Following Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, the sequel to Frictional Games original horror experience, The Chinese Room's third game, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, is finally upon us – this time on PlayStation 4. For those familiar with its previous work, the pace and design of the game will come as no surprise but, for others, we invite you to take a look inside this curious, contemplative game. Note: As usual, the review is spoiler-free guaranteed as we never mention anything about the main plot. Update: Two FPS analysis videos added to understand why the game doesn't always feel smooth.
Rapture the Flag
The first few moments of the game are, quite frankly, unsettling and confusing. Dropped into a small English town with no direction, the player will slowly begin to piece together the tragic fate of the town. Spectral events punctuate the silence regularly pushing players to wander an open world in search of answers. Over time, these light echoes gradually manage to form enough of a narrative foundation for players to follow. Brief dialog sequences give us insight into the world before the end of the world as families, couples, and apparitions appear. This is the core design of the game. Make no mistake, this is a purely narrative driven experience just like Dear Esther before it.
Each area of the village offers the chance to experience the chance to literally follow the ghosts of one of its inhabitants across town in order to discover what ultimately became of them. You spend most of your time playing simply following these balls of energy around the world until you've seen all that there is. At this point night falls on this area and you're guided to the next key event. The game world is fully open ended enabling the player to tackle these events as they please but, even out of order, The Chinese Room manages to keep the story moving forward. Over time the links between each character strengthens and the dark truth of their past is slowly revealed.
At this point in the review, it should be noted that despite a fierce four hour play session, we have yet to actually reach the end. As you can imagine, we enjoy exploring every nook and cranny of the world in search of light echoes and radio snippets. While the world may seem a bit limited at first glance, that is not the case at all – you can become both literally and figuratively lost in this world. Of course, despite the freedom of movement, progression is ultimately quite linear though there is still plenty to find if you enjoy exploration. This is not a fast paced experience and we highly recommended taking your time soaking up the world around you. Some may find this pace to be a bit frustrating but, for us, it only served to invite us deeper.
Another point of contention for this sort of game falls to the lack of interaction. While more open ended, interactivity remains similar to that of Dear Esther. There just isn't a lot for the player to do outside of walking and experiencing the narrative. Sure, there are radios to tune, doors to open, and the occasional gyro puzzle, but the core gameplay is focused entirely on observation and consumption. Yet, thanks to its beautiful CryEngine 3 powered world and haunting soundtrack, the experience remains captivating nonetheless. Captivating is precisely the world we would use to describe Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, in fact. We were mesmerized by the world to the point where it was difficult to put down even at 4am when sleep became a necessity.
If Everybody's Gone to the Rapture does not address the needs of all players, it at least speaks to an undoubtedly large audience eager to dive into another narrative driven experience. Immersion in this world requires one to accept its slow progression where contemplation reigns supreme and gameplay is limited to its most simple expression. Those who choose to embrace this adventure will find an experience well worth the time. With a surprisingly decent length for such a game, we estimate around 5-6 hours provided you fully explore the world, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture may be a bit dull for some players. For others, though, they will be proud to declare: I too have gone to the rapture.
On the plus side
+ Visually excellent
+ Great soundtrack
+ A nice stroll in the English countryside
+ A great experience
+ Good length for the genre
On the down side
- Limited Gameplay
- A slow pace that may disappoint some
- Some technical problems