Call of Cthulhu (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 01.12.2018

Review for Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4

H.P. Lovecraft was a pioneer of cosmic-horror literature, and has since inspired countless films, comic books, table-top RPGs and even videogames. His influence can be felt throughout all fiction media nowadays. Pretty much anytime a story features an all powerful evil entity that defies human comprehension, cults that worship sea monsters, or men transforming into creatures as a form of "enlightenment," then it's likely that it has been sparked by Lovecraft's ideas. Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4 aims to be a definitive Lovecraftian experience by utilizing the framework of a detective style adventure game with some shades of some minor RPG elements that have been lifted from the 1980s table-top board game of the same name. This seemed like a natural fit that was ripe with possibility, but somewhere along the way a wrench got caught in the spanner...

Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4 chooses to be named after the short story of the same name, but the reality is that it barely resembles the plot at all and is closer to the stories Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This was probably named after the table-top game which was a variation of Dungeons and Dragons, but with an insanity twist to it. Edward Pierce, a World War I veteran-turned-detective, has to take a job, or else he's out of the job. The adventure begins proper when he gets an assignment for the investigation of the disappearance of Sarah Hawkins, Darkwater's resident artist, which gets him entangled in a plot involving a weird cult, a mad doctor and the impending arrival of a cosmic deity - and when Cthulhu comes a callin' pretty much everyone is going to have a bad time.

Screenshot for Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4

After Call of Cthulhu makes its initial impressions, it will be easy to assume that this is going to be some kind of survival-horror or a stealth-RPG like Dishonored. Things like lanterns that emit light that can repel darkness, Pierce's ability to crouch/lean, and the way how goals can have multiple ways to be assessed would have any sane mind assuming that this is going to be a tense horror-stealth RPG. It isn't. Call of Cthulhu is a very linear string of levels that just have their own gimmicks to them.

The handful of levels that do have stealth are handled in a very basic and simplistic way that is no more advanced than Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation. Enemies cannot see too far and they give up really easily. Pierce does not even have to be all that quiet, either, since the scant moments when here are patrolling sentries around, they're nigh deaf. Much later there is even a segment that goes all Resident Evil 4, where you will find yourself shooting up a village of lurching crazies who die with one hit... only for this mechanic to disappear forever.

Screenshot for Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4

The bulk of the experience revolves around exploring areas, and finding clues or objects that inform detective Pierce during his conversations. Sometimes there is a puzzle to solve, which can have more than one approach to solve, the reason being that his stats can affect how players can negotiate each given situation. Having a high 'Strength' will make him so intimidating NPCs will yield results, while a high 'Hidden Object' will make it easier to find... well, hidden objects.

All of this is great and would make for a compelling game with high replay value, but the issue is that all of it takes a back seat and becomes pointless around the half-way mark of the journey. Call of Cthulhu feels incomplete or rushed. It is almost as if the developers had a much grander and more ambitious concept initially where players might have had a larger and nonlinear world to explore. Later chapters will have fewer options or paths to take till there are none and the game starts to feel more like an interactive movie or walking-sim.

Screenshot for Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4

Visually, Call of Cthulhu looks quite good for the most part, only faltering when it comes to human characters. A lot of the males end up looking like ventriloquist dummies of Abraham Lincoln, and for some reason so many of the pre-rendered cut-scenes have very poor lip-synching. Another odd choice is the complete lack of rigging to long articles of clothing like coats, making it look like every coat or dress is attached to the back of every character's knees, something that looks terribly awkward. Things get really bad when they crouch and coats end up clipping through anatomy in ways that make this look unfinished. Everything else is beautiful and dense with atmosphere - expect lots of greasy fog and sickly green lighting that makes skin feel itchy and oily. The best aspects are easily the way reality gets twisted and how space gets warped.

Yes, this features multiple endings, however, this is where this adventure utterly crumbles and sours the experience. This is a big spoiler, but it is necessary to mention because it is creatively bankrupt and undermines the potential of the other endings in the game. For those who wish to not know, it would be best to skip the rest of this paragraph - Reader Beware. One of the endings is a very clichéd, "Pierce was crazy and in a mental asylum all along" kind of ending. The reason why this is a horrible creative choice is because it entertains the possibility that all the other achievable endings are false since everything is just in Edward Pierce's head. If none of it is real, then none of it matters. It is an insult, it is unsatisfying, and it is a waste of time.

Screenshot for Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Call of Cthulhu could have been a real winner if it stayed consistent with its earlier hours. This is also a very short experience that can be cleared in about six hours, even by obsessive compulsive clue-hunters. At best, this is just a very gimmicky adventure game. Each level having its own thing is a bit refreshing from always having to pixel-hunt for objects, tying simplistic stats into the mix adds some planning, and the way this title forces players to commit to their actions is nice. Sadly, as the journey reaches its half-way point, the story unravels in a very unsatisfying manner. Characters are built up and don't get the proper pay-off, while some disappear entirely. Given the hallucinatory nature of the story, it can be difficult to discern what is real and unreal. This was by design since you can't have a Lovecraft story without people losing their minds, but Call of Cthulhu needed to "wow" people in the endings, not betray them.

Developer

Cyanide

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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