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REVIEW / The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC)

 

October is always a month that I look forward to because it is the month of spooks, goblins and supernatural murder mysteries. Well, at least for me it is. I love to break out the scary movies and games and revel in being scared. While we have recently been blessed with a myriad of great horror games, there is one that definitely should be on your list if you enjoy October as much as I do. Nordic Game’s The Vanishing of Ethan Carter brings together all of the elements needed for a great scare in beautiful high definition visuals and sound.

You take on the role of an occult detective, Paul Prospero. After being contacted by a young boy in need of your supernatural services, the titular Ethan Carter, you determine he is in grave danger and may need your help. After arriving at Red Creek Valley, Ethan’s home town, you quickly realize that things have already gone from bad to worse. Ethan is nowhere to be found and after discovering a grisly murder, you sets out to find him. Using your finely honed detective skills and his supernatural gift – the ability to sense and recreate the events leading up to a murder – you must find Ethan before the Sleeper awakens.

 

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This is about where you start and you have to find your way to the town.

 

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an adventure that offers no hand-holding and gives the player the complete freedom to go anywhere and do anything as they see fit. There are no tutorials and no direction given. From the beginning, the player is dropped into the game world and it is up to them to discover what is going on in Red Creek Valley. A few hints and clues will be given as you progress through the story, but that is it. You won’t be told where to go next most of the time so it will be up to you to learn the layout of the land and to remember where important locations are in order to find Ethan and get him to safety.

Paul has certain supernatural abilities that he can fall back on when his regular detective skills aren’t enough to gain the information needed to determine what has occurred at a particular crime scene. You can investigate the clues left at a scene by walking up to them and pressing the action button. A small cut scene will play or Paul will speak about what the item is if it is important to the discovery. Once all items are discovered that have to do with that particular scene, Paul then needs to use his special powers to determine the events that led up to that crime. Four or five events will play out in the immediate environment in the exact spot that they took place and it is up to you to put those sequences in order to solve that crime. Combining Paul’s regular detective skills with his ability to command the supernatural world is the key to determining Ethan’s fate and understanding the evil presence that is engulfing Red Creek Valley.

 

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Scenes play out in real time once you have gathered all of the clues and set them in the correct sequence.

 

The graphics in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter are some of the most beautiful visuals that I have seen in a game ever. If you have a high-end gaming rig then this is the game that you boot up to show your friends just exactly how bad-ass your system is. Nordic Games have tapped the power of the aging Unreal Engine and have been able to create some of the most amazing photo-realistic visuals possible. Single blades of grass sway in every direction as you walk through it while the leaves on the trees rustle as the wind blows through them. Brick, stone wood and metal have never looked this good in a video game and the care that was taken to produce a game this visually striking can been seen in every frame.

To get into the mood and to totally immerse yourself in the story of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, I strongly suggest that you use a set of headphones while playing. Haunting and engaging music plays in the background while you are exploring Red Creek Valley and is used as a clue for when the $#!& is about to hit the fan. In addition, the ambient sounds that you would hear in a forest such as birds chirping, wolves howling and the sudden rush of an autumn breeze are masterfully used to create an atmosphere that is wholly fitting for this type of tale. While the voice acting is a little cheeky at times, it is done well enough that you believe in the characters motivations for the most part. The VO work could have been better, but it doesn’t detract from the game enough for you to stay away. There has been worse VO work in a game and what is offered in this game is far from terrible.

 

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Clues and objects that you can interact with will be presented to you as words and it is up to you to decipher their meaning.

 

My time spent in Red Creek Valley was one that I definitely will not soon forget. The story was unique and well thought out, and the visuals and sound all combine to create a very enjoyable time in the game world. One issue that I need to reiterate is the fact that there is absolutely no hand-holding and that might give some players pause. I found that in my wondering around the town, I stumbled upon clues and events that I probably shouldn’t have until later in the story. As a result of that, there were times where I was confused about where I needed to go next because there is no system in the game to track where you are in the story or to limit you from playing ahead too far. In addition, there is no explanation of how Paul’s supernatural abilities work in relation to investigating clues so there was a lot of trial and error before I figured out how to use those abilities to move forward in the story. If you can overlook those issues, I can guarantee that your time in Red Creek Valley will be just as creepy as mine.

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