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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Editor's note: This Wednesday, we have a guest reviewer doing a guest review - specifically, Reecey of Nine Over Five. Viewers on tumblr will note the changed title card, because joy. 

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

I’ve never played a game that I felt like I couldn’t talk about before.

Not in terms of how much I enjoyed it, I absolutely love this game. So far I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that it’s my game of the year. (Although this is less valuable a title from me than from some of my cohorts in this business. I don’t buy or play a lot of new games.)

No, I feel like telling someone who hasn’t played this game anything about the actual game would be spoiling them.

Okay not everything, but the things I am dying to tell you I feel would have a negative impact on your experience. They're all so interesting, and some of them are quite startling.

One was so unexpected that Doug genuinely thought that I'd found a joke ending, but I hadn't. It was a required section.

I'd say that there is virtually nothing in this game that isn't relevant to the story. Everything serves the story in a way that is rarely this subtle or well done.

Except No Hands Jesus. Which makes me sad.

The story itself is fantastic. I don't think I've ever seen a story in a video game this well put together. It successfully manages to be both direct and oblique in a way that puts it at the top of the list for artsy games.

It has the discussion factor of something like The Path but without the needless misdirection or time wasting, but with a solid conclusion and actual gameplay.

The game has no combat (apart from the sniper rifle), but despite that, you can and do get scared. Well, if you're not made of stone or have been ruined by Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

There is a rather Amnesia-esque section to this game, which I avoided for ages and enjoyed greatly. It's an incredibly tense section and I think it's my favourite. In fact, I'm probably more likely to give Amnesia a go because of it.

Twirls silent movie moustache.

The horror of the story isn't dependent on personal danger, and I think that is it's greatest strength. The atmosphere is enough to make you feel scared. It's a crisp autumn day approaching sunset and there is no one to be seen anywhere around when you first arrive. The first hint of danger is the knowledge that Ethan Carter is in peril and the second is either one of the few instances of the main character being at risk, or an old train with blood on it.

The latter is related to the first mystery of those that the game boasts.

The mystery of the legless corpse.

In order for Paul Prospero to solve each mystery, he needs to set the scene. He has to put everything where it was before the incident and then work out what happened and in what order.

Even this serves the story, not just in a 'piecing it together' way, but thematically. Having now finished the game I can see that.

Each incident is played for you in a cutscene upon being solved and you get to see first hand what happened. It’s an effective way of going about it, and because of Paul Prospero’s nature and the nature of the story it doesn’t feel forced like it might otherwise.

I’m reticent to talk further about the story in case I ruin it for you, as the exploration and discovery aspects of this game are by and far its biggest draw, so I’m going to talk about the graphics and soundtrack for a bit.

They’re both stunning.

Editor's Note: Look at this. All it needs is a clocktower and a rocket ship.

The graphics are the thing people have been talking about the most in regards to this game (apart from the phenomenal story, of course) and it deserves it. They’re approaching photorealistic, which is a thing I’m usually not all that crazy for, but here it only adds to the atmosphere. The graphics help make everything feel real, and that works to serve the story in a way that I don’t think that any other art style would have been able to accomplish.

Part of the reason that they’ve been talked about so much is the method by which they were created. They were made using a technique called photogrammetry, where photos of an object are taken and then used to create that object within the game. This is why it feels so real, and so not shiny.

Oh, god it would have been weird if this game had been shiny. Shininess is the bane of horror games, I swear.

The soundtrack is also fantastic.

This is just a taster, but it’s all amazing and haunting and I love it. I like to listen to it when I write, it’s so good.

I pre-ordered this game, so I got the soundtrack with it, but it is available as part of a DLC pack. So there’s that if you get really attached to it.

I hadn’t actually heard anything about this game before I saw it on the Steam storefront, but I was fascinated by it almost immediately. In all honesty, I think it was because of the graphics and the description sold me on it because I like horror games but the combat is usually a bugbear with them (Deadly Premonition was a nightmare for this).

I was so excited I waited until it was released so I could play it straight away.

The risk I took buying this game I knew virtually nothing about was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. This game is fantastic and I love every single thing about it.

I wasn’t even playing the patched version and I absolutely loved it.

Editor's Note: Reading.

It’s currently £14.99 on Steam and I implore you to buy it and experience it for yourself instead of just watching a let’s play. (You can do that later, it’s the kind of game where an extra opinion is a boon.)

If this game appeals to you, I promise you that you won’t regret it.

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