As of this writing, there are no fewer than four different games currently in development bearing the name of Call of Cthulhu. One of them is Call of Cthulhu: Destiny's End for the Xbox and PC. The game is a third-person survival horror game set in modern times. While that setting may seem blasphemous to any fan of the H.P. Lovecraft stories, on which the games are based, fans should be relieved to know that the game still takes place along the coast of New England, the setting favored by Lovecraft. The game revolves around two teenage characters, Jake and Emily. Jake is drawn to the mysterious town by horrific nightmares that plague him every night, and Emily has joined him on his quest to unravel the mystery behind his dreams. What they find is an unsettling town full of horrific creatures.
The two characters featured in the game are actually played simultaneously. However, your partner will not actually be controlled via artificial intelligence. Essentially, to move your partner from place to place, you'll simply hold down the L1 button to get him or her to follow you. Confused? It may sound strange, but it didn't seem all that complex. Along the same lines, you can switch to either Jake or Emily on the fly. The game will feature a number of puzzles that will require switching between characters. As each character is designed somewhat differently--Jake being more aggressive and handy with weapons and Emily being meeker and capable of projecting psychic powers--each character will be handier at tackling different tasks. You'll also occasionally need to work in tandem to complete objectives. In one example, we saw Emily crawl through a tunnel that only she could fit through to run around a corner and unlock a gate. Obviously, there will be more-complex puzzles than this, but this is a simple example of the kinds of things you might see.
Incidentally, the game is for two-players, so if you have a friend, he or she can join in on the cooperative play, seamlessly, at any point during the game. Just hit the start button on the second controller and you'll go into a split-screen view with a third-person perspective for each character. Once you unplug the controller, it just goes right back to the single-player view.
One of the key gameplay elements in Destiny's End is a sanity component for each character. Basically, when Jake and Emily separate too far from one another, each character's respective sanity meters begin to deplete. If it depletes too far, the mental degradation will result in some bad business for each character. None of the specific sanity effects were shown to us during our demo session, but the developers stated that Emily, for example, will begin to experience some exceptionally disorienting vertigo effects. She may even hallucinate badly, seeing enemies that aren't even there or believing that Jake has turned on her.
But what kind of Call of Cthulhu game would this be without some horrific monsters to fight? While we didn't get to see a ton of the combat, we got enough of a sense of it to know that it looks pretty good. When using guns, the game takes the sort of Resident Evil 4 over-the-shoulder camera approach. We saw Jake using a couple of different guns, like shotguns and pistols, against some of the terrifying creatures that roam the area. We also got a look at some melee combat, which didn't really consist of more than just swinging a big pipe at the monsters as they advanced. This isn't complex by any means, but it's satisfying.
The thing Destiny's End seems to do best is really capture that sort of creepy, unsettling vibe the Cthulhu universe is known for. The demo level we saw was very dark (but not in a visually obstructive way), with plenty of wooded environments surrounding the main town. The game's use of lighting and shadow is especially well done, causing everything around you to just emit an excellent sense of dread. The few monsters we saw were appropriately grotesque and seemed to be the right brand of scary for something from the H.P. Lovecraft universe.
Call of Cthulhu: Destiny's End is looking like it could be a solid addition to the survival horror genre. Currently, the game is set for release on the PC and Xbox, and it will hit stores late next year. We'll bring you more on the game as it becomes available.