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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PS4) review

On August 11, 2015 by Ash Meehan

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, developed by The Astronauts, is my first experience into the world of narrative driven games. Before going into the game I was curious as to what it had in store, and by the time I finished the game and put down the controller I had felt enlightened, but also slightly disappointed.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’s story takes place in a small mining town called Red Creek Valley, Pennsylvania, with the player taking on the role of Paul Prospero, a paranormal investigator with supernatural powers. The reason why this investigator is visiting this town is because of several strange letters sent by 12-year old Ethan Carter, who informed Prospero of various unusual events happening in the town. To discover what’s happening in the town, you must locate and recreate various unusual scenes located around the town.

The scene recreation is the game’s core component as the scenes you must unravel and recreate help move the game’s story along. As story telling devices go it is definitely an interesting approach, and one that I hadn’t experienced before. From my perspective it is an enriching experience as you feel more involved with the story as you have to piece all the scenes together to get a full picture of what’s happening, and while the picture is easy to decipher early on the ending still feels rewarding.

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Now I did say the approach also left me slightly disappointed, well the disappointment came from how you solve the scenes. As a person who isn’t great at games with a heavy emphasis on puzzles, I found myself getting lost several times. A lot of the scenes require you to have a keen eye as a simple mistake or missed item could lead you to not being able to complete a scene, for example in the game’s second scene I missed one clue and as such I couldn’t complete the scene and I was forced to seek advice from a walkthrough. Personally, I would have loved to have seen the game have some form of tutorial to help ease you into the experience as I only found several key aspects such as how putting the spinning words together allowed you to locate a clue by accident.

While recreating scenes is the heart of the game, it is unfortunate that there isn’t anything else to do. While I do believe that focusing on the scene recreation as a story telling device is great, I would have loved to have seen some additional side activities such as collectibles.

While The Vanishing of Ethan Carter could have some additional side activities, the game’s options menu is certainly not lacking as the menu offers some surprising features. These features include having five separate volume sliders, a field of view (FOV) slider that allows you to set your field of view from 75 up to 95, and finally the menu allows you to lock and unlock your framerate, with a locked framerate set at 30fps.

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Graphically, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a lovely game that makes full use of the Unreal Engine 4 (the original PC release used the Unreal Engine 3). The game demonstrates some great texture and model work with them both looking beautiful up close and at a distance.

Finally, let’s talk about some of the game’s issues. One issue with the game is the fact it is extremely linear despite the fact the game is mostly open world. In my opinion, this open world design hurts the game as there are no rewards for exploring despite the fact game tells you can explore.

An additional issue is the game’s saving functionality. The game only has one save file and you cannot choose when to save, you are left to rely on the game’s auto-save, and the auto-save prompt can be difficult to see as it is a small collection of white dots in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

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Conclusion

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter takes a unique approach to storytelling, with players having to re-create the plot by solving and recreating various scenes. While there are some limitations, the game is worth the €18.99 price tag.

SCORE: 8/10

Pros/Cons

+ Unique approach to storytelling
+ Stunning graphics

+/- Puzzles are challenging, however if you aren’t good at puzzle games you will struggle with this game

– Nothing to do apart from recreating scenes
– No reason to explore the world
– The game only has auto-save
– No tutorial

Developer Publisher Genre Rating Platform Release date
The Astronauts The Astronauts Adventure 18+ PS4, PC September 25, 2014 (PC)
July 15, 2015 (PS4)

*A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.*

For more information on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, visit http://ethancartergame.com/.

Author: Ash Meehan

Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.


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