Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PS4)

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Title: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Format: PlayStation Network Download (9.7 GB)
Release Date: July 15, 2015
Publisher: The Astronauts
Developer: The Astronauts
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: M
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter tells the story of a paranormal investigator responding to a fan letter written by a child named Ethan Carter. The letter draws the investigator to Ethan’s hometown where he finds the small town abandoned. In search of Ethan Carter and the mystery of what happened to the town, the investigator finds it’s filled with death and something bigger and darker.

This is an adventure mystery game that is focused on telling a story so that quick tease is all I am comfortable saying in order to avoid spoilers. The game is filled with some brilliant and sometimes confusing turns that I would not want to spoil for anyone.

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Ethan Carter is best described as an adventure game in a 3D world. You play as an investigator who has some kind of supernatural ability to recreate crime scenes and see things others are not able to see. You walk around the beautiful environments finding clues and putting them together to progress the story or recreate gruesome murders.

… it is possible to miss some small stuff …
When you come across an important object, text will float around the object and important information will float with it. When this happens, moving the camera around will bring the text along until it focuses on a direction you should head to for more clues or information. Controls are simple with only a run button, a crouch button, and an interact button.

The investigator will come across crime scenes from time to time and when this happens you will have to gather clues and attempt to put them in a place to help recreate the murder. When successful, a portal will appear and open up to play out the crime and you will have to make sure the key events are in the right order to progress in the story.

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One thing that becomes very clear is that the game will not help you at all. There is no hint system and the game does not explain anything to you about how the mechanics work. You are left alone to figure things out for yourself. This might turn some people off and I found it sometimes frustrating as I walked circles around crime scene hoping to trigger something or come across a missed clue. I respect that choice by the developers, but others may find themselves frustrated.

Due to the game’s lack of direction I reached the end only to find out that I completely missed something at the very beginning of the game and had to go back to do some arbitrary task. This was frustrating, but it appears the developers knew this would be a problem and the game finds a clever way to teleport you to areas of the game for cleanup purposes. So despite the game’s clear linear narrative it is possible to miss some small stuff leaving you to backtrack in order to see the ending of the game.

… the game looks stunning …
Visuals:
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is now running on the Unreal Engine 4 and the game looks stunning. It takes place in a beautiful forest with impressive landscapes enhanced by the powerful engine. The environment is so beautiful you will want to explore as much as you can and this is where the linear story tells you that you cannot. You will often find an invisible wall stopping you from going too far off path.

Even when the game presents you with the occasional fork in the road you will find that only one path can be taken. This is not a huge problem because the developers were not trying to make that type of game, but it can be a let down due to how amazing everything looks and how much you’ll want to wander around in it.

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Audio:
When it comes to the sound design it is your standard fare for the setting. You are surrounded by nature and you are by yourself so there is not a lot of background noise or much happening around you.

… leaves you to figure things out for yourself …
As for the voice acting the performances are well done. There are a fair amount of monologues and narration from our protagonist that give it a good old fashion detective vibe. The whole cast in general gives some solid to great voice acting and they all combine for a compelling narrative.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online components.

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Conclusion:
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a compelling story inside a standard adventure mystery game. It does not want to hold your hand during the journey and leaves you to figure things out for yourself which is a double edged sword sometimes.

Most of my time spent with the game was enjoyable despite its lack of direction outside of the invisible walls keeping you on track. The linear progression the game sets itself on can be a turn off for some and it was occasionally annoying hitting so many invisible walls, but it is hard to fault a game for being something it was not trying to be.

If you are looking for a solid supernatural mystery game with an interesting story then The Vanishing of Ethan Carter fits the bill and is a worthwhile game.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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