The Terrible Call

Published Date
01 - Apr - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2006
The Terrible Call
H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu has a cult following among readers of horror fiction, and any game that aims to recreate the chilling, macabre feel of Lovecraft's books could only fall flat on its face.

Or so we thought.

The atmosphere in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of The Earth (DCoTE) is-dare I say it?-perfect. It delivers a potent dose of creepiness and horror that will leave you gasping for breath at the end.

The game starts with police detective Jack Walters (you) investigating a disturbance caused by a cult called the Fellowship of Yith in a dilapidated old house in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the horrors he experiences in the house that day land him right into the Arkham Asylum, blabbering incoherently.

It is six years later now, and Jack Walters, a shadow of his former self, cannot remember what happened to him during his time in the asylum. As he tries to piece together the last few years of his life, a mysterious phone call finds him in the port of Innsmouth, investigating the disappearance of a young store manager. His simple investigation turns ugly as he finds himself fighting for his life against dark forces beyond his comprehension.

The game is loosely based on Lovecraft's short story The Shadow over Innsmouth, which tells of unnamed horrors that befell the little port. Once you've been introduced to its initial chapters, it's an ordeal to wrench yourself away from the game. Colours are dark and subdued, and the cutscenes are presented in an old-film grainy style, and fit in seamlessly with the game itself.

DCoTE is a mix of adventure and first-person shooter, though the bias is clearly on the adventure side-gather clues, speak to people, and solve puzzles. Thankfully, the puzzles involve some cranial activity rather than just running around picking up stuff to fit it here and there-the phrase "good old detective work" comes to mind. Just when the adventure part starts to get tedious and boring, you're thrown into an adrenaline-draining situation that will instantly relocate your heart to the general vicinity of your throat. Something that deserves mention here is the escape sequences-scripted though they are, they're still the most heart-pounding parts of the game, where you run like hell, bolting doors and using obstacles to delay enemies by just those critical few seconds that stand between you and your coffin. You don't even have a gun in the first chase-a chilling "ohmygodIamgonnadie" feeling. The mix doesn't work as well as an all-out FPS, but it's still one of the better approaches we've seen.



It isn't as straightforward as it sounds, though. You have to remember that even though Jack has been released from the asylum, his mind isn't made of steel, and every disturbing scene he encounters will take a toll on his sanity-his heartbeat quickens, his breathing becomes heavier, his vision blurs-and as this worsens, he will start to mutter to himself, see things, and finally liberate himself with a shot from his pistol. To regain sanity, you must find the (very, very few) savepoints, which give him (and you) a few deserved moments of sanctuary. The idea could have been disastrous, but works in beautifully with the game's extremely immersive atmosphere.
Rating : 9/10
Minimum System Requirements : PIII 800, 32 MB Direct3D compatible graphics card, 128 MB RAM
Developer : HeadFirst Productions
Publisher : Ubisoft
Distributor : E-Xpress Interactive
Contact : 022-22850245
Price : To Be Announced  
FPS junkies will find the lack of a Heads-Up Display a little disconcerting, but you'll see that it's all part of the experience. There's no accurate auge of health on-screen, but you can listen to your heartbeat and breathing to decide whether you need to patch up with a few bandages, or if you need a shot of morphine. Of course, this assumes your heart isn't thumping in real life. The health system is much more advanced than your average oh-now-I'm-hurt-but-everything-still-functions-properly. If you get shot in the arm, you won't be able to aim your gun well, a wound to the leg and you'll be limping, and an unattended bleeding wound will gradually drain you of life.

I can't say this enough-DCoTE is creepy. The story is brilliant (The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Call of Cthulhu can freely be read online, incidentally), the atmosphere is eerie, and the gameplay is as realistic as it can be-from the superb health system to the very life-like reasoning it takes to get out of tight spots.

And if you're feeling particularly brave, take the game's challenge and play it with the lights off.

Finally, a fun multiplayer game that isn't an FPS...
Crashday is a simple game. There are cars, there are guns, and there is some wanton destruction-three gaming ideas that have steadfastly braved the test of time. Though, rarely have all three been found in the same game.

If you are confused about what to do with these three, note this: the cars are to be driven, the guns (oh, and missiles as well) are to be used to inflict said wanton destruction on any other unfortunate car that comes your way.

All Alone
In its single player mode, Crashday offers you many game options-you can run around an open arena destroying other cars (and getting destroyed yourself) in a Wrecking Match, play a game of "Pass the Bomb"-like passing the parcel, only here the loser goes boom in the end-or a game of "Hold the Flag", where you need to capture the flag and keep it for as long as you can. There's also the Speed-like Bomb Run, where you get blown to bits for falling below a speed limit, the Stunt Show which gives you points for trying some of the craziest driving stunts (Ã la Carmageddon), and some simple, straightforward racing.

And then there's the Career mode, where you have to do all the aforementioned to get ahead in the Crashday circuit. More than enough, you'd think, to keep the solitary player happy...

...For About A Day
All the game modes are a lot of fun, but they tend to get boring after the first few times. The cars are awfully tough to control, but the AI bots don't seem to have a problem with them, so while you're floundering about trying to discern your Londons from your Tokyos, someone has already come upon you from nowhere and turned you into scrap metal, or stolen your flag, or passed you the bomb-as the case may be.

The Career Mode is just a pathetic excuse to get you to play all the game modes-there's even a voice narrative before each mission to fool you into believing there's an actual story, but it takes a lot more than that awful German/American accented voice to convince you.

However, the Mini Games, notably the Long Jumps and Blast Jumps (jump the farthest you can before your car blows up), are tremendous fun, especially if you're competing with someone for the longest distance record.

To turn around all the gripes with Crashday's single player mode, you'll need to switch to multiplayer. Human stupidity is much more entertaining than artificial intelligence-your opponents are faced with the same difficulties as you are, so the chances of your winning an event are more realistic. The Wrecking Match is the most fun here-especially for venting frustrations, caused mainly due to losing pathetically in Mini Games, on bald-headed colleagues (see Digit Diary)-we were playing it in the office till 1 AM two days in a row!

You will now notice that all the game modes that Crashday offers are geared more towards insanely fun LAN parties and online play than the single player. It supports up to eight players per event-quite respectable, and more than you'll probably ever need for a good blow-up session anyway.

Moon Byte Studios' attention to the multiplayer mode is also apparent in the graphics of the game-they're quite impressive, but still remain light enough to run on most half-decent graphics cards. The damage modelling is also quite well done, making all the crashes, booms and bangs very entertaining.
Rating : 7/10
Minimum System Requirements : Pentium 4 1.5 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB Graphics Card
Publisher : Atari
Developer : Moon Byte Studios  
Every time you use the nitro boost when driving, the camera changes to wide-angle mode, and comes back to normal mode when you release it-giving the experience a weird rubber-band feel.

Fun though it is, Crashday is still quite buggy-it would randomly crash on our ATI cards, but seemed to be happier on NVIDIAs. It's also riddled with graphics bugs: there were numerous instances where the cars would go straight into the ground-with two wheels below the ground surface, I mean. It gets even more bizarre in online play-I've even seen cars moving around the map with only their roofs showing over the ground.

Overall, unless you get addicted to breaking Mini Game records like some of us here have, you're not going to get much out of the game if you don't intend to play it online or over a LAN. But once you do get into multiplayer, it's hard to get out.
Tracmania Nation ESWC

Here's a chance to win Rs 1.8 crore, and also do your country proud! 

The next time your parents or friends tell you to stop gaming and "get a life," "take more interest in your studies," or "get off your butt and get a job," show them this game review! Trackmania Nations (TmN) is a game that can earn you Rs 1.8 crore - provided you're the best player in the world!

Besides being the official game of the e-SWC (e-Sports World Cup), and having the potential to make you a crorepati, TmN is also one of the best free games to have been released in a long, long time! Yes, you read that right - it's FREE!

Unlike other games in this genre (Arcade Racers), TmN comes bundled in a tiny package - just 265 MB. And you don't even have to download it - just pop this month's Digit DVD into your drive and start your engines!
The game has some really amazing graphics, especially when you consider how light the installer is. It has both a single as well as a multi-player option, and you can play it over a LAN, or on the Internet against people anywhere in the world.

I played the game on my AMD Athlon 64 3200 , MSI RS 480 motherboard with an onboard ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip and 1 GB or DDR 400 Transcend RAM. AT the highest settings, it murdered my graphics chip! People with an nVidia 6600 (or equivalent) and above will have no problems running this game at the highest settings - like I said earlier, it's light!

World War III
With 60 countries participating in the e-SWC, and millions of individuals vying for the $400,000 (Rs 1.8 crore) cash prize, I cannot find any other way to describe the game's popularity except to say that World War III is here! Trackmania Nations is affectionately called by gamers "The Crashday Killer" (see the Crashday review in this issue), because no one has time to play arcade racers "just for fun" when there's huge money at stake.

The game's single player mode is just plain crazy: it has 90 race tracks, and you can choose to be one of 60 countries. I chose India, of course, and thought I could help my country move up in the rankings (it was 44th when I last checked); I was wrong! Except for the Beginner mode, which is embarrassingly easy, the game is really hard to play. I found myself having to take 20 turns or more, on average, before I could complete the Advanced or Expert tracks.

Since the game is light, I expected the Internet gaming experience to be a little better than most other games; I was wrong - the Internet experience is quite amazing! Fast local servers also make sure that you don't wait too long, and lag is non-existent. The game is tremendous fun over a LAN as well. Pity the maps don't have more descriptive names though, because it's really irritating to try and find that map you like: "Was it G-1 or I-1? Maybe it was H-7?"

Track Mania…
…is what the level and map developers were thinking when they designed these levels - the tracks have the most amazing hurdles, but this also makes it a nightmare to play: loop-de-loops, spins, jumps and crashes. What else could you want?

One thing that will seem weird is the whole "you can drive through your opponents" thing. Yes, race with people and you can't fight with them, Need For Speed style! It's like racing ghosts; you compete with the track, not with your opponents!

For a full free game, the level of customisation is OK - but it's not even remotely as cool as the Need For Speed series, and you can't change your cars or your engines - or anything except the colour of your ride, actually. But like I said, since it's a free game and is light on resources, I'm pretty happy.

Anyway, enough with this review; I'll take your leave by giving it an 8/10. Take a look at the screenshots to better understand what the game is like. Or better still, put down this magazine, pop in the DVD, install it and see for yourself. Remember, it is your duty as an Indian citizen to try and get us a little higher in the country rankings, so best of luck, and Jai Hind!  

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