Nov 10, 2014

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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review

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In this era of HD picture, it is easy to pick out which games are visually impressive. This may depend on what platform or platforms you may own. It is without a doubt that console exclusive games have been the most visually impressive such as Uncharted and The Last of Us for the PS3 or Halo for the XBox 360.  You could even name Killzone: Shadowfall for the PS4 or Ryse: Son of Rome for the XBox One as visually impressive from this next generation of games.  However, the common theme among all these games is that they combine impressive visuals with over the top, blockbuster action.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter distances itself from this trope.  In this game, you take on the role of Paul Prospero, a detective investigating the disappearance of a young boy Ethan Carter.  By providing seemingly photo-realistic environments with gameplay and story that’s every bit as compelling as it is mysterious, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of the best games to come out this year..

The gameplay in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is pretty interesting.  The game is played from the first person perspective of Paul Prospero, the detective investigating the disappearance of Ethan Carter.  Going into this game blind will instantly net you dozens of hours of gameplay.  As such, that can be equally frustrating due to it being very easy to miss things.  All depends on exploring the areas thoroughly.  However, there are large tracts of environment that are empty, areas that serve as connectors from one crime scene to the next.  Also, not knowing that you’re in a puzzle could easily see you stuck on one part of the game for a good long while until you know what to do.  The most interesting part of the gameplay are the crime scenes.  Finding them and figuring them out to get a picture of what happened is pretty much trial and error.  All you have to do are find the events in each area and put them in chronological order.  Once in the correct chronological order, the scene will play out before your eyes.  This aspect of the gameplay ties heavily into the the story such that to discuss this aspect of the game further, I will have to talk about the story first and how it unfolds.

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The graphics in this game are amazing.  It’s one of the best looking games this year.  The environments and vistas in this game look so real and so beautiful, you’ll find yourself stopping just to take in the scenery all around you.  It’s really uncanny because these vistas are, at first glance seemingly indistinguishable from the real thing.  It really immerses you into the game because in that moment when you stop and look around, that’s a personal moment between you and the game.  It’s also seemingly psychological because that personal instance between you and the game really gives the player this uncanny feeling of being alone in these deserted places where seemingly bad things happened.  As such, there is an a sort of uneasiness where the beauty of nature in this game contrasts with the dark instances that you as Paul Prospero are investigating.

In terms of sound, the sound effects and soundtrack fit the situations you encounter in the game.  As you walk through the seemingly deserted area of the game, you will hear the whispering of the wind, the tweeting of birds, the soft lapping of the water at the edges of the lakes are just some of the sounds you will hear throughout that combine with some of the graphics and the setting to create this atmosphere of eerie silence.  While sound is not an aspect of the game that jumps out at you, the experience wouldn’t be complete without it.

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The story of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a little more than your common whodunit story.  As mentioned before,  you begin the game as Paul Prospero, a detective investigating the disappearance of Ethan Carter.  Ethan Carter is a fan of Paul Prospero.  It’s interesting because the game has a clear beginning and a clear end.  However, everything that happens in between is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.  Throughout the game, Prospero will come across several crime scenes.   Solving these crime scenes nets you a portion of the story.  However, due to how the game is structured, you may find yourself solving these scenes out of sequence.  However,  each of these scenes seems to serve a particular purpose in Prospero’s solving Ethan Carter’s disappearance.   There some supernatural aspects to the story that are intriguing if not wholly resolved. This may leave you with more questions than answers by the end of the game.

There’s little to no replayability to be had in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.  It’s one of those experiences where you’re in it for the story.  Once you have that, there’s little to discover by playing the game again.  The only aspect of the game that may see you come back to it are the photo-realistic vistas.  So detailed and beautiful are these vistas that just to admire them first hand again after a while may be enough to get you to come back to the game.

One of the issues I had with this game is lack of direction.  Going into this game blind, I spent several hours trying to figure our what to do, bypassing entire areas and crime scenes since I didn’t know they were there.  In regards to crime scenes, if you don’t know what you’re looking for then it’ll probably take you exponentially longer to complete the game going into it blind.  Going into the game in this manner, I came to a point in the game where I was sure I had to do something and knew that something was going to happen.  However, I didn’t know what that was or what I was supposed to.  After hours of finding things but having no real sense of having accomplished anything, Saving was another issue.  I had no idea where it would save so exiting a session of gaming ran the risk of backtracking for a time to figure out what I had found prior to saving.  Having an accessible log of what I had found would have made the experience somewhat easier and less frustrating.

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However,  theses shortcomings do not overshadow what was otherwise a memorable and enjoyable experience.  The crime scene and puzzle solving are fun.  The story is very intriguing and clever in its telling.  And despite its lack of direction in terms of gameplay and progression, what you will take with you when the experience is over are spectacular views that follow you from beginning to end that also reflect the game as a whole. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an experience you should not miss.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: September 26, 2014
Developer: The Astronauts
Publisher: The Astronauts, Nordic Games
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
MSRP: $19.99


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