Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game


We may finally be getting the Lovecraftian horror game we need.

Although the years have seen a host of more or less successful games based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft hit the shelves, they have a history of disappointment. And this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, translating any piece of literary horror into an equally disturbing gaming experience is difficult. But it is not impossible, and new mechanics, styles, and technology in gaming make the industry’s latest attempt to present Lovecraft – Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game – more promising than most.

Even if you’ve never read H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, you probably have some vague idea of shadows and tentacles creeping out of a turn-of-the-century xenophobe’s worst fears. All social commentary aside, though, Lovecraft has made a permanent mark on horror, and it’s little wonder since his work is the literal stuff of nightmares.

Games have had great trouble creating a Lovecraftian feel while making their games legitimately scary, and a lot of this has to do with the fact that Lovecraft fully describes very few of his monsters. Usually you get vague ideas of pulpy, be-tentacled frogs or writhing, clawed menaces from the deep. And while the scatter-shot visuals are enough to disturb, the true horror is the nameless, indescribable thing lurking in the story’s wings. The unseen is the true fear. It’s the sensation of being a kid walking down a quiet hall at night when the lights are off. You can’t see some horrible monster creeping up on you, but you can feel it.

This renders the greater bulk of Lovecraft’s work effectively impossible to present on any screen (silver, small, or gaming). What makes the Cthulhu mythos special is that we see the creature long before we meet it. In the story, the world is full of ancient cults that hide like sleeper cells in exactly the cultural conditions one would expect a racist xenophobe to imagine: immigrant districts, any non-white part of southern society, etc. These cults have little, ancient idols. The pictured god has tentacles dropping from the lower half of his face, wings pressed to his back, and distorted proportions. And so we meet Cthulhu.

I won’t go into heavy spoilers, but suffice it to say the real horror of the Cthulhu mythos isn’t just the sleeping god, but also the human madness he inspires. That tinge of insanity colors the story, and it makes even trustworthy characters suspicious. Cthulhu is beyond human comprehension, and when he touches the minds of cultists, dreaming artists, and the foolhardy adventurers who seek to unravel his mysteries, the results are never good.

So, of all Lovecraft’s work, the developers of the new game have chosen a good story to work with. They also – from what we can tell – understand what makes the tale spooky. The game is already labeled as “psychological” horror. This is a good start. The current Facebook page also mentions stealth mechanics as a principle part of the gameplay, and a handful of images reveal a green-tinged set of decayed decadence. These are all good signs. Although we’ll have to wait until 2017 to see just how good the game really is, this seems an auspicious start – or at least as auspicious as anything Lovecraft can be.

M. Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.

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