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Call of Cthulhu Review – A Glorious Descent Into Madness

Psychological Survival Horror titles are not only my favorite type of video games to play but they have also been a huge part of our industry for the last several decades. From iconic franchises like Silent Hill and Resident Evil to noteworthy releases like last year’s The Evil Within 2, it’s evident that developers and storytellers the world over get a kick out of exploring the inner recesses of the mind in twisted and brilliantly horrifying ways.

In the case of Call of Cthulhu, French-based development studio Cyanide has teamed up with Focus Home Interactive to create a bone-chilling psychological survival horror video game with clever RPG mechanics and stealth. Here are more in-depth reasons why this H.P. Lovecraft inspired title might be worth checking out.

Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu is an adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name.

Call of Cthulhu takes place in Boston, Massachusetts during the year 1924 and follows the dangerous escapades of private detective and world war veteran Edward Pierce. Weighed down by an addiction to alcohol and sleeping pills along with trauma from jarring dreams and PTSD, Pierce struggles to find his footing as an investigator and is in need of a meaningful case to turn things around.

After agreeing to solve the murder of The Hawkins family, Edward travels to Darkwater Island where he comes face-to-face with horrors, unlike anything he has seen before. Dealing with his own inner demons, Pierce is tasked with both solving the mystery and navigating through a hostile environment created by those awaiting the return of The Great Old One Cthulhu.

Strictly from a storyline standpoint, Call of Cthulhu is a great effort and has more than enough twists and turns to keep you fully invested from beginning to end. Many of the decisions that Pierce makes determine not only his fate but the fate of others that he comes across throughout the 12-15 hour campaign. Furthermore, there are multiple endings that you’ll unlock based on how you play and additional scenes after the end credits. Needless to say, if you enjoyed the story on your first playthrough, then you’ll definitely want to revisit the game at a later time to see how different outcomes change.

Call of Cthulhu
Edward Pierce’s desire to know the truth could have grave consequences on his destiny and others.

If there’s one aspect that surprised me most about this game then it would be just how visually captivating it is. Character models and cinematic sequences in between gameplay are beautiful and perfectly suit the mysterious nature of the tale. The color palette expands as Edward explores new areas and gets closer to the truth which achieves the goal of making encounters more immersive for the player.

Call of Cthulhu is largely a game in which you have to rely on exploration, conversational choices and stealth to maneuver through the campaign. Since this is a survival horror game, many times you won’t have a weapon and will have to hide in certain areas to avoid detection. If you’re killed or caught, the game ends abruptly and gives you an option to return to your last saved checkpoint. When you do gain access to certain tools or weapons, they are primarily used to solve puzzles to progress within the storyline.

The best highlight about the gameplay lies within the RPG skills system that you can build throughout the campaign. The following is a quick overview of all seven skills and how they are used to further personalize your own experience.

  • Spot Hidden – Your ability to find hidden objects.
  • Strength – Your physical power and ability to use force against obstacles and others.
  • Eloquence – Your ability to influence people around you.
  • Psychology – Your knowledge of human behavior.
  • Investigation – Your overall level of investigating talents.
  • Medicine – Your medical knowledge only gained by discovering relevant objects.
  • Occultism – Your knowledge of occult sciences only gained by discovering relevant objects.

While playing through the game, you’ll earn points that can be allocated to the above skills. A player with a high level of investigative skills can silently pick locks on doors while a player with a lot of strength can noisily break down those same doors. This clever and intuitive system does make the game more fun to play if only to see how certain actions dictate how the narrative comes together in real-time.

Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu has a beautiful art style that matches perfectly with both the hostile atmosphere and thematic tones.

Much like the graphics, the overall sound work in Call of Cthulhu is top notch and really hammers home how frightening the atmosphere truly is. Everything from the voice of an evil entity questioning Edward’s choices to our protagonist screaming out in pain from being in a claustrophobic setting for too long pulls you into the crisis at large. The dialogue options shared between characters are also intriguing and the more range of questions asked helps you uncover their connections with the family.

Call of Cthulhu as a complete package offers a great value for its intended audience. As I stated above, the 14 chapter campaign will take you around 12-15 hours to complete the first time and less the second time around. The length is solely based on how fast it takes you to solve certain puzzles and whether or not you choose to replay the final chapter to see different endings.

Call of Cthulhu
The lack of a chapter select feature feels like a missed opportunity that completionists would have appreciated.

With so many positives mentioned above, there are at least two criticisms that I do have about Call of Cthulhu. The first stems from the fact that there’s no chapter select and/or game plus option. Once you’ve completed the game for the first time, you might not have all of your RPG skills fully leveled up and there’s currently no way for you to replay the game with your existing maxed out skills intact. The omission of a chapter select option also means that you’ll have to rely on using a few different save slots instead of saving over your existing games. This is an issue that some might not mind but if you’re a completionist who likes to get all the trophies or achievements in your games then you definitely should be prepared to play certain chapters of this title more than once.

The other problem that I experienced while reviewing this game on a standard PS4 was centered around a few performance hiccups from time to time. As I ran through different environments, it felt as though a few frame rates were dropping as there were slight delays with the character movements. This wasn’t an ongoing issue as it only happened a few times for me and might not necessarily apply to those playing on the PS4 Pro, Xbox One, Xbox One X or PC.

Gripes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed what Call of Cthulhu had to offer. If you like mystery stories that combine horror, stealth and RPG mechanics then this is one title that was made specifically with you in mind. Do yourself a favor and add this game to your library as soon as possible. In the meantime, feel free to check out several screenshots below.

This review was written based on a digital review copy of Call of Cthulhu for the PlayStation 4 provided by Focus Home Interactive.

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