Great moments in PC gaming: The hotel chase in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Developer: Headfirst
Publisher: Bethesda
Year: 2005

H. P. Lovecraft's stories are often remembered for evoking dread, hinting at monstrosities with adjectives like eldritch and cyclopean rather than describing them. But in The Shadow Over Innsmouth he wrote an action sequence right out of a thriller, in which his protagonist is pursued through several adjoining rooms of his hotel and escapes across a rooftop to the streets below. Unusually for Lovecraft, it's terse and exciting.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth recreates a version of that scene. After a slow build as you explore the town of Innsmouth, meeting strange folk with fish-like features and seeing a lot of run-down creepiness, you retire for the night to your hotel room. When you wake to voices outside a cutscene shows a group of locals advancing on your room with malicious intent. "Just keep the noise down," one of them says before they take out the keys.

You've got seconds to react before they open the door, rushing through to an adjoining room and bolting the door behind you. Scrape marks on the floor in this room suggest the cupboard was moved, blocking another door to a connecting room. You haul the cupboard back as the inhuman Innsmouth citizens begin bashing at this door's room. The cupboard moves with painful slowness, revealing a hidden door.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

A voice in the hall says, "This door won't be bolted!" You bolt the hidden door behind you then race over to the hall door and prove the voice wrong, bolting that as well. In the next room you have to slide shelves in front of the door to block it, reminiscent of the first area of Alone in the Dark—another Lovecraftian horror game in which you have to seal up a room before enemies arrive.

Eventually you escape the hotel through a window and begin a chase over to a connecting building and through a hall where windows shatter as the pursuers realize you're about to get away and start shooting. Finally, you make it down to the ground floor and escape onto the street.

In play it's hindered a little by how many times you'll need to save and reload, dying over and over before you get the sequence perfect. And unfortunately the rest of the game abandons the slow-burn horror of its start to become more of a first-person shooter. But for this one impressive sequence, Dark Corners of the Earth took a piece of Lovecraft's writing that felt appropriate for a videogame and recreated it in a way that embodied the original's rare tension and excitement.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.