Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture: PS4 Review

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture: PS4 Review


Developer: The Chinese Room
Platform: PS4

There's something inherently sinister about abandoned villages in the UK.

Just take a moment to reflect on the sleepy English countryside, stripped of all but ambient noise, the wind whistling through the trees and not a soul in sight.

It's this creepiness that The Chinese Room's played on for Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, a first person story led piece that sees you supplanted in the middle of a sleepy village and left to your own devices to try and work out what exactly has happened.

As you start out you are near an observatory in a place called Yaughton Valley,a  typical rural idyll where the English countryside is rife and no doubt, the house prices are through the roof. But normally, this place would be bustling, a hub of community life and nosy neighbours.

Except it's not.

It's deserted and it's just you facing off against nothing, no signs of life and merely the signs that wouldn't be out of place on the Marie Celeste. From an empty bike in a bike rack to a van with gates half unpacked, there's a sense of eeriness and unease from the beginning with Everybody's Gone To The Rapture.

As you walk around the village, you get to see orange lights zipping around the streets with no warning. Walking to near these will trigger memories and give you snapshots into conversations - with no idea of timelines, you have no idea what's fully going on - but gradually, these build into core memories and a picture of what's happened in Yaughton Valley.

Gradually, you get to pull together the puzzle strands of the game and it's quite hauntingly done. The best bit of it though, like Journey, is that the unspoiled will get the most out of this game.

From near perfect attention to detail to an atmosphere that's both welcoming and unsettling, Everybody's Gone To The Rapture has a kind of gaming ethos that's like something from a 1960s horror story. Why would people abandon a village? Why is the area quarantined? Why is a lone voice broadcasting through the radio?

Occasionally though, there are some problems with the world that's been created.

You can't fully go wandering through the fields and have to stick to the route that's been laid out. From time to time, you can't enter places for no explicable reason and these are minor stumbling blocks which frustrate the experience and don't give you a feeling of a fully open world. But it has to be said, following these set down routes pays off and gives you the weirdest gaming experience you'll have all year - it's a deceptively simple premise, a beautifully haunting and extrapolated game but Everybody's Gone To The Rapture is also the living proof that smaller games have an ethos and a credibility that some developers forget these days.

For a game that has nary a human in it, there's more humanity and exploration of what it means to be human than you could ever imagine.

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