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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (Xbox One) Review

 
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At A Glance...
 

Formats: PC, PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed)
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

We Liked?


  • Looks incredible
  • Intriguing story that doesn't hold your hand
  • New 4K work is very much appreciated
  • Free Roam mode adds a nice little way to just chill out in the world without the blood and trauma

Not So Much?


  • As good as it is at not holding your hand sometimes it's a little vague in direction
  • Some might feel the short length is an issue - depends on your value mind-set
  • Some frame rate issues here and there on stock Xbox One which are not so evident on S and X consoles - unlocking the frame rate helps


Final Fiendish Feelings?

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is something to sit down and get lost in for a rainy afternoon or gloomy Winter’s eve.

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Posted January 20, 2018 by

 
Final Fiendish Feelings?
 
 
T

he Vanishing of Ethan Carter sees you filling the (gum)shoes of detective Paul Prospero and was the first game to come from Polish studio The Astronauts.

Comprising some of the founding talent of developers People Can Fly (Painkiller, BulletStorm, Gears of War: Judgement etc) this 8 strong team hope to beguile us with this gorgeous horror adventure as it makes its debut on the Xbox One.  This is the “Redux” version of the game, having undergone a massive (and free!) overhaul from the Unreal Engine 3 to version 4 that originally was released on the PC.  So this is a port of the PS4 version in essence.

Pretty much off the bat The Vanishing of Ethan Carter lays its cards on the table by stating in black and white that the game will not be holding your hand in any way shape or form. You see the game is unlike most titles you might have experienced in the genre owing more to titles like Dear Esther or Gone Home than a traditional horror adventure title.

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You start in a wooded area with little to no idea of what to do next. Only the briefest of remits from the main character as he talks over the letter he received from young Ethan Carter shortly before his disappearance. As you trudge the forest walk and make your way over the train bridge you honestly can’t help but stop and take a breath or two – the game is truly gorgeous. Not just in the case of effects and horsepower but in the sheer tactile look and feel of the world created around you to explore.  Crank this up a notch even more if you’ve got the new Xbox One X with a 4K HDR TV and it starts to look truly stunning in places – notably in the lighting engine.  Sure, engines and graphics have moved on since the The Vanishing of Ethan Carter first shipped (2015), comparing it to Resident Evil 7 (which I was playing at the same time as this) and it looks comparable and thus still at the top of the pile even so many years after release.

Explore it you shall! As you start to look around Red Creek Valley you immediately notice a few things amiss. Blood stains on the railway track, brief snippets of clues. You slowly start to explore the area, piecing together the events that have led to Ethan’s disappearance, finding out about his family and the events that caused him to write to you in the first place.

The exploration is varied, undirected (for the most part) and utterly compelling. The story is as deep as you make it by your exploration and puzzle solving. These puzzles tend to split between crime scenes where you have to find out what transpired. Or you will have something slightly more fantastical like a house made of shimmering portals that lead to other rooms or chasing what appears to be a spaceman through a forest.

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The puzzle solving portions take a unique turn with Prospero’s hidden talents for crime scene analysis. Using his skills you can see through small rifts where important objects you need to solve a crime scene are located. It then becomes a treasure hunt to locate these items nd the more of these items you locate the more of the shimmering scene will be revealed until you end up full screen and see what took place in flashback form.

As mentioned previously the game truly is mesmerizingly opulent. Such a beautifully realised game environment that it puts many other open world titles to shame – especially when you consider the size of the size of The Astronauts’ team and their indie status.

It’s impossible in many ways to deal with some of the things that makes Ethan Carter such a compelling title without spoiling some of what makes it unique. From the narrative tone, to the uncompromising refusal to show you the easy or obvious way to progress. The team have stuck closely to their vision and the title is all the better for it.

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Final Thoughts

If you’re someone who is looking for a unique narrative experience then this is certainly something for you. If you had a passing appreciation for Dear Esther or Gone Home, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, What Remains of Edith Finch etc then again, this should be something you seek out with all haste.

The game will run you around 4’ish hours and that’s with taking a moderate amount of time to explore. You will no doubt ring a few more hours from it if you want to check every nook and cranny. It’s not particularly challenging as the puzzles are fairly basic but they will be just enough to hold your interest.

The game is a beautiful conundrum with superb story telling layered with some truly gorgeous world creation. As beautiful as the world is it certainly feels lonely – perhaps by design, yet it still makes this feel like a game world, rather than a living breathing environment.  It looks great on a stock Xbox One but utterly gorgeous on an Xbox One X with the right setup.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is something to sit down and get lost in for a rainy afternoon or gloomy Winter’s eve. Wrap yourself up in the narrative and enjoy something a little more than your average adventure title.

The product under review was provided by the creator, manufacturer, publisher or their PR representative free of charge and without caveat. Please see our site review policy for more information.

Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.