This game is one of those where the less you read about it, the better. Spoiler free review coming up.
The Vashing of Ethan Carter is essentially a free roaming detective game. As Paul Prosper, it is your job to work our exactly where Ethan Carter is or has gone. The story develops slowly and you have to pay attention. If action packed reaction gaming is your thing, then you may want to steer clear.
For those of you who love your engrossing stories, TVoEC will take you on a detailed and immersive journey to understand and explain just what has happened to the abandoned town of Red Creek Valley. Beyond that, I'll leave it up to you to discover.
Utilising paranormal detective skills you are able to look at crime scenes and create a mental picture of what has actually happened - there is little direction and explanation to managing this. There are no tutorials of any description and you are genuinely expected to work things out for yourself. The game doesn't do anything abstract or unpredictable, but for newcomers to videogames this would be a baptism of fire. The whole thing relies on your exploring. The puzzles themselves are well contained. Each one is governed by its own rules, in its own little area. It's almost like giving you a small level to complete which gives enough structure to a very open world.
The freeroaming is a little unnerving at first. Being a bit of a completionist I often wondered if I was missing something, and backtracked quite a bit. I didn't want to get locked out of any areas or pass my important details. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you do not need to be worried. Explore, go crazy, the only time you get locked out of an area is when you have completed everything in it. The game will encourage you to experience everything with it's own mechanics.
I put around 4-5 hours into the game and like a good book, the more you play, the more you need to play. The plot comes together very nicely and the emotional pay off at the end works well. The game resolves itself so you can walk away feeling fulfilled, something that is so often missing from this plot reliant genre.
TVoEC was previously released on PC nearly a year ago. It had fantastic reviews then and things will remain the same for its console release. The game has been transferred to the Unreal 4 engine to create something that is truly beautiful. You will find yourself looking across the river at the incredible scenery. The graphics have improved but they were already very good. Combine the realism with no loading screens & it's easy to see why your belief is so easily suspended.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a wonderful game that everyone should experience. (Again) like a good book, the story will only work to its fullest the first time you play but that doesn't take anything away from just how special it is.
Review by Bradley McManus