Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Please stare at the screenshot above. Yes, that is not a painting but an actual screenshot downsampling from a 4K image inside the game. What emotions does it invoke? Warmth? Sadness? Mystery? Danger? Suspense? If you aren't quick sure what to make of it, welcome to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. October is barely upon us and already we have been showered with a stream of quality games but I believe that Ethan really sets the bar for being the most non-cookie-cutter game so far. Don't get me wrong, the production values are out of this world but the fact where there is little to no intro, instruction, tutorial, or hand holding is rare in 2014. I absolute feel head over heels immediately and instead of describe the dense atmosphere of the games and all its mechanics, one should explore themselves. I will say that it is a near perfect balance of exploration, story, and guessing where you'll end up next. For us, it was a sheer pleasure to play through.
Graphics and Sound
Look at those screenshots.. Just look at 'em! To truly appreciate the game, check out our 1440p screenshots and video below if you need more proof of the technical and artistic marvel that this title really is. I have always respected the artists behind the team of The Astronauts but this pushes the Unreal 3 engine to completely new heights for me. Not only does it perform well but you can see the talent that is constantly on display. Leaves rustle in the wind, fog covers blood smeared train tracks, and special effects that I won't spoil spark and dazzle, lighting up the screen to amazing new highs. I can't wait to show this game off more to colleagues but I think I need a bigger hard drive as mine is full of screenshots of Ethan Carter.
The audio portion of the game matches the incredible visuals. While walking through a dark forested area in the game, I had my headphones cranked, I was taking a nice stroll listening to the fantastic soundtrack and SMACK! a trap was tripped. It nearly had to change my shorts and that was the last time that happened. The game constantly shifts from somber, to calm, to tense, or to explosive with no warning. Either way, the sound effects, ambient atmosphere, voice acting and musical score are all top notch. I dare you to crank it in a dark room late at night...
Look, I am a total sucker for eye and ear candy all day long but if I game is no fun, it's just an expensive tech demo. While this title may not invoke "fun" at first glance, it transported to a time similar to playing Myst for the first time when everything just clicks into an immersive, exploratory adventure with little to no instruction from the creators of the game. Without spoiling the game, let's just say that going into it completely unaware of plot, locations, or characters is half the fun. If you are looking for something that is an absolutely joy to experience and explore at a fair price, you can't go wrong with Ethan Carter..
Do you want a game that holds your hand, walks you through tutorials, and explains where you should head next? If so, Ethan Carter is not the game for you. If you want something that consistently amazes you, shocks you, delights you, and scares you at the same time, this is your cup o' tea. Not only does the game amaze with its gorgeous visuals and sumptious sounds, it does it at a fair price bucking the trend of some overpriced "tech demos" that masquerade as games. I haven't been so immersed in a game world and exploring it since well, I don't even remember.
4.5/5 Stars - Digital Hippos Highly Recommended