The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter Review


My first playing session of this game had me going “wow” all the time. The amount of details on everything was astounding – the textures were rich, forests felt alive and colours amazingly vivid. I knew this game was special right from the start, but in what manner – that was still a mystery to me. So I kept playing, astounded by the masterfully crafted world Paul Prospero, the protagonist, found himself in. The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter is a detective story of sorts, but one that’s deeply entwined with eldritch lore established by the likes of Lovecraft in a very intricate way. This is no horror game – not in the traditional sense at least, as you have very little to fear while playing it. Its atmosphere, however, is another thing altogether, and it’s as dread-inducing as it could possibly be. There’s something about the Red Creek valley that inspires wonder and disbelief, but also makes it feel immensely oppressive. I’m not going to try and pinpoint what it is though, as this is a game of wonder and discovery – one of mystery. As such, I’ll do my best to keep it as spoiler-free as I can.


I actually stood there, gawking at the game’s visuals for longer than I care to admit.

True to its first words, The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter does not attempt to hold your hand for the most part. As Prospero enters the Red Creek valley you’re free to do the “quests” on offer as you please, while soaking in the rich environments of this title. It’s a more complete experience than most games I’ve played, as it doesn’t have any difficulty in wholly grabbing my attention and tearing me away from the real world. The game takes the best narrative techniques of this medium and uses them in the best possible ways, with very little effort.

Once you’re through the tunnel, you’re on your own. As Paul Prospero, a mysteriously talented private detective, you’re trying to figure out what happened to Ethan Carter, as he sent a plea for help some time back. The narration is deliberately “dry”, leaving you the pleasure of figuring stuff out. And what better way to figure things out than to go out of your way and explore? Indeed, The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter rewards your exploration with peculiar and interesting tears through reality that add great value to an already amazing experience. Sure, you could always follow the obvious trail of blood and gore, but you can also encounter a… say, an astronaut! No, I will not give you the context of that particular event, but I am going to tell you that it definitely will leave a lasting impression on just about everybody. Some games try really really hard to elicit any emotion at all from the player, but this game does so every step of the way. It amazes you with its vast, loading-less world. It frightens you with strangely disgusting and realistic-looking violence. It makes you want to play, to discover its secrets organically, through gameplay, and it will be damned if it even nudges you towards any of its numerous points of interest. That is, until the very end. As you finally piece this puzzle together, after only a couple of hours of gameplay, you’ll be facing the game’s finale. While it certainly is powerful and meaningful, it’s also strangely limited. In the way that the game actually sends you back all across the game world to finish an odd side-quest or two if you haven’t already. You’re forced to complete all the relevant stuff, and I felt that this particular part of the game doesn’t fit well with the rest of the experience. Nevertheless, this flaw is easily overlooked if you don’t mind spending more time with The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter – which shouldn’t be much of a problem at all!


Severed legs. And a trail of blood to go with them. The problem is that it looks pretty damn realistic in-game.

The only other gripe I have with this game is the strange progress saving mechanic. Since it’s quasi-non-linear, it’s a bit difficult to keep track of where and when was the last save. I lost a fair chunk of progress due to not being able to save manually, and I’m not alone with this issue. Perhaps adding a relatively simple manual saving option could alleviate this semi-problem with the game.

It’s not hard to see that this is a very, very beautiful game. Running on the oldie but goldie Unreal Engine 3, The Astronauts got this engine as far as they possibly could. The textures are of amazing quality, sure, but they are just a small fraction of this title’s astounding visual presentation. Post-processing is extremely important for setting any game’s mood and keeping it visually unique, but it comes off artificial in one way or another, in most cases. As much as I loved Human Revolution’s golden filter, it wasn’t realistic nor viable, but it added to the game’s atmospheric overlay. This game’s postprocessing, however, is nigh-perfect. It makes the world seem vibrant and alive, without being overbearing or filled with unrealistically moving things. Forests feel like actual forests, as branches sway on the wind. I actually felt the need to crouch below a tree branch playing this game, and that’s telling something. The music is also a great addition to an already brilliant atmosphere, furthering the sense that something’s off in Red Creek. You may actually find yourself trying to secure music files for your phone, should this aspect of the game really click with you.

I’ve tried to keep this feature as spoiler-free as I could, because I felt that in the short couple of hours that make up the bulk of The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter’s gameplay, nothing is to be taken lightly. Every single detail counts and the game has to be played in full for the player to truly immerse himself and understand what’s what. This is a game of mystery, discovery and also emotion, and with but a couple of splotches on what is an awesome piece of software, I can recommend it to everyone who has any interest at all in what games can pull off when it comes to storytelling.