Bethesda Softworks didn't look like they wanted to be at E3. Their booth was more like an enclosed meeting room where trailers for their two main titles, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, could be see playing on screens outside. Considering the madness of E3, I can't say that I blame them, especially when I arrived without appointment and was allowed to see what Headfirst Productions had in store for the big C.
You assume the role of Jack, a former cop who lost his mind and checked himself into the gloomy halls of Arkham Asylum. Declared cured some years later, he was released at around the same time the police discovered the scene of a gruesome mass murder, strewn with bodies human... and not so human. Knowing that he had some background in the occult, they approached Jack to aid in this investigation, though none of them could imagine what horrors waited for them down that dark path.
In a sense CoC plays out like a first person version of the Resident Evil series. There are puzzles to solve, some with very odd solutions, and unrelenting enemies to kill, though don't expect to find a rocket launcher lying on the grass. This title is set in the 1900s with all the antique weapons that implies. Since they need to load more often, you'll have to be careful with your aim, especially when ammo is scare. You'll actually need to be doubly careful since most weapons do not have on-screen crosshairs, though the ability to steady your aim and move in stealth mode enhances your chances of survival... a bit. Let's face it, in the world of Lovecraft the odds are definitely stacked against you.
With no HUD, you'll need to pause to check your health or inventory. This will also reveal an unfamiliar meter, the sanity gauge. Jack is a man still teetering on the brink of madness, so seeing the bloody details of a corpse hanging from the ceiling or other triggers like confined spaces will slowly eat away at his mind, making him more difficult to control, until he will actually begin to hallucinate with visions of monsters and unpleasant memories of the past. The dream-like quality of these hallucinations are such a treat for the eyes that its easy to forget your character has just gone insane. By keeping his wits about him Jack can actually have prophetic visions of the near future, which will aid him with some puzzles or keep him from walking into an ambush.
The environments that were shown were crumbled and ruined, adding to the already oppressive atmosphere. Enemies could lurk in every shadow, but these aren't zombies that blindly rush you with little concern for their own welfare. They will attack you from a distance if they can, avoiding your own attacks when possible, and if you do manage to wing one they might temporarily retreat. Where you take damage it will effect your abilities, such as getting shot in the arm hurting your aim and taking a hit in the leg slowing you down. Medkits can be found thorough the levels, with bandages that only heal a bit but are safe to use, and morphine that will patch you up in a hurry as it drains away your sanity.
Call of Cthulhu will ship this fall, they really mean it this time, with sixteen levels with three to five objectives each, which in total should take from sixteen to twenty five hours to complete. I'd recommend picking up the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft to read while you wait, but then you would be too terrified of experiencing the gripping horror first-hand.
Either way, you might never be able to sleep again.