Monday, 29 January 2018 21:45

REVIEW: The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter (Xbox One)

Written by StacefaceMayhem
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It is certainly an acquired taste in gaming, but I love games that tell a good story. I know action packed games can have a great story too, I loved Titanfall 2’s campaign or the emotion fuelled ride that the Halo series can evoke, but I also love games where I can sit back on the couch and leisurely click every now and then and just chill and listen to a good tale. So how did ‘The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter’ stack up when the notorious TellTale games have such a monopoly on this niche market.

Released originally on PC in 2014, ‘The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’ has travelled through the years and finally made it onto the Xbox One in 2018. ‘Toted as a ‘horror, adventure’ game, it falls flat in that department, but developers ‘The Astronauts’ have made a pretty decent open world, point and click puzzler that is more suspenseful than packed with terror inducing gameplay.

Ethan Carter Screenshot 2

Playing as the paranormal investigator, Paul Prospero, your job is to track down the missing child, Ethan Carter, the same child that has summoned you via a fan letter to his creepy village of Red Creek Valley. What has possessed Ethan’s family to act so bizarrely? What supernatural forces are at play in the pine forests that surround this spooky town? What piece of the puzzle are you in this sinister case, and does more than meets the eye in the whereabouts of Ethan?

Now as I warned before, this game is more of a Novella. If you came for kick arse and taking names sort of play, well sorry this game is not for you. Most the action in this story is implied through the dramatic dialogue, and visual flashbacks. The most physical action in the game is the sprint mechanic as you run around the open world, finding items or things to solve puzzles through the game. Paul also has a cool psychic- like ability to look at objects and piece together a visual picture of someone’s final moments.

Ethan Carter Screenshot 1

So, since the game has it's success dangling precariously by a storyline, how was it? Pretty decent in fact. The story unfolds effortlessly through the solving of puzzles and Ethan’s imaginative stories he has written, along with Paul chiming in with narration of his thoughts which really adds another dimension to the plot unfolding. The dialogue while reasonable, is at times flat, which is disappointing as it needed to be the driving force behind the story. And while everything seems to wrap up nicely at the end with a nice twist to add the bow at the top, I couldn’t help feeling I was short changed with a few unanswered questions and motives.

Visually, this game is stunning, with the Unreal Engine 4 and 4K support really showcasing it’s potential. Pop into Free Roam Mode and you can see how beautiful the rolling hills of pine forests, the glistening rays of sunshine bouncing off the dam and even the flickering lantern’s light bouncing off the abandoned mine’s wall, really are. The visuals coupled with the moody and tone inducing sound effects makes things such as the shadows dancing through the forest or the wind rolling through the grass, spooky and full of ambience.

Ethan Carter Screenshot 3

One issue I had with the game is the fact it is brandished as a horror, when it is more in the suspensive thriller with crime solving. Yes before you rip my head off, I do know ‘horror’ is a broad banner, but hear me out. I am notoriously known in the office, for hating anything spooky and I even almost passed on this game out of anxiety. After finding out is was very point and click I was very curious how the horroresque elements would play out. Alas, there isn’t much fear inducing moments, psychological or physical, and the moment that gets mildly close to terrifying is brief and feels very disjointed from the actual story, I kind of felt short changed.

Overall, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a surprising entry into the short story genre. Is it the best one, story wise? Not really, but it is still quite captivating, and has one of the BEST visuals and sound effect combinations in this style of game, in a long while. By using these design qualities, it has created such a distinctive and haunting tone you just can’t help but get sucked in. If you are an avid horror fan, I think this game is a hit and miss for you, however if you want to kick back and hear a decent tale, curl up on the couch as if you are clutching a good book and enjoy.

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Platform: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE
  • Developer: The Astronauts
  • Publisher: The Astronauts
  • Genre: Adventure