Friday 26 May 2017

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture review: A quiet apocalypse

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4); rating: 9/10; age: 12+

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: mysterious events in an ordinary place
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: mysterious events in an ordinary place
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

IMAGINE if the apocalypse descended on Emmerdale. But not the sort of disaster that flattens buildings, triggers zombie outbreaks and strews broken bodies around the village roads.

Instead, the Rapture was more insidious, gentler, intriguing even – yet very fatal to an entire community. You arrive after the event seeking the how, the why, the where.

Developer The Chinese Room practically invented the experiential genre with its mystery story Dear Esther in 2008, creating a piece of entertainment that was more interactive fiction than “game”. With Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, The Chinese Room uses a broader palette of orchestral music, voice-acting and rich environments to paint a picture of a bucolic English village in 1984 suddenly denuded of its people.

You wander through the streets, poking your head round the door of villagers’ houses (the ones that aren’t locked up with big QUARANTINE signs at least). It’s as if everyone has left just seconds ago. Cigarette smoke curls from a butt in the ashtray at the pub. A car sits by the roadside, its driver door left open. A half-tuned radio emits a voice repeating a series of numbers amid the static.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: spirit flashbacks
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: spirit flashbacks

So far, so creepy. Then you spot the bloody hanky on the road and encounter your first “spirit”.

To say any more would be spoil the story but Rapture has many layers to peel away in flashback, from the banal lives of the residents beforehand to the panicked response as the drama accelerated.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: Richly detailed and meticulously modelled on a typical English village
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: Richly detailed and meticulously modelled on a typical English village

Some technical shortcomings undermine the overall effect, though. The lush visuals are stuffed with minute detail – from the scrawled notes on walls to the meticulous modelling of household objects. But despite an enforced walking pace, the frame rate chugs and the screen tears at regular intervals.

Perhaps that’s the reason The Chinese Room forgot in the instructions to note the inclusion of a Run button. Strangely, too, run speed seems to be no more than 20pc faster than the leisurely stroll of the default pace.

The miserly spacing of checkpoints proves to be another annoyance, with potentially a half-hour of exploration discarded if you don’t trigger a save before exiting a session.

Clearly, with no puzzles, no “gameplay” and an achingly slow tempo, Rapture solicits a different mindset from players. Observe, absorb and decipher the human story of the tragedy. Don’t rush it and you’ll be, ahem, enraptured.

 

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