Call of Cthulhu is a game that I can only describe as disappointing. The promise of a investigative survival horror where your choices matter and things slowly make less sense as the murder you are investigating gradually becomes a Lovecraftian nightmare was exciting. Instead, Call of Cthulhu devolves into typical horror game tropes done poorly and a mediocre linear story that does little to make up for the underdevelopment. To top it all off, this game is incredibly short with play-throughs on average seeming to be about 10 hours and mine being 9. For a $45 dollar price tag, this is way too short considering the lack of quality and polish that this game possesses. I do not recommend this game.
Beware spoilers below
Call of Cthulhu starts with its strongest parts, which interestingly enough were the bits released to the press for pre-review. You take the role of private investigator Edward Pierce as you head to the island town of Darkwater to investigate the death of Sarah Hawkins, a famous painter, at the request of her father. The game starts off strong with a great setting, compelling characters, and a first taste of the investigation and RPG elements. It was genuinely fun and engaging to work my way through the town, meeting various individuals, finding clues, discussing those clues with towns members, and explore the game world.
During the trek into the Hawkins Manor the game manages to stay intriguing and engaging as you try and find clues about the deaths of the Hawkins family. It gave great hope for the game.
Unfortunately, it is at this point that Call of Cthulhu falls off the rail. You are taken to an asylum which you, of course, have to escape. No problem, right? Except it’s an annoying segment featuring hyper-aware guards with poor AI. This, combined with the open ended nature of your escape, leads to a mediocre and frustrating experience. Guards have two states: suspicion, when they “think” someone’s there, and aggression, when they “know” you are there. However, it is unpolished and the guards are stilted and robotic: they will follow their very strict paths back and forth until they notice you, at which point they will pursue you until you are out of sight, and far enough away for long enough. It all feels very algorithmic, and not at all like actual guards chasing you through an asylum.
The guards will track your movements even if they don’t “see you”, lending to the feeling of it being very robotic. For example, I was slowly chased around a table by a guard yelling about someone being there. Not fully activated, still in suspicion mode, but still perfectly tracking my movements around the table, and even switching which side he was heading around based on my movements. If you want to play an asylum horror game play Outlast, not Call of Cthulhu.
This mediocre adaptation of similar horror game tropes is a continuing trend throughout this game, and is one of the biggest issues with it.
But this is not the worst case of enemy design and AI, oh no. That award is reserved for The Shambler. This is the second enemy type you encounter in your second trip to the Hawkins manor. (Yes, you travel back here several times, as it acts almost like hub between major story missions.) You investigate the painting by Sarah Hawkins named “The Shambler” and out of this painting emerges the horrifying monstrosity.