Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture PS4 Review
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica Studio Genre: Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
I would say that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture blurs the line between an interactive game and an interactive experience, one in which it is difficult to work out whether its simple concept is clever or lazy.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is as basic a game as you will get, one that you couldn’t even really call a ‘game’, but rather an interactive story. Often pitted as a walking simulator, every person has mysteriously disappeared and you basically stroll around a lovely English countryside, trying to find glowing orange orbs that reveal a memory by morphing into the shape of the people that were in that particular place – the people in that scene represented by an orange glowing, swirling shape – and with each snippet of story revealing what happened leading up to the ‘rapture’. You are able turn radios, TV’s and phones on and off, and can interact with some doors and gates to go through them; and you will also have some control over the orange orbs at times to unlock a scene to watch, using the controllers motion sensor (something which does feel rather unnecessary and tacked on just to add more interactivity), but that is the most interaction the game offers you.
It is a game that teeters on that fine line between style over substance or vice versa, and EBGTTR certainly boasts some beautiful graphics, bringing the quintessentially British countryside of Shropshire alive. The colours can only be described as crisp and sharp, almost photorealistic, and the sound is also put to good use, with the tweeting of birds, the hawking of distant crows and the buzz of insects giving the environment some sense of living, even though the countryside is devoid of any human activity. At certain points the environment will also change to reflect what the atmosphere was like at a particular point in time, whether it was raining or sunny, dusk or dawn, and slowly the sounds of the countryside will also fade as the ‘event’ is shown to take a stronger hold over the Shropshire village.
In real life, many people wish that others would disappear so they could live on the earth alone and this game gives us an insight into what that experience would be like, if people were to suddenly disappear out of the blue. EBGTTR excellently creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, and the story does have you wondering what has happened.
That said, I must admit that I was bored, and this is where people are divided. Some people will find EBGTTR a great experience, being able to go at their own pace and viewing the hauntingly sedate environment and its detail with awe, with their reward being more of the story that they find, whilst, like me, others will become tired of roaming around, seeing the same old scenery and not being able to do much else. It isn’t helped by the fact that you move at a snail’s pace and with no option to run, some claim this was a lazy and intentional way to give the game more longevity: it is around 5 hours to complete.
Yet it must be said, I do think EBGTTR is clever in its minimalistic approach, stripping back the game to almost barebones and making it a stark contrast to other games, where we have come to expect a lot of them. In a day and age where games have so much to offer that some believe there is too much, causing game fatigue, EBGTTR does offer a much different and slower experience, one that allows you to enjoy the effort that has been made of both the story and its graphics, instead of bombarding you with mission objectives and collectables that only serve to overshadow the story and environment, and challenges your expectations. It can be said that EBGTTR is a game that is trying to make you fall in love with gaming again, allowing you to absorb what is onscreen as opposed to just dashing about, focusing on objectives and collectables and ignoring everything else, and trying to give you a renewed sense of appreciation for the medium as a whole. So I can certainly appreciate EBGTTR for what it is and what it could be trying to do; it certainly got people talking, with everybody having their own interpretation.
Yet, after playing through for a while, I was still bored – there is only so much quiet awe and slow pacing that you can take before it becomes tedious and repetitive and the story on its own can only offer so much. I also found that, as the story is so broken up, I felt I could miss something integral to the plot, such as a scene or a radio that gives you more information, and so felt like I wouldn’t experience what the game has to offer fully, especially on a first run. Sure, I could replay the game, but there really isn’t much to go back for upon completion. The story is also so broken up and marred by long sections where you can go without seeing any story at all that I found it pulled me out of the experience and I gradually became disinterested with what was happening.
I also take issue with the fact that one of the major characters is American. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Americans, but the game is, as described earlier, quintessentially British and having an American character felt unnecessary; it felt like the developers were pandering to American audiences just to get more sales, as though American players won’t take to the game unless there is something they can connect to. It also doesn’t help that the character, Katherine Collins, is completely unlikable, only interested in her own selfish scientific pursuits and continuing her work on what has happened, even though she knows that what she is doing is causing all of the mayhem and yet giving very little thought to the human life around her. This can be seen as an exploration of a person’s psyche; Katherine is very much an outcast, being an American and of colour back in the 1980’s, and she doesn’t feel very accepted within the English community. The game could be exploring how obsessed a person can become with something they discover and don’t truly understand, and yet feel like they are connected to, enhanced by the fact that they also feel so lonely, and so feel they have to understand it at all costs, as though it is their true calling.
The story has you following five main characters during the lead-up to an event in which people start to mysteriously disappear, with Katherine being one of the aforementioned main characters, and the other being Stephen Appleton, her husband. Katherine is an astrophysicist and upon the discovery of a strange signal, she locks herself away in her observatory to investigate what this signal is and unleashes something quite sinister into the world. Stephen, on the other hand, heads out into the community to follow the signal to get an idea of what it is doing. Again, there is more contrast, with one character being isolated and the other having lots of interaction with the people in the village. The story largely focuses on the relationships between each character, exploring their personalities and how they try to help each other throughout this event, again, contrasting Katherine and her isolation against the unity of the people in the village. Each character feels like a real person, with excellent voice acting bringing them to life.
The story is very much the driving point of the game and has many topical undertones which can be interpreted many different ways, giving the game much room for discussion about what it all means. I ended up watching the game being played as opposed to playing it and it did improve the experience having someone else to discuss certain points with.
The theme of the game does seem to be about contrasts, with isolation and loneliness versus lots of interaction, hence the limited interactivity in the game. Some parts do feel lazy and tacked on, giving me the sense that there is some interactivity that the developers would have rather left out. The game deserves a lot of respect for having such an open-ended story though, probably one of the most in-depth stories to ever feature in a game.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is certainly a game that has people divided by opinion, though for the most part it seemed to do very well, with many positive reviews. For such a simple game it has much, much, much depth, and this should be praised as there are only very few games that can have such a basic concept and yet can be talked about for hours and hours. But with only very minimal interactivity, some players may be put off. And for all its worth, a run button would also have been very much welcome.