Review: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4)

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Title: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Format: PlayStation Network Download (5.7 GB)
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica Studio
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: M
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
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

First, choose your language. Read the intriguing caveats. Also decide if you want subtitles. I always choose subtitles just in case but for a story game like this they could be crucial. Be prepared for any emergency.

Gameplay:
The control scheme is very simple. Left stick is movement, Right stick is camera, X is interact. There are moments when the gaming mechanic is to tilt the controller in order to focus on an event. Taking control happens immediately after the title card evaporates and the gorgeous pen and ink depiction of your locale gradually becomes real.

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One is led through the story by a floating, seemingly ethereal light I shall call “The Guide”. The game remains open world to an impressive degree. If one deviates from the path of The Guide it will either stay in visual contact, auditory contact, or it may even join you if you’ve happened upon an actual side story. This adds replayability as well as a richer story element.

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Part of the genius of this game is the manner in which the developers have created an environment which makes the gamer crave more exploration. I think it’s the human impulse of what we in the U.S. on the roads in cars call “rubbernecking”. You see an accident or evidence of some catastrophe and curiosity grabs hold. You just have to look whether presented with an open and abandoned house, or pub, or with a wrecked truck, or derailed train. In Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, the entire environment acts like one big multi-faceted car crash on I-65 between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Just a lot prettier. And not in Indiana.

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The developers seem to be using a very clever technique whereby the next area you’re approaching loads almost seamlessly in the background and just seems to be there all the while. This more than makes-up for the initial loading time when you start the game. You may notice a minuscule hitch as you go but the alternative would have been game killing, while this feels more like stepping over a pebble in the road.

It’s also important to note that after the first little bit of the game when there appears a prompt to hit X to engage objects, that prompt disappears and it’s up to the player to hit X to interact if they think it might apply. The point is to move through the environment as unfettered and as uninterrupted as possible. As genuinely as possible! In real life you don’t see an X when you encounter a gate or a phone box. Neither will you here.

The voice of an American armed forces member, Kate, tells you by emergency radio signal that there has been an “event” and that the answers are out there… somewhere.

… some fascinating storytelling …
Suffice to say, the government has become involved due to the “event” which has apparently caused a breakdown in society to some level. Also there’s a code which keeps repeating over the radio which makes me want to grab a pen and paper. Will it make play easier if I do that? I don’t know. And when I find out, I won’t be telling. As the computer in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory says to the computer operator, “That would be cheating!” You may relax. My Wonka metaphors dry up exactly here.

Anomalies in the environment allow for some fascinating storytelling.

These early moments act as tutorial without being obtrusive like tutorials often are. The developers at The Chinese Room are teaching us how to play without saying a word about how to play. The surround sound attracts the player to a mechanic. The player then interacts according to instinct and past gaming experience.

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As I am often Devil’s Advocate and as I have deaf friends and know of deaf gamers, I wonder how this approach affects players who may be differently abled. So far I see no impediment because as gamers, deaf or not, we know just where to go as the game begins. The clues to the story element were utterly visual.

Suddenly there’s another character. He moves about quite quickly while we cannot, but guides us to more story. There’s a phone box. A quick overheard call and oh my!

What is going on?!

I have a feeling that The Chinese Room is staffed entirely by artistic, storytelling, gaming savants. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing a videogame version of The Vicar of Dibley, the After Years! And He’s not happy that Geraldine Granger kissed her photo of Mel Gibson as often as she kissed her picture of Him!

… gorgeous qualities and delicious animations …
Best graffito so far, “Dereck, you massive dickhead wanker”. Of course, the information of the flyer adjacent is more important. Just less colourful.

The developers have made it very clear that no mention of plot specifics are to be made in reviews. I can tell you that there very much is a plot. You find it as you go about the environment.

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is less a traditional video game and more of a story-finding adventure experienced through electronic media. You’re there to ascertain what has happened. You have nothing to do with the story but your identity may be revealed in time. If you think it is.

Visuals:
The lighting is wonderful as the clouds partially occlude the sun from time to time bringing home the rural feel of the environment. Even the laundry drying on the line has gorgeous qualities and delicious animations. There are wonderful water effects. The breeze affects shadows cast by the sun from one surface to another even when you’re looking out a hind window and the action is in another direction. The world, ironically, is always alive.

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Audio:
There are radios littered about the environment which broadcast… stuff. The sound does not come from the controller which may be a missed opportunity for more immersion. Then again, the design choice isn’t upsetting. It may simply be a choice made because others have made the choice to use that speaker and sometimes it’s more difficult to understand the speech. Whatever their reasoning, The developers made the choice and so far they haven’t missed a single step.

There is the most perfectly performed choral music, both secular and spiritual, which accompanies the various aspects, elements, and environments. Sometimes the lyrics being sung are taken directly from words you’ve just heard spoken. Don’t get the wrong idea, this isn’t a musical in any sense. The score for Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture is available now for purchase online.

The ambient sounds of the breeze in such a lonesome atmosphere can be unnerving. One keeps wondering if the rustling might be something other than wind, if not now will it ever be? Videogames and filmed media have really conditioned us humans to expect a threat. Is there a threat?

… Onions don’t produce pearls! …
The surround sound ambient chirps of insects and birds combined with the breeze may make one look around the house, dorm room, or squat to check how these errant intruders came to be in the house, dorm room, or squat. As was the advert in the 80’s for a type of audio cassette tape, “Is it real, or is it Memorex” (Not an advertisement by PS Nation nor anyone else in the 21st century). I assure you, it’s the game. You’re soaking in it. (Also not an advertisement for Palmolive dishwashing liquid. Madge died long ago.)

Speaking of actors, these are the best voice over performances I have even encountered in a game. They all lend truth and urgency and some will pull at your heartstrings just by the timbre of their voice. The director of voice over performance did a brilliant job as well.

 

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

Conclusion:
I would sometimes realize that my mouth was hanging open in surprise but the surprise was never jarring. It was as if, while peeling an onion, you might find a pearl! How is that possible?! Onions don’t produce pearls! This one does. And not did just my mouth hang open but I began to weep without crying and without truly understanding why.

There has never been gaming entertainment like this. It connects the deepest emotions with the highest emotions. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is miraculous. It is Rapturous.

Score:
10

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

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Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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  • Can’t wait to play when it unlocks tonight!

  • datdude

    I enjoyed The Order. It was short, but it was cinematic and the gunplay and sound were superb. I played through The Order twice, enjoyed the story, and was done with it…it satisfied me. I’ll probably enjoy Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture as well….and it’s getting good reviews from other websites as well, a few “perfect” scores, but I think it’s averaging about an 8 out of 10, so a good game apparently.

  • David Freeman

    Solid review Keith, buying this now, thanks mate 🙂

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