The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review: Exploring the Haunting Beauty

July 26th, 2015 -

This puzzle filled narrative title came out in the latter half of 2014, but just recently made its way to PS4. So what makes this version of the game any different from the PC version? Well, the biggest one is that the PS4 version was rebuilt from scratch in Unreal Engine 4, and includes several improvements. But who cares about that stuff – let’s talk about the game for all of those that have yet to play it!

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First off, it’s important to note that there isn’t a whole lot of action in this game. That is to say, you won’t be shooting guns or running along walls. The game is extremely atmospheric, and relies heavily on story and a sense of mystery. You’ll come across puzzles, scenes in which you must choose the chronology of which events take place, as well as the supernatural. So while I say there isn’t a lot of action, don’t expect the game to just be a pretty landscape with reading – there’s much more than that.

You play the role of Paul Prospero, a detective who is used to dealing with cases that aren’t always what they seem to be – when no one else will believe you, who you gonna call? Ethan contacts Prospero by letter asking for his help, but what he ends up finding is a murder. Luckily, Prospero has abilities that a normal detective doesn’t – being able to communicate with the deceased. Well, not quite communication like in Murdered: Soul Suspect, but being able to relive the past events to determine how the murder happened. The entire process of these sections are reminiscent of the most recent Sherlock Holmes game and the ever popular BBC show Sherlock. You’ll come across pieces of evidence and “sense” how they are connected, making deductions about their participation. After setting up the scene with all the pieces in their respective places, you’ll reconstruct the murder by putting several scenes in the order they happened. These scenes will help you figure out what happened to Ethan and his family.

As is the case with any game involving puzzles, or the collection of items, a player may find the desire to follow a guide. While I can’t say that it’ll ruin the experience, as the story itself won’t change, there’s a good chance it’ll become a crutch and the player will lose sight of the atmosphere. Following a guide will mean you don’t see all of Red Creek Valley, which was created with photogrammetry, creating one of the most beautiful game worlds I’ve explored. My wife said it’s one of those cases where something digital is created to be more beautiful than real life – while the process uses the world around us, I can’t help but agree – it’s absolutely stunning.

The game depends heavily on exploration of the environment, and missing one or two things will keep you from beating the game. That may seem silly, but it’s vital that you experience each section, and each story that is told. And honestly, these stories are far from boring. Once you’ve finished the stories, you can finally get some closure. Or not. It depends on the mindset you are in and how invested you are in the game. Chances are, you’ll end the game with more questions than you had at the beginning. Even more likely is that you’ll be eagerly anticipating the next title from The Astronauts, as they did a wonderful job with this genre.

BUY

Pros

  • Narrative
  • Characters
  • Puzzles/Environment

Cons

  • Easily Missable Items

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was developed and published by The Astronauts. The game launched on PC September 25th, 2014, and on PS4 July 14th for $19.99. The PS4 version of the game was provided to us for review. If you’d like to see more of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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