: 4
Miscellaneous: 5
Total Score: 51
Overall Score: 5.0 (AVERAGE)

Short Attention Span Summary
Mediocrity, thy name is Dark Corners of the Earth. The only Call Cthulhu is hearing from this game is, “Stay in bed dark lord. The Stars sure as shit aren’t right yet if this game is any indication. Keep slumbering there in R’lyeh until something deserving of your name is finally released.” Awful Cthulhu game. Decent FPS with monsters. It all averages out to well…average. Pick it up if you’re curious, but for almost everyone this is a one shot rental you’ll be thankful afterwards that you didn’t add to your permanent collection. I swear to god, Head First and Bethesda better have learned from all six years of madness that went into this game, but knowing the VG industry, I strongly doubt it.