Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth E3 2005 Impressions

This first-person-perspective action adventure still looks promising after all these years. We just want it to come out already.

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We've seen Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth at more than one E3 besides E3 2005, since this ambitious first-person horror adventure has been in the works for such a long time. Fortunately, it looks like the game's long road to completion finally has a light at the end of the tunnel--the game is reportedly on track to release this fall for the Xbox and PC. Today at the first day of E3, we had an opportunity to check out the latest demo of the Xbox version, which showcased both the action and the puzzle-solving elements of the game. Highly atmospheric visuals, complete with absolutely no onscreen interface elements to take you out of the experience, make Call of Cthulhu live up to its creepy namesake. So we're hopeful it'll all finally come together well.

The game puts you in the role of Jack Walters, a private investigator from Boston who's released from an asylum in the early '20s, after having experienced unspeakable horrors during what should have been a routine investigation. As Walters, players will need to cope with the onset of madness as they work their way to uncover a conspiracy and struggle to come out of it alive. The game will feature a sanity system that's based on the Call of Cthulhu pen-and-paper role-playing game, but it's probably more akin to the system found in Eternal Darkness for the GameCube. Basically, as you encounter different horrors and things, you'll begin to slowly lose your mind, as you start suffering from panic attacks, hallucinations, and more. Good times! But we still don't really have a good feel for how well this system will work in practice.

We got to see a couple of levels we hadn't seen before this time, including one in which Walters needed to escape from some ruthless pursuers after having barred the door. The sequence showed off how puzzle-solving and adventure elements will be integrated into the gameplay, since this really seems like more of an adventure title than a shooter. Still, Bethesda reps were quick to point out that there will be plenty of action here, too, involving weapons appropriate to the time period--old pistols and rifles and such. At any rate, the cerebral portions of the game honestly look better at this time. Scrawling through cryptic notes, finding hidden clues into sinister secrets...this sort of thing seems like what Call of Cthulhu is all about.

The game will include about 15 different levels, each with four or five different stages, though it's all one cohesive story. The Xbox version we saw actually looked really sharp, featuring a fine level of detail in the environments and an immersive feel due partly to the lack of any interface. We also got a chance to see a new sneaking mode in action this time, whereby Walters will be able to creep up on unsuspecting foes to dispatch them. This involved a Chronicles of Riddick-style fish-eye effect, which not only allowed us to see a little farther along the periphery, but also gave us a visual cue that the sneak mode was active. It's just one of many different elements that could theoretically combine to make a one-of-a-kind game. Given Call of Cthulhu's fall release date, it seems we'll find out what happens soon enough.

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