Must Play Horror – Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
When people think of horror and video games, titles such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill are often the names that spring to mind. While neither were the first of their kind, they’re both celebrated for refining elements of the genre into a much more expansive experience, especially Silent Hill.
Much like modern horror cinema, modern video games have seemingly forget what true horror is. Slow build up, uneasy feelings, subtlety and craft have all been thrown out in favour jump scares, gore and spectacle. With Halloween fast approaching, the month known for scares and shite Cat costumes, it’s time to reflect on the best horror experiences in video games.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a curios game that went through a troubled development cycle. Originally made as the first part of an intended franchise, developer Headfirst Productions redesigned and tweaked the game numerous times. After 7 years in development, which saw the game go from a free-from RPG to a linear first person shooter, Dark Corners of the Earth is a flawed, but wonderful piece of work.
From the very first second of the game, there’s a distinct sense of character that oozes across every aspect of the game. From the sound to the art design, everything reeks of an uneasy presence. The general tone of the game is akin to that of classic Hammer House of Horror, with slow build up and questions of the unknown providing the greatest thrills. While the game is happy to display the threats, there’s also a huge appreciation for the unseen terror.
Dark Corners of the Earth’s plot covers all of the themes you’d come to expect from anything carrying the Cthulhu name. The plot is littered with descends into insanity, questions over reality as well pondering life and beliefs. The plot ties in with some of the more interesting mechanics of the core game, namely the insanity system. With a intense sense of mystery, tied in with a imposing atmosphere that almost stalks the player, Dark Corners of the Earth tells a memorable story that leaves a lasting impression.
While suffering from some dated mechanics, and the odd bug, Dark Corners of the Earth’s real joys can be found in it’s pacing. The slow burning starting chapters feed into the players doubts and confusions over the world they’re investigating. There’s clearly something going on, the game feeds the player scraps, hinting towards much darker things. Various set pieces scattered throughout the game compliment plot progression, allowing the experience to flow freely, avoiding padding that most modern horror titles suffer so harshly from.
Headfirst Productions created a fine balance between giving the player the tools to defend themselves while renaming vulnerable. At no point does the player ever find themselves happily downing enemy after enemy with a endless stream of fire power. While gunplay does form a key cog in the overall machine, it’s never the defining factor of the gameplay. Each bullet is needed, every missed shot is a problem, it all flowed perfectly into the core ideals, creating the sweet sympathy of a vulnerable existence that simply wants to get to the bottom of the mystery.
For a genre that is often labelled as unoriginal, Dark Corners of the World showcases a lot of creative flare. Playing off the mythos of Cthulhu perfectly, creating a genuine sense of a larger purpose that stretches far beyond something to shoot at, this is why the game worked so well at creating scares. No reliance on spectacle, a lack of jump scares, Dark Corners of the World played on the darker things. Cosmic beings, unseen evils, dark hidden purposes, the darker side to the human mind, these are the elements that resulted in such a fine video game experience.
This Halloween, forget the likes of Dead Space, reject The Evil Within, dive into madness, take a walk with the unknown, play Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the World.