Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

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Sanity will be in short supply

My last assignment put in me a fear, a real fear. A fear of myself; of what I am, and what I will become.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a horror/adventure video game based on the Cthulhu Mythos, specifically The Shadow Over Innsmouth and is the last title developed by the now-defunct Headfirst Productions. It was published by Bethesda Softworks in the year 2005.

Players take on the role of Jack Walters, a police detective with a reputation for seemingly impossible insight into difficult cases, in 1920's Massachusetts. At the start of the game, the Boston Police Department has arrived at an old manor at the edge of the city to investigate alleged crimes of a resident cult called the Brotherhood of Yith. The cult is armed with rifles, and refuses to allow the police into the manor. They demand that Jack Walters be sent in to speak with them.

Walters arrives, but a shootout occurs anyway. Taking cover, Walters accidentally locks himself inside the manor. What he finds inside is quite disturbing. Skip ahead a few years, and Walters has lost his memory of what exactly happened inside, and the events afterwards. It turns out that whatever happened inside the manor gave him a Split Personality, and his new identity had taken over his body for half a decade. Obviously, he's no longer fit to be in the police force, and is now trying to make a living as a private investigator, actually investigating what he did himself during his period of amnesia between cases for other clients.

His latest job, after business has slumped somewhat, is to find a missing grocer in the town of Innsmouth.

It turns out that the missing person case and his amnesia are connected, and he ends up on a batshit-insane quest to both rescue the grocer from creepy cultists and discover what happened to him at the Brotherhood of Yith.

Except for a few seconds at the start of the game, the entire experience takes place in first-person, from the viewpoint of Jack Walters. There is also no HUD at all, nor are any icons or prompts overlaid onto the Main Window at any time. Walters's health and mental state can be measured by the blurriness of his vision, whether or not he is limping, the shallowness of his breathing, the blood on his eyelids and so forth. Objects that can be interacted with (usually) glow softly.

Though it is extremely buggy, perhaps because of its six years in development and the studio going bankrupt shortly after release, Dark Corners of the Earth is considered by some critics to be an excellent, if not the best, Survival Horror video game at the time of release.

Not to be confused with the tabletop game Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game). Now available for 9.99 USD on Steam, so no need to Keep Circulating the Tapes.

Tropes used in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth include:
  • 100% Completion: Gathering all collectible intel items as well as performing all optional actions is required to get the extended ending that actually explains what the hell was going on with Jack the whole time. That's just one requirement though. You also need to score an "A" rank in the game by finishing quickly, not using too many saves, and overall playing exceptionally well. Or you can just watch it on Youtube. There is an unofficial fan-made patch here that removes some of the limitations, so one can actually take time to enjoy the game and still get the best ending.
  • The Alcoholic: Zadok Allen. He has his reasons.
  • All There in the Manual: You will have a much easier time understanding the plot, if you've read H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth and "The Shadow Out of Time". Then again, the sense of waking horror and discovery is far stronger for those who are less Lovecraft savvy. It works well on both levels.
  • Anyone Can Die: Once the action kicks in.
  • Apocalyptic Log
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions
  • Artificial Stupidity: You can shoot Mooks with a shotgun and their friends across the street won't even notice. Indeed, at times you can shoot the Mooks themselves, and if they do not see Jack, they will ignore that they have been shot and carry on with whatever they were doing.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: During your first trip in the sewers, you can get a quick glance of the Shoggoth's tentacles coming out of a well. You'll get to see him more closely later in the Refinery level.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: The Yithian Lightning Gun has unlimited range, the highest damage of any gun in the game, unlimited ammo and the ability to charge. The only downside is lack of iron sights and relatively slow firing rate, which can be easily compensated for.
  • Badass Crew: Literally, the sailors of the Coast Guard Cutter Urania. They are all well-armed and when Deep Ones attack the ship the sailors may end up killing more of them than you do. They get overwhelmed eventually, and then all die when the ship sinks.
  • Badass Normal: Jack acts more like the Doom marine than a private investigator. He even gets a BFG near the end. Possibly more of a Badass Abnormal although the powers don't seem to help him much.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible:
    • The Innsmouth townspeople, under orders from the Order of Dagon.
    • Averted with Zadok and Rebecca. Though they advise you to leave as quickly as you can, they let you in on a bit of information regarding the town.
  • Being Watched: The player may notice those things on the roofs are not gargoyles.
  • BFG:
    • The naval destroyer's guns that serve to put down Father Dagon and his priests.
    • Also, an aeons-old electrical gun with an inexhaustible power source, courtesy of The Great Race of Yith. It's the only thing that can harm Flying Polyps, and clever use of it kills Mother Hydra.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Dagon and Hydra.
  • Body Horror: Implied but not actually shown. Well, aside from increasingly deformed versions of Innsmouth's populace.
  • Book Ends: The final cutscene is the same as the first. Only with the visions of the dead little girl added and Jack dying while doctors try to save him.
  • Captain Obvious: Jack, sometimes.
  • Catch Phrase: "I'm not in the business of making requests, Mr. Walters."
  • Chased by Angry Natives: Jack, Burnham and Ruth as they try to escape from Innsmouth.
  • Climax Boss: Dagon.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Or, more accurately, Lovecraftian Kitchen Sink. Most of the most famous of H.P.'s creations are featured at one point or another in this game, and even woven into one another rather cleverly.
  • Controllable Helplessness
  • The Corruption: Almost everyone in Innsmouth. It's mentioned that half the population is really corrupted while the other half is just too afraid to do anything about it. So with the corrupted roaming the streets looking for you and the more normal people hiding indoors, it's more like everyone from Innsmouth you meet.
  • Creepy Child: Ramona, who draws pictures of destruction, death and monsters.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: At one point, you have to flee into the sewers, but the way is blocked by a sharp fan. You have to break one of the blades to slow it down and open a passage, and even then, you'll get chopped (but not always killed) if you're hit.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: It's blatantly obvious that there is something very fishy about the people of Innsmouth. It's an interesting example though, as the in-game human characters actually do notice... they just don't have any legal basis to do anything about it. At first...
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Seeing too much disturbing stuff at once will cause Jack to freak out in a number of different ways. One such way is that he'll start muttering to himself in a panic. What he mutters is in direct context to whatever he's seeing that scares him, be it a ghostly girl, a rotting corpse or a giant monster made of brown acid.
    • There's a moment where the player needs to unlock a ladder locked on a ceiling by shooting its lock. Doing it under the ladder makes it fall on Jack and badly injury him.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Almost literally. Knocking out Dagon with the main gun of a United States Coast Guard cutter, and electrocuting Hydra to death with a Yithian Lightning Cannon.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jack, if his Sanity Meter gets too low.
  • Dull Surprise: Jack always talks in the same tone of voice. Even when insanity kicks in.
  • Easing Into the Adventure
  • Eldritch Abomination: Cthulhu, Hydra and Dagon. The Shoggoth, Deep Ones, Star Spawn of Cthulhu and the Flying Polyps are smaller versions of this.
  • Electric Torture: Used during Jack's 'interrogation'.
  • Eleventh-Hour Superpower:
    • The Yithian Electric Gun.
    • Jack's ability to switch minds with a Deep One in order to access out-of-reach switches to help kill Hydra.
  • Enemy Within: A particularly creepy example, as we don't know who the Enemy Within is or what it wants until the very end.
  • Everything Fades
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: You can easily distinguish helpful Innsmouthians from others. Hint: the fish-faced ones are bad.
  • Fake Difficulty: In the form of Trial and Error Gameplay and the (extremely outdated and pointless) restriction on saving your progress. To many this ruined an otherwise fun first person horror game.
  • FBI Agent: Well, technically BI Agents, and J. Edgar Hoover himself.
  • The Fettered: Jack Walters won't steal gold from the Marsh family's Vault despite their many attempts on his life.
  • Film Noir: Add one-part Cosmic Horror Story and two parts Cult, stir well, and you've got Dark Corners.
  • Flashback Nightmare
  • FPS: Towards the end of the game, it turns more and more FPS-y.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: When armed with a crowbar and a shotgun, Mr. Walters feels the compelled to use a key to open flimsy wooden doors, even after seeing both enemies and friendly NPCs bust through doors with improvised weapons and himself shooting (some) locks easily.
  • Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: The penultimate boss is a pair of Flying Polyps that seem to come out of nowhere. Since his way was blocked in Y'ha-nthlei, Jack took a route through an adjacent cavern system that connected to one of the cavernous Vaults where the Yithians had locked up their old enemies.
  • Golden Ending: Getting 100% on your file simply nets an extended version of the standard ending. Jack still dies, but the game at least explains fully what the hell was going on the entire game.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: In this mythos, this sort of thing is pretty much required.
  • Grand Theft Me: How the hero originally ended up in an asylum.
  • Green Around the Gills: You may get this while on the navy boat, due to the rolling sea. Also a feature for the Spawn of Dagon, in the literal sense.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The citizens of Innsmouth, obviously, and in a metaphysical way, Jack.
  • Hell Hotel: Jack has to stay in one in Innsmouth. Goes as well as you might expect.
  • Historical Domain Character: J. Edgar Hoover.
  • Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad:
    • Inverted. Ramona's father is human and her mother is a deep one... don't think too much about it!
    • Played straight by Jack. His father's consciousness was taken over by a Yith while his mother was normal. Ultimately, he is neither human nor Yith.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Jack is capable of toting -- at once -- six guns, a knife, a crowbar and a large eldritch tome, among other things, without any sort of visible container. None of it affects his move speed, although movement speed is affected by what weapon you have readied -- even if that weapon is currently holstered -- leading to realizing that you move more slowly with a put-away Thompson SMG than you do with a put-away pistol.
  • I Am Your Father: A Yith is Jack's father. Well, sort of.
  • Immune to Bullets: The Bosses, as well as one of the Beloved of Cthulhu that appears briefly at the beginning of "The Esoteric Order Of Dagon". It can be killed with a conveniently placed flamethrower, while the bosses (such as Dagon and Hydra) usually require some unique level specific thing (like a ships main gun or the Yithian Lightning Gun).
  • Impending Doom POV: As Jack is being stalked by various monsters.
  • Improvised Weapon: The crowbar. Inverted when Jack takes control of the mind of a Deep One, and for a limited time, it does his bidding.
  • Interface Screw: Madness will blur your vision, slow down your perception of time, make you hear things, make you deaf, make the screen go all wavy... the Sanity Slippage effects alone do more to make the game scary than all the Cthulhu Mythos beasties put together.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used by J. Edgar Hoover on Jack to force him to "cooperate".
  • Jerkass: Hoover: he's got a mission to clean out Innsmouth, and he doesn't care how many people get hurt as long as the job gets done. Of course, you're more expendable than he is...
  • Kill'Em All: The only non-historical character to survive the events of the game is Agent Mackey. Everyone else, including Jack himself, die horribly at some point. Attempting to kill or letting Hoover die doesn't work either. Jacob Marsh is arrested, and Dr. Eric Hardstrom, the doctor at the asylum, survives as well.
  • Let's Play: Helloween 4545 has done one.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: The Waite's house.
  • Mercy Kill: Some genetic experiment in the Marshes lab asks for this, and you can give it to him with your rifle.
  • Mono-Gender Monsters: Averted with the Deep Ones once they finally attack in force. About half of them are clearly more feminine than the other half, though still quite ugly and monstrous.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast:
    • Waite. Anyone who's read Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep is going to be running twice as fast as everyone else.
    • "You ever hear of a thing called a 'shoggoth?'"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jack investigates the door to Mrs. Waite's 'room' in the attic, causing 'her' to break down the door and run downstairs to rip her little daughter to shreds. Mr. Waites eventually slits his own throat from grief the day before he's about to be hanged for being framed as his daughter's murderer. Good one, Jack.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries:
    • Hydra, queen and "Mother" of the Deep Ones, has two pairs of breasts. Could be justified, as Deep Ones can interbreed with humans, and therefore must presumably share some genetic material.
    • Some of the standard Deep Ones appear to have them as well.
  • Obvious Beta: Six years in development, and then the studio went bankrupt shortly after the game was released. At least they got something out there.
  • Precision F-Strike: Upon regaining consciousness in the bottom of a factory, Jack sees the formless brown acidic mass of the dreaded shoggoth flowing into the room and pretty much taking up the entire (very large) area. His response is a whispered, quavering "Oh...fuck...".
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Jack is hinted to have these throughout the game, and has visions of monsters following him. It's explained that Jack's father was mind-switched with a Yithian moments before Jack was conceived, giving him a bit of the alien's mind-projection abilities. These are used at the end of the game to take control of Hydra's Deep Ones.
    • The Deep Ones priests and a few of the cultists also have powers, including Robert Marsh, who has telekinesis, telepathy, the power to shoot energy balls, and some sort of attack that resembles a force push. Hydra also uses hers to shield Y'ha-nthlei from an attacking sub.
  • Puzzle Boss: You can't directly hurt the shoggoth. It's the size of a small house, and it's a Nigh Invulnerable, formless, no-organs-or-weak-points blob monster made out of acid, so a pistol would be useless. Fortunately, both times you face it, it's in an area full of industrial machines that you can use to hurt it (note that "Hurt" does not mean "kill").
  • Religion of Evil: The Esoteric Order of Dagon.
  • Sanity Meter: Looking at too many scary images in the game makes Jack start to hallucinate, panic, and eventually go insane in a Nonstandard Game Over or commit suicide.
  • Sanity Slippage
  • Save Point: Save points tend to drive away most Innsmouth residents and other beasties. They'll actually cover their eyes and run off.
  • Shaky POV Cam: Jack's visions.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: You'll occasionally have to destroy padlocks in order to open doors.
  • Sickening Crunch: If you walk around with a broken leg, a sickening crack is heard with every step.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The music in the opening and ending is an upbeat, swinging tune... played in an insane asylum while a man tries to hang himself.
  • Split Personality:
  • Standard FPS Guns:
    • The Knife: A bowie knife and a crowbar.
    • The Pistol: An MI911 semi automatic.
    • The Revolver: An M1917 Revolver.
    • The Shotgun: A double barrel shotgun.
    • The Marksmans Gun/The Sniper Rifle: A Springfield bolt action rifle.
    • The Automatic Gun: A Tommy Gun with a drum magazine .
    • The Lightning Gun/BFG: The Yithian Lightning Cannon.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: The Attack Of The Fishmen and Jailbreak chapters, since Jack is unarmed, and everyone in town is trying to kill you.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Sure, take a nap in Innsmouth's hotel, which is managed by a man who you know butchered at least one previous customer, and who you can hear plotting to murder you immediately before and after you check in. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Super Drowning Skills: Justified, as all the deep waters in the game are cold (the game occurred in winter on the New England coast) and stormy seas.
  • Survival Horror: Waste too many bullets or medical supplies and you will regret it.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Half of the marines assigned to help you infiltrate the Esoteric Order of Dagon die because they stopped to beat up a group of cowering hostiles, while on breaking ice.
    • When the waves start hitting the Urania, Officer Winter calls out for the crew to take cover. The player is the only other person to do so; everyone else on deck is killed. What's more, more crewmen will occasionally spawn and run out to the deck only to die.
    • The last crewman you see alive on the Urania locks you out on the deck and welds the door shut. You, the one who's fought through countless Deep Ones and the only one with weapons.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: At one point, you must recover a hammer from a room containing a Beloved that won't let you in alive. You have to put a special blue flower in its food bucket in order to kill it and access the room.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The Ur Example, Innsmouth, especially thanks to the aforementioned corruption.
  • The Unfought: Cthulhu. You do hear his calls though, and it's easily one of the creepiest moments in the game.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Enemies drop neither ammunition nor weaponry, not even when it would be really helpful, such as taking a weapon when you have nothing but a crowbar, or maybe taking Sebastian Marsh's revolver in the battle against Robert Marsh.
  • Unwinnable by Design: A few times near the end, which is especially unpredictable since in most of the game, it's impossible to do a mistake during the riddles. But it isn't as frustrating as it seems because at these moments it is impossible to reach a savepoint.
    • On the ship, launching again the engine needs to find a blowtorch, turn a specific wheel, fix a pipe with the blowtorch, turn another specific wheel. Not turning the right wheel while cause the boat to explode and kills the player.
    • On the Devil's Reef, a door near of the exit of the level must be reached within a timer. To launch it, you have to put a jewel in a mechanism, run to the other door and put a red crystal in the opened claw in front of the door; when timer expires, the claws close; if the red crystal is put in the claws, the door opens, if not nothing happens. The first difficulty is that the timer can only be triggered one time. The second is that near the launching mechanism there is claws like the ones you have to reach; the ones near the launching mechanism hold a green crystal and opens too when you put the jewel in the timer's mechanism. The green crystal can be picked up by the player but if it isn't in the claws when the timer expires the door won't open.
  • Unwinnable By Mistake:
    • The final timed escaped sequence is almost impossible to complete on the PC version without using a trainer, as a programming oversight results in your movement speed being slower on the PC version. This is actually a bug related to the screen resolution you are using. The higher your resolution is set to, the slower Jack moves. If you have a large monitor and try putting the game to something like 1400x900 so the screen is not stretched and blurry, you will move about as fast as chilled honey. This is fixable though, if you choose something like 800x600. The bug doesn't exist in the Steam version.
    • A rather infamous glitch exists in the PC version where during the attack on the Coast Guard cutter, some mages that you have to shoot with a cannon and the reef they stand on fail to generate. There is no real indication as to why this occurs, and it only occurs on some copies of the PC game. Unfortunately, the only way around it is to download the save game file of a person who does not have this glitch.
  • Walk It Off/Heal Thyself: Both, at once. Various parts of Jack's body can be injured and can be treated with medical supplies. He will slowly heal over time, but it's not safe to try this if you're in the middle of a firefight.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Cthulhu himself does not appear in the game despite it being called Call of Cthulhu. Several statues of him are featured, he is referenced numerous times, and one of his "chosen" is even fought, but Cthulhu himself is never seen in the flesh. Some thought that it made it scarier and gave the lesser known Great Old Ones Dagon and Hydra some recognition, while others were very disappointed that he wasn't in the game. Of course, if Cthulhu deigned to show his big noodly face anywhere in the game, there wouldn't really be much of a game, as Jack's options would be INSTANT DEATH or GIBBERING INSANITY, FOLLOWED BY DEATH.