Today’s game (a PS4 exclusive may I add) is something that naysayers would call “a walking simulator.” I’m going to start this review of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture by saying that I’ve played a lot of games like this, including the previous games from this developer: The Chinese Room. I know people like to call games without a lot of action “walking simulators” but this term is really betraying everything that makes this game what it is.
Using that term is the basis of calling a game like this a “non-game” meaning that because there’s not constant interaction, you can’t call it a game. I’ve heard the term “interactive art” used, which is better, but let me tell you right now that this argument will not fly with this game, not at all. This is a game, an interactive experience that transcends a simple movie, story, or even a piece of art. After all, games are, in a sense, separate from these other types of creativity.
Okay, end of rant. Today we’re here to talk about Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, the new PS4 exclusive that has been in the making since it was announced several years ago. From the developers of Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs on PC, comes the console debut from The Chinese Room. Is this a haunting view of the world’s end, or a simple stroll through a pretty English village? Time to find out, but as always, there won’t be any spoilers. That would be a huge mistake seeing as how this a story-driven game.
It’s All About the Story
Games like this live and die by the story that they tell. Yes, there are no enemies to speak of in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and there are no bosses, no escape sections, and no puzzles (not in the strict sense of the word). This is a game about exploration, about more than simply walking for all the haters out there. It begins at the end of the world, everyone is gone, and it leaves you with the freedom to find out what happened.
Again, no spoilers here, so I’ll simply describe how you reveal the story of the game, not what is is in it. You explore a fully open world that takes place in the English village of Shropshire. The way you experience the story is by finding various items in the world and interacting with them. Interacting is the key word here for everyone who says this isn’t a game. The items you’ll find range from normal things like ringing phones and radios, to mysterious balls of light that you’ll unlock by tipping the control.
Each of these things will initiate an in-game cutscene where you will hear more of the story from one or more people. These moments are scenes where you are a silent observer, and the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion because of this setup. It’s amazing though because you start to hear names, and then you soon associate those names with people, real people with stories that you’ll soon uncover as you hear more about them.
I personally had a notepad where I tracked the relationships between each character. Who was related to who, who did what, and so on. This method of exploration-based storytelling is incredible because instead of feeding you events like a book or movie would, you slowly find all of the pieces of a larger puzzle that you use to ultimately reveal the answer. It’s gratifying and exciting in the way that only a game like this can provide.
By the end, you feel like these are real people who suffered through something both horrific and beautiful at the same time. I really wish I could say more, but that would betray the work that the amazing people at The Chinese Room did to make this game a reality. When it comes down to it, this is not a game for everyone. It’s a game for people who love story and value it above it all else.
For those who love a story that pulls at every heart string, while also expanding your knowledge of the universe, this is the game to play. If you prefer a multiplayer shooter, this isn’t for you.
Yes, it’s a Game, Okay?
This is neither the time, nor the place to argue the definition of a video game. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a piece of interactive entertainment that I would define as one of the greatest experiences thus far on PlayStation. Experience is the word to remember here, because while many games will lead you down a set of corridors and call it there, this game will instead leave you with something that nothing else has given you. That’s an experience.
The controls are about as simple as they get. You walk around the world, interacting with items using the “X” button. When you encounter the orbs I mentioned earlier, you will tilt the controller left and right to sort of “tune” them until they trigger and show you what they have to offer. That’s about it.
However, day-one reviews said that the game’s walking speed is really slow. They were right, the walking is slow. However, after the game had been out for a day or so, the developer revealed that there is in fact a sprint button.There was a glitch when the game released that left out the indication of such a function, but it’s there.
When you hold the R2 button, your character slowly begins to move faster until reaching a speed that is indeed faster than the walking option. It’s not the speed of a full blown soldier in Call of Duty, but I felt that it was enough to keep the movement from feeling slow.
Here’s where one of my few complaints with the game: the open world is amazing, but when I finished the game, I was left missing certain elements of the story. Nothing huge, mind you, but I missed the trophy that is awarded when you find all of the secondary story elements, which hurt me a little inside, especially given the fact that I really, really tried to find everything.
I love the idea of an open world game like this, and I loved what The Chinese Room did, but with how many potential areas, nooks, and crannies to explore, it’s very likely that someone will miss things on their first play-through. Granted, it took me about six hours (it’s a $20 game, less if you have PS+ right now so relax) and you could argue that such a thing adds replay value, but I just wanted to have the full picture when I finished. Not a huge issue, I’ll be playing it again, but worth mentioning.
Ah, it’s So Beautiful!
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture runs on the CryEngine. Anyone who has seen any game on this engine knows that it is a force to be reckoned with. Everything is extremely detailed, but what really makes the graphics stand out, is the way that light behaves and looks incredibly real. As time passes in the game and you find yourself in day, night, and evening hours, you’ll notice an incredible difference in how everything looks.
Just take a look at a few screenshots (the ones here will do just fine) and you’ll see what I mean. Combine this with an incredible cast of voice actors and actresses, and you have a world that not only looks, but sounds amazing. Speaking of sound, I would be a criminal not to mention the soundtrack in this game. It is an absolute perfect mixture of orchestral and choral music. It is inspiring, haunting, and always beautiful.
Everything comes together in this game. All of the pieces fit together just like the way the story itself fits together in the end.
Wrapping up The End of the World
For a game that takes place in an empty world, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is full of people, real people. These are incredible characters who suffered through something profound and incredible, and we are given the privilege of seeing how it all happened.
Emotional, captivating, and perfectly presented. These are all words that I would use to describe the game. That being said, the open nature of the game makes it easy to miss pieces of the overall picture. On top of this, I know fully well that people who play games like Battlefield and Call of Duty won’t find much to like here, but for those who have a love for stories, and the ways games tell them, this is one of the best. The rapture is here, and it’s equal parts terrifying and beautiful my friends.
Final Score: 9.5/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 8/14/15