Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015)
PS4 / Rated M
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica
If there is one game that PlayStation has been hyping up all summer, it has to be Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Like the studio’s previous game, Dear Esther, The Chinese Room has developed a game that requires no major interactions at all. Instead, you walk around the empty and lonely streets of Shropshire, a rural town in England. Whenever I first started seeing the game, I instantly grew interested in what the final product would turn out to be. Unfortunately, the hype levels might have been set to high, because the game does not deliver on the amount of expectation that it was given.
It’s pretty clear that something bad happened to the residents of the quaint village but the game does not outright tell you, leaving you the player to pick up the pieces. The game does not explicitly tell you who you are. Your just a passive being, roaming around the remains of Shropshire collecting bits and pieces of story through radio recordings, phone messages, and little balls of light that provide visuals of conversations between some of the town’s residents. In a recent interview, Steve Gaynor from Fullbright Games (Tacoma, Gone Home) used the perfect term to describe this form of storytelling, which is “Forensic Storytelling.” This type of gameplay worked well for Gaynor’s Gone Home, but it did not have the same kind of effect in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
Gone Home follows the story of one girl walking around an empty house, picking up the pieces of the story by exploring every nook and cranny. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture gives you a full set of characters with their own stories, making it hard to gain an attachment to the stories put in front of you. The game’s pace in which it feeds you story is slow to begin with and it is broken up into small pieces depending on the places that you explore. Conversations between characters are the only form of story that the game gives you which makes it really hard to genuinely care about the characters and what was happening.
I have to admit, the overall story is gripping. As you roam around the locales and listen to the conversations between the residents, you start to gather questions about the mysterious event that caused the entire population of the town to disappear. The promise of “the big reveal” at the end kept me edging around town trying to pick up the one piece of information that would break it all open. Unfortunately this never really happens. There are some moments of revelation here and there, but the effect is minimal. The ending was kind of a downer in that it really did not give me “the big reveal” that I was hoping for.
Perhaps the game’s biggest detriment is the way that it handled exploration. Shropshire is full of homes to explore, gardens to walk through, and parks to play around in. There is so much to look at and poke around in. The game looks absolutely gorgeous, thanks to the power of CryEngine 3. With the town being so large, it’s a shame that you’re walking speed is veeerrrryyyyy sloooowwwww…… Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for the speed of the Tasmanian Devil, but I would have at least liked a simple run button to help with backtracking. The game makes it a chore to go back to places farther back in the game because it would probably take you hours to get back to where you wanted to go. It was revealed yesterday that there is indeed a “run button.” If you hold R2, your speed becomes a little quicker after about seven seconds. This helped a tiny bit, but it really didn’t make that much of a difference. What was even more bizarre is that the game didn’t even tell players about the option.
Every bone in my body wishes that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was a better game. I was really looking forward to the promise of the game’s eerie nature and semi-dark story, but it failed to have a profound effect on me like Gone Home did, a very similar game in nature. The game looks absolutely stunning, which makes the game worth a play through just to experience a journey through the quaint old town of Shropshire. (As long as you are not in a hurry, because it will take you a while) It’s unfortunate because I thought that The Chinese Room had a pretty cool game in their hands, but the story just didn’t do it for me. I also understand that my opinion is not of the majority, but I will stand by my opinion. The mystery that you have to solve is interesting in nature but fails to have a lasting impact.