Horror games this year seemed to be few and far between when it came to Halloween this year, but thankfully we have Call Of Cthulhu to look for and possibly bring all of those thrills and chills for the holiday. Not only that, but also show off how much work Cyanide Studios put into bringing this tabletop game to life in a digital world. Something we have seen a few times in the past even if they did not pan out as well as we would all hope. That is why we are here with Call Of Cthulhu, though, as we had a chance to sit down and give the game a good playthrough and fought off some insanity. Here is our review on how the game held up as it moved to a whole new medium some are just not used to.
Things have not been perfect for Edward Pierce but at least he is getting by after his war experiences as a private detective in Boston. Getting by may be the wrong phrase to use there as he has been waiting for cases to come and nothing has. That is until he is asked to solve the suspicious deaths of the Hawkins family on a nice little whaling island just off the coast there. He accepts but soon finds out that it is not going to be the most open and closed case he has had. It will push him to the brink of sanity and wait to see if he ever comes back from it all…
To kick things off here I have to dig in on some of the visuals aspects of Call Of Cthulhu. It is not something that I normally do as visuals do not make a great game. They can detract from one and here we have one of those instances. At least as it comes to the NPCs in the game world. Ignoring some of the odd animations that would play for some of them, one of the biggest issues I found was when it came to textures and hair. All of which seemed to never load completely right or stay loaded correctly. Vastly different than I ever saw in any of the videos and trailers leading up to Call Of Cthulhu's release. It is also something I could look past if it was not so jarring that it pulled me out of the immersion of the game and made me look away from some of the characters. Something that would have worked as the sanity dropped for the character, but it plagued me from the start before we could even see that his sanity was pretty much still intact.
I knew this from looking at the character progression screens we have here for Call Of Cthulhu, but this leads me into the next issue I ran into with the game. None of the skill leveling ever seemed to truly matter as there was a hidden randomizer that still allowed for failure. Even when I maxed out one of the skills for the character, I still seemed to fail way more than I should. You would think with a 100% ranking that you would still be mostly able to achieve success, but I failed way more skill checks than I should have while at the peak of character performance. I know in Call Of Cthulhu we were never supposed to be designed to always be a lock pick or strong man, but when I max out a skill I would expect to be able to achieve success more than not. At the very least some kind of explanation on why I failed so I did not think that there were issues with the game in general.
One of the final things I did not enjoy here in Call Of Cthulhu, even though I thought I might, was the scene reenactment mechanic. More or less, this is how Pierce was able to see things that happened while being a great detective and giving us a bit of gameplay. When you activate it, it locks down an area and we are supposed to walk through and find clues to understand what caused the scene we were in. The big issue I found is that the game seemed to guide me to each clue and I had to do little more than slightly look in a direction. Maybe this was tied to the observation type skill that I had high in rank, but there was no true indication that was the reason why. It just always felt like I had to choose to ignore clues if I wanted to miss them. Not something I would say felt like the core of Call Of Cthulhu in general.
When we look past the issue I had with the NPCs in Call Of Cthulhu, the environments and damned near everything else oozed of theme fitting visuals. Cyanide Studios was not going for a realistic effect, at least that is not how I felt with the art style, but everything was truly fitting for the game and world. It felt like there was something lurking around every corner or that something was freshly dampened due to the game's world. It amped up the horror level quite a bit as even though things were physically stagnant and unmoving, everything felt like there was some kind of life to it. Something that can make any player of Call Of Cthulhu a bit jumpy and using their own senses against themselves. It all looked and passed on that feeling to me that placed me right back into the same feeling while sitting around the table with friends.
This also extends out the basic story of Call Of Cthulhu here. While it is set in the world of the source material and uses all of the elements from the tabletop game and original writing, it was its own beast and you could feel it. You could get the same feeling of things by watching other play the pen and paper version of it all, but you were in the thick of things and participating. I do not want to go into true specifics as it is a tale completely worth going in blind to, especially when you see how destinies can change, but the story captures the horror, sanity, and all of the other themes Call Of Cthulhu is known for in a perfect way. Some things are going to seem obvious while others will seem out of the blue, but all come back to making sense to the player in the end. All of which is something I find rare in the medium in today's market.
The final item I want to bring up here for Call Of Cthulhu is that the puzzles and challenges in the game all felt truly planned out and offered up multiple ways to actually solve them. All while not being detailed out in the HUD as well. That was a great choice on the side of Cyanide Studios here as it built into that level of accomplishment when you actually figure it out instead of following prompts. It also made me think of how to approach different things along the way and made it feel like Pierce was a real character who would get as frustrated as I would when trying to solve a logic puzzle and then resort to brute strength to press on. You will know the puzzle when you get to it most likely. I am just glad that this was the case here as it too made Call Of Cthulhu feel like the tabletop game I knew already.
I will say that Call Of Cthulhu could have truly shined for me if there was a bit more time placed on polishing up a few aspects of the game. They never seemed to actually break the game, but they did not sit well with me when I played through. The story and world looked and felt amazing all while still offering up some great gameplay challenges along the way. Even the extra bit of horror mixed in for the season made Call Of Cthulhu pop a bit more for me. I think fans of the genre and source will have a blast with the game and see all the fun nods it offers up. I think those looking for a completely polished horror title will have to put in a bit more effort than they normally would to get the full enjoyment here. I thought it was an amazing game, but go in with those warnings anyway and you will most likely think the same.
I give Call Of Cthulhu 13 Bits Of Madness on the Bits Of Madness scale.
Call Of Cthulhu — Launch Trailer
Call Of Cthulhu was developed by Cyanide Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 30th, 2018. A PS4 copy of the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes.