Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – a mouthful of a name for a convoluted game. The PS4-exclusive is not the easiest game to talk about or review to someone who hasn’t played it, as a true explanation of the gameplay is rather dull, and the story is difficult to get your head round even after playing it, let alone before.
However, EGTTR (as I will refer to it from now on, as just ‘Rapture’ is already taken) is not a bad game, if I can call it that. Set in the rural heart of 1980’s Shropshire, in the fictional village of Yaughton where all the inhabitants are nowhere to be seen. Intrigue is the emotion in which the game hangs, as even the player is unaware of who or what they are controlling. Viewed through first-person, the speechless protagonist wanders slowly (more on this later) through the streets and fields of this quaint pocket of England, attempting to piece together where everyone has indeed got to.
Yaughton is a truly wonderful setting. This may be a biased view on my part, as there are many villages within a 10-mile radius of my house that look exactly like this one, but most would be hard-pressed to disagree that it’s a beautiful place. A couple of white-bricked pubs, a small post-office, fields to play football, little ponds with picturesque bridges, a homely chapel; it’s got the lot. The road signs, lamp-posts, building decor and so on are incredibly authentic, so just stopping and looking at the screen is a lovely sight to behold in a video game compared to the warzones, metropolises and fantasy worlds we normally see today.
The score is as equally touching. Originally composed using a live orchestra along with occasional vocals for the most heartfelt/meaningful moments, the music compliments the serenity of Yaughton. There are times when the player may have an extended walk, or lack of speech or action so the music is a welcome distraction, and a fantastic background accompaniment. Occasionally it may overstep the mark and become a bit too dramatic, making you feel like you are traversing Skyrim as opposed to the deserted West-Midlands countryside, but that is probably a bit too harsh.
The main story-line is of course based on discovering the reason behind the disappearances of the whole town, but there are also multiple mini-plots involving the residents themselves. The amount you learn about the inhabitants is down to how much interest the player holds in searching every area, which can be extremely tested at certain points. Uniquely though, the developers, The Chinese Room, create a brilliant backstory to so many characters without us ever actually seeing them. The only ‘being’ in the game is that of a floating yellow light that scurries around the village, in essence showing you where to go. At certain points, either automatically or by a twist of the PS4 controller, the light will create shapes in the forms of humans, and we hear the interactions between them.
Considering we only hear their voices and a yellow amalgamation of their bodies you can, surprisingly, really become invested in their stories and how they all interlock. Affairs, grievances, and broken friendships are revealed and are generally interesting, which in a town that in reality has no faces to look at, is a real credit to the writers. The events we see do not follow a chronological order, which I didn’t realise at first. Some are set the day before the disappearance, others are months or maybe years in advance, but there is no telling unless you really delve into the stories yourself.
Yaughton feels alive, while at the same time lifeless. Which side of this divide you sit on is a personal choice. For many, especially non-British players, the village could seem pretty boring. Given the fact that there are no puzzles and no ‘game mechanics’, EGTTR has been branded a “walking simulator” by many. A barely interactive adventure where you play a ‘fly on the wall’ more than anything to the lives of people you know aren’t there anymore and weren’t that interesting to begin with.
The largest grievance of mine and seemingly many others is the pacing, in every sense of the word. I finished the game over two separate sittings of around three hours each. Of the six ‘chapters’ I completed two in the first sitting, and four in the second, with the difference being the discovery of the ‘run’ button. An unbelievable oversight by the developers that I would not have discovered if I hadn’t looked it up between the sessions. ‘Run’ is mapped to R2, but you must hold it for a good few seconds to generate speed before noticing the change of pace. I, like may others, tried every button initially but concluded there was no such mechanic. There is nothing in the ‘controls’ section of the menu about it (all that contains is the normal ‘move’, ‘look’ and ‘interact’ buttons).
Even when running, it’s not that much quicker anyway. Probably about as fast as I’d walk swiftly in real life. Normal walking in the game is horrendously slow. It makes the world seem much bigger than it actually is, and at points during the first session I was considering the cardinal gaming sin of bee-lining for the endgame. Together with the lack of map system (other than the maps in-game that say ‘You are here’ like you would find in a shopping centre), you will often end up backtracking, getting lost or revisiting places you’ve already been to. At this point you have to trudge back through the fields or roads to witness the once-beautiful scenery becoming increasingly monotonous and puts a damper on the rest of the adventure ahead of you.
I’ve purposely not mentioned any names, events or reasons for the disappearances, as EGTTR is all about the story. There is nothing else. My overall opinion of the game changes every hour, yet I would struggle to recommend the game to anyone who isn’t a fan of the ‘games as art’ movement. The setting and score are wonderful, the story is good if inevitably ambiguous, but I would be hard-pressed to even call this a video game. It seems like a growing trend nowadays, but some sort of player-involvement in a game so obviously well manufactured is surely a-given.