There's some shooting to be done, but you'll also need to do some good detective work and some good old-fashioned running away.
The game also deserves praise for featuring some truly harrowing chase sequences. For whatever reason, horror games tend to be heavily focused on combat, but the scariest things are the ones that force you to flee. While Call of Cthulhu's escape scenes are scripted to play out a particular way each time, they absolutely make you feel desperate to survive. To slow down your foes, you're able to bolt doors, which buys you precious seconds as you continue your escape. The music swells to a crescendo and your enemies' screams are deafening as you scramble to find a way out. These escapes are definitely some of the moments that stick out the most vividly in hindsight.
Call of Cthulhu has a lot of great moments in it, actually. You view the action through Jack's eyes practically the whole way through, so all the game's noninteractive cutscenes are still done from a first-person viewpoint, where you see Jack manipulating various objects and so on. Some of these interactions are amazingly lifelike in a subtle way--how Jack gingerly manipulates the combination lock on a safe, for instance. So it's a bit of a shame that these bits tend to switch to a grainy letterboxed view, which informs you that you no longer have control for the moment, and takes you out of the experience. And for all the great attention to detail, it makes you notice things you might take for granted in other games, like how Jack doesn't put away his gun when he climbs a ladder, or how you can't see your feet when you look down. Nevertheless, Call of Cthulhu is much more convincing than many other first-person games in how it makes you feel as though you're really there in the game's environments. When you reach some of the later stages of the game, you'll truly get the impression that you're exploring places that no normal person was ever meant to find.
You'll also feel sorry for Jack, who goes through an awful lot during the course of the game, all the way up through the game's disturbing, fittingly Lovecraftian ending. As he begins to see the truth behind the Esoteric Order of Dagon, the religious cult that seems to have Innsmouth under its complete control, his sanity will be threatened--specifically, your vision will start to blur if not swim, and you'll start hearing Jack muttering to himself or his teeth chattering. These purposely distracting effects are well done, and help make some of the game's bigger confrontations all the more bewildering. The sanity effects are temporary, and tend to dissipate quickly if you find one of the game's save points, which take the form of unusual white glyphs painted on certain walls. These glyphs look ominous, but in a testament to how effectively creepy Call of Cthulhu can be, you'll catch yourself breathing a sigh of relief whenever you spot one of these safe havens.
What the game lacks in high-fidelity graphics, it makes up for with surprising variety. Character animations are sometimes a little choppy, textures are noticeably grainy, and weapon models look plain, so you might catch Call of Cthulhu looking like a second-rate shooter from time to time. Much more often, though, you'll find a lot of great little touches in the environments, which are surprisingly expansive in spite of how much there is to see and do in them. Unfortunately, Call of Cthulhu lacks support for widescreen progressive-scan displays, which would be perfect for viewing a cinematic game such as this. But the game manages to look great anyway, thanks to excellent art direction that results in some highly atmospheric locales. You could easily imagine that had it been released a few years ago when it was originally supposed to, it would have looked amazing. Luckily, the visual style still succeeds at drawing you into the experience.
What Call of Cthulhu lacks in fancy effects, it makes up for with style and originality.
The noticeable repetition in Jack's and his enemies' dialogue is really the only knock against the otherwise-outstanding sound, though we also ran into some frustrating audio bugs late in the game, which caused everything to hiss and crackle unintelligibly (no, this wasn't a sanity effect). As mentioned, Jack's narration isn't a perfect fit for the circumstances, but most of the speech throughout the game is delivered convincingly, and Jack's enemies sound especially good. Gunfire is piercingly loud, and various ambient effects help thicken the game's atmosphere. There's also some great music throughout Call of Cthulhu, which tends to cue up with whatever's happening onscreen very well.
Jack Walters' journey to the dark corners of the Earth should take you at least a good, densely packed 10 or 12 hours, but could easily take more, depending on how long the tougher bits stump you. You then unlock a tougher difficulty mode (there's still another one to unlock after that), which heightens the challenge by making ammo scarcer and enemy encounters harder to survive. The game also ranks you based on how quickly you reached the end, how often you saved your progress, and other factors, in case you want to pay another visit to Innsmouth and its outskirts. So there's some value in revisiting the adventure--but your first time playing through Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is liable to leave a lasting impression no matter what. If H.P. Lovecraft were alive today, we think he'd approve. The Old Ones told us so.