In recent years, software developers have emerged who have challenged our definition of what a video game is. These developers have crafted wonderful experiences that don't rely on the typical video game tropes. In narrative-driven adventures such as The Chinese Room's Dear Esther and Fullbright's Gone Home, there are no enemies, no combat, and no real danger to the player. The focus of these games is to tell a great story, rather than to collect trinkets or defeat a boss. With Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, developer The Chinese Room has struck again, creating an engrossing world which they use to tell an engaging story. It took me about 5 hours to make my way through Rapture's narrative, and it was a very profound and memorable experience.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture takes place in the 1980's in a small valley town called Yaughton in the English countryside. The town is completely vacant as a result of some sort of catastrophic event, and it's up to you to unravel the mystery of what happened to its residents by way of exploration and discovery. As you make your way through Yaughton and its surrounding areas, you will interact with objects such as radios and telephones, which reproduce past conversations between characters who are discussing the events that took place. You will also encounter proximity-triggered events that unfold in front of you like scenes in a play — if all of the actors were silhouettes made of swirling light. The story is told in a non-linear fashion, where each new point of narrative you discover adds another piece to the puzzle. The game never holds your hand or tells you where to go, but there is good reason to explore each area thoroughly. You never know where you might find a valuable piece of information that will help to bring the story into focus. Small details like cigarette butts left burning in ashtrays and cars abandoned in the street give you the sense that this town was very recently inhabited.
There are six sections of the game, each focusing on a different character and the struggles that he or she endured leading up to the mysterious event. Each character's story is incredibly emotional and engrossing, which is a testament to the excellent voice talent associated with this game. In a narrative-driven game where you never actually see any of the characters, I was very impressed how well Rapture's voice cast was able to convey the gamut of emotions that these characters experience, from anger and fear to joy and love. I genuinely felt like these were real people who lived in this town; I wanted to know more about them, and I was curious about the fate that had befallen them.
The game's presentation is absolutely gorgeous, from the beautiful visuals and lighting effects to the hauntingly evocative soundtrack. I never noticed any technical issues that might have detracted from the immersion of the world — which is very important for a game of this type.
If you've been reading up on Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, then you've probably heard complaints about the game's movement speed. It's very important for you to know — if you don't already — that there is a way to move faster. If you hold down the R2 trigger, you will be able to increase your movement speed just a little bit. The Internet is calling it a "hidden sprint" button, but it's really more of a "walk slightly faster" button. I can see why the movement speed could be an issue for some people. I personally think it would have been nice if the base walking speed was a little bit quicker, but it wasn't a huge point of contention for me; besides, the story is so engrossing that I hardly noticed.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is a very unique game that tells a somber story leading up to a poignant end. At its core, it's a story about people and their flaws, but it's also about fear of the unknown. Each character has something about him or her that most of us can identify with. You won't walk away from this game with a happy-go-lucky feeling about life, but it does offer an opportunity for introspection. I didn't know what to expect from this game going in, but I ended up completing my entire 5-hour play through in one sitting. Needless to say, I can recommend it to anyone who is in the market for a great story.
- Great story
- Excellent voice acting
- Beautiful visuals and soundtrack
- Movement speed is still a bit slow, even with the "sprint" button