The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review – A Beautifully Unassisted Adventure

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The first person mystery game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has made it’s way from the PC to the PS4. Is the game worth your time, or should you just let the game vanish along with Ethan?

Read our review to find out.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a game focused on exploration and discovery with little guidance or assists. Before playing, we would strongly recommend reading the prequel comic that is available online.

Click for the full prequel comic

Click for the full prequel comic

You play the game as Paul Prospero, an occult-minded detective who receives a disturbing letter from Ethan Carter. Realizing the boy is in grave danger, Paul arrives at Ethan’s home of Red Creek Valley, where things turn out to be even worse than he imagined. Ethan has vanished in the wake of a brutal murder, which Paul quickly discerns might not be the only local murder worth looking into. With the comic tie-in, and after playing all the way to completion of the game, the story is well written and thought out. It can be confusing at times, but that really adds to the mystery of the game.

The game is played in first-person and has no real tutorial or level to really teach you how to play. You’ll have to look around for items of interest and/or dead bodies and interact accordingly once found. The game is designed so that you’ll need to explore most of the areas just to finish the story and that’s not a bad thing. On a related note, don’t worry about missing any puzzles as once you complete the story line, you’ll be shown a map that allows you to fast travel to the different puzzles in the game.

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Our guy Paul has the ability to see the past, and by using items found in an area, he can discern a chain of events that led to the death of someone. The puzzles generally have two parts. One is discovering all of the pieces of the puzzle and the other is figuring out the chronological order of the chain of events that the clues have given you. Items and places of interest aren’t always out in the open glowing and waiting for you to interact. You’ll have to pay close attention to your environment so as not to miss anything or you may find yourself wandering aimlessly in search of one last clue.

Once you have all of the clues, you can then walk up to the murdered corpse and Touch it in order to start the next part of the puzzle. If you don’t have all of the clues yet, a circle will start to form around the body but will never encompass the screen. The more clues you have, the bigger the circle will get, so at least you’ll know if you are close to finding everything. The puzzles aren’t exactly mind boggling, but can be time consuming if you are missing one last clue or have something slightly out of place.

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Developer The Astronauts used the Unreal 4 game engine for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and the finished project is gorgeous. The world of Red Creek Valley, which was created with the use of revolutionary photogrammetry technology that allows for nearly photo-realistic environments, look as real as anything seen in a video game. From the pine needles on the trees to the leaves of the ferns in the woods, everything is alive and vibrant. Screenshots and videos can’t do the game justice when playing on a big screen HDTV. The level of detail, the minute animations, the way the trees and branches sway in the breeze, all add to the overall vision of beauty that the game is.

The sights and sounds of the game are impressive as well. The score of the game  is steady and relaxing, with a few ups and downs that follow the action of the game well. There is no combat involved, and only a few scenes that may startle you, so the score fits nicely with what the developer was trying to do. The music stays in the background so you can focus on the tasks at hand, and that’s a good thing.

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Time of completion for the game will vary from gamer to gamer, but most will probably finish in a couple hours. For completionists out there, getting 100% of all achievements will probably add another hour or so, but still it’s a fairly short game for a price tag of $19.99 on the US PSN and $19.99/£14.99 on Steam. We would be interested to see if the developer can carry this series into a sequel or maybe throw out some free DLC to add to the playing time. Paul Prospero seems like an interesting fella and we would love to find out more about him and/or do more work with him.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a fun and interesting game that takes video game graphics to a whole new level. While the story is short, the unassisted game play will add to your game time as you figure out what needs to be done in this beautiful world.