Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture on PlayStation 4
Story is a lost art to some. With the advent of games like Evolve and Destiny, many have come to believe that for a console game to have any hope of being something more than just a flash in the pan it needs action, noise, and more action. A game that does nothing more than deliver a story with minimal interaction has no chance of offering deep, long lasting experiences that transcend the medium and bring us a new refreshing view on this medium of ours. And, if it’s going to do little more than provide a story, it damn well better scare us all out of our wits.
But, there have been games in recent years that have proven that this isn’t true. Fullbright’s Gone Home made many question the very definition of a video game with its focus on exploration and discovery rather than non-stop action. The Chinese Room, the very creators of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, brought us Dear Esther and its heart wrenching story of love and loss. The studio looks to capture that very essence on a larger scale while also providing players a much larger role in their latest release.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture takes players through the tales of six individuals connected by both their pasts and their future fate. A game about discovery and understanding, the player is tasked with finding memories and events that they can trigger to uncover more of the story and lead these individuals to their conclusions.
The way in which The Chinese Room conveys the story of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is truly impressive. There is no mysterious narrator constantly feeding you updates via some disjointed voice, no writing on the wall, and nothing to read. Instead, each of the six characters in the game use their lights to lead you through the beautiful valley village towards the locations of their memories.
These memories provide intimate glimpses into the lives of the six as they show their confusion and frustrations of dealing with loss and solitude. Father Jeremy, the first light you’ll come across, shares his memories of trying to help others cope. Dig a bit more and you’ll see the contempt that villagers have for this holy leader for actions in his past. Through the act of just viewing his memories, you can feel his heartache and struggles as he tries to move forward in a world that seems to be fighting desperately to end.
Then there is Stephen Appleton and his web of anger and deceit. He is a genius, yes, but one who has done plenty of wrong on the road leading to an end that nobody can comprehend. He is also one of the only two people who has any inkling of what is really going on. Needless to say, his memories and feelings on the situation are vastly different from those of Father Jeremy, yet they are no less intimate and engaging.
That is one of the most beautiful things about Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Each one of the stories is extremely different from the others, yet they all provide that same gravity to the situation. Whether it’s through confusion, anger, fear, epiphany, or loneliness, every character feels real and feels right. No one’s method of dealing with the changes happening in their world feels out of place, even it may seem like some are better at it than others, there is an undeniable human element to the whole affair.
There is a lot more than following light around the quaint English village that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture places you in. Radios, televisions, and phones provide more background to those willing to search the homes and establishments that make up the village a bit more diligently. Calls to family and friends that will never be picked up, radio transmissions that follow the progress of the light that is causing the troubles within the village, and mysterious codes that are indecipherable to most.
Everything in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture lends itself to the picture at large to create an immersive experience that isn’t reliant on extra information in the form of arrows or status bars. The world is beautiful and has a natural flow to it that serves as a point of guidance for the player on top of the light of whichever of the six you happen to be following.
There is also the wonderful music that punctuates discovery and perfectly sets the mood for whatever memory you’re up to. Beautiful vocals over a melodic symphony provide a sense of amazement, then the heavier tones give the feeling of a creeping darkness.
That being said, the game moves very slowly. The unnamed, faceless individual the player controls moves at a snail’s pace down roads and into empty homes. Holding down “R2” does allow you to add a spring to your step, but I use that term very loosely. Even with the speed boost, you still move incredibly slow. This may not seem like too much of an issue (after all, the world is beautiful to look at) but if you happen to get lost and need to make your way back, it can be disheartening.
Yet, even with the speed issues plaguing the game, it is definitely an experience worth walking through. The mystery surrounding the disappearances, and the hearts pulled into the gripping narrative are well-thought-out and beautiful, in an eerie way. This is a world that has seen an unfathomable change and walking through this empty world that still has elements of life lingering around is a unique experience that I doubt you will get anywhere else this year.