“I’m beginning to think I may have made a terrible miscalculation.”
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the story of, as you can obviously guess, the Rapture, the biblical event where everyone who is A-OK in God’s eyes is taken away to Heaven to lead the perfect life. So with that definition out-of-the-way, let’s get into what this game is all about, shall we? You begin the game dropped into (what I assume is) a traditional English village in 1984, where the events have already taken place and it’s up to you to piece everything together on what happened. That’s really it. You walk around, going into abandoned businesses and empty houses, trying to find any sort of information you can find as to why the town is empty and where everyone went. It’s an interesting story to delve into, just based off the premise, but what you end up doing may or may not be your cup of tea.
I’m sure I am not the first and I’m sure I won’t be the last when I make this remark, but they could have called this game Walking Simulator 2015 and not be off base. That’s almost literally all you do. You walk. Slowly. SLOWLY slowly. Now, that may not be an issue to some, and at first, it’s not, until you start to notice. Because you will notice. Because there’s really not much else to notice at the beginning of the game. Now, that’s not to say the game doesn’t open up with intriguing points to make you keep going, but certainly at the start of the game, the story beats and interesting things are not as dense as you’d like. I’ll point out slow beginnings of games is not inherently a bad thing, but in a game like this, a slow beginning can turn people off pretty quickly unless they know exactly what they’re getting themselves into, which, I suspect, is not universal.
I’ll again point out here that it is not made clear there is a way to run in the game. Looking at the controller screen gives you a very clear understanding of the buttons. The sticks move you and the camera, and the X button interacts. That’s it. Well, poop. So, it’s with that said that I spent half the game slowly moving forward, getting increasingly more frustrated with the movement each passing moment. Taking that into consideration, I turned the game off and went to bed. Yes, I played this at midnight when it launched (YouTube play through here if you want to check it out). When I awoke, I was treated to some wonderful, if not almost too late news. There IS a run button. Huzzah!! In a surprising move, The Chinese Room released a post on their site apologizing to all for not making that clear. Now, I applaud them for that move, but that applause only goes so far. They know this game. They created it. I can’t imagine no one thought this could be an issue. Besides, reviews were apparently taking that fact to task which hurt at least IGN’s review (full disclosure, I have yet to read any reviews, simply because I did not want to be swayed in my opinion, as we all seem to be in this day and age by everything), even if only the slightest, so perhaps damage control was much more urgent this time around. Either way, thank you for the info and even more so with how quickly you put it out. Final thought on this movement issue is that even with the run button (that takes much more than “a few seconds” to make full speed), you still move way too slowly.
Another thing you could call this game is Locked Door Simulator 2015. People have used that term to speak about the Silent Hill franchise, and fans have made theories as to why pretty much every door is locked in those games. For that series, I can be fine with it, because that theory is interesting, but with something like this, where the whole entire goal of the game is to explore, having 90% of the doors or gates you come across be locked is kind of frustrating. I could forgive a few doors here and there, but when all but 1 out of 5 doors in a person’s house is locked, that seems insane to me. Let alone the fact that even many FRONT DOORS on houses don’t even have handles on them. How would these people get into their houses, Chinese Room? Dig a tunnel in the back yard? The window on the side of the house? Craziness. And if this is how English doors were during the time period, my ignorance is exposed, so apologies to that point. Add in that a mechanic in the game is turning on ceiling lights, so walking into dark rooms with no wall switch to turn a light on is odd. Could you not have even programmed each room to have a non-working switch? I’d be fine with that, electricity is a story point in the game, I could live with some not working, as some houses have broken switches. But to not have at least MOST of the rooms with a way to turn on the lights, well, that just seems lazy to me.
With all that stuff out there now, I want to turn my attention to the story of the game. The reason for the season, as they say. I have to be honest here, I was very intrigued when this game was announced all the way up to release about figuring out what happened. They certainly hyped the game up nicely. Having said that, although I have been disappointed with many things about this game, the story, largely, is really the only thing I enjoyed. It’s hard to explain what I mean by that, but I’ll say this about it – they sprinkle in story everywhere, whether it’s in the environment, the radios or phones, or even the flashback sequences. And mostly, they’re all very interesting and worth your time. I found myself initially not really caring about these people, to really taking in what they were going through. Each person you come across being very different, but strangely exactly alike all at the same time. I know, that sounds weird, but it’s how I felt I constantly found myself yearning for the next radio or phone or happened upon flashback scene, not just because walking around not really doing or seeing anything significant can get tiring, but also because I really wanted to hear more of the glimpses of story we could actually get. And the further into the game you get, the more they start to happen, but it can be a chore to get there, admittedly. Still, even writing this, I keep thinking about what I must have missed and wanting to go back to get even just the smallest glimpses into what was going on, whether it be in regards to the event, or just their personal lives. Add to that, not everything is in chronological order. You may get a flashback on something, but then get a flashback on that thread, but it had happened prior to the original one you got. At first, it’s a tiny bit jarring, but that feeling passes pretty quickly, because your brain starts working. And that’s how a lot of it goes, not only by design, but also because you can essentially go off in many directions, grabbing bits of story how you see fit, depending on where you travel. I liked what I was getting, but ultimately (selfishly?), I just wish I got a lot more of it.
On my second play through, I was piecing together more of the story, not only because I was paying attention more, but also because I made it a point to travel to areas I had elected to pass or simply missed the first time around. And knowing what I went through the first time, made me understand more just on a base level the second time, even when gathering the same info. Hell, I encountered entire characters I never found before the second go ’round. Things started to make more sense, pieces started to align more clearly, and things I thought I knew or understood suddenly made even more sense, or we flipped upside down and went in a whole different direction. It was good. It was fun. But those moments seem too far apart to me.
One other thing that I felt underwhelmed by was seeing the same thing over and over again, which is not a good thing in this game. Normally, it wouldn’t be such an issue, but with a game like this, where you entire goal is to wander and “luck out” on finding certain story elements, it’s a bit disheartening to walk into an area and find a house or shed that is literally the same in every way as 4 others you just visited. I get that this is a small game, and that maybe you could suspend disbelief since it’s a village in England set in 1984, so maybe everybody owned the same things, but with that in mind, could you not have at least taken the small amount of items you created for this world and at least rearrange them in different configurations for each house? I’d be more forgiving of seeing the same boxes or bottles, or tarps and hay bales if they were possibly if different locations of each “room” you enter. I know, again, that may seem nitpick-ish, but, honestly, in a game like this, you’re kind of only left with nitpicking on things.
Here I’ll speak a bit on the technical side of things. The game is not perfect, as much as we all would like it to be. The frame rate was not consistent. It felt like 30fps to me, although I could be wrong, but the point is that it stuttered quite a bit. The frame rate dropped a lot. It also seemed to happen a lot more often on my second play through. Now, I will say that it didn’t really hurt my enjoyment, since this isn’t a game where you need to be on the ball at all times because an enemy may come out of nowhere and kill you, but it’s very noticeable and depending on your preference, could upset you more than it upset me. There’s also plenty of texture pop in, and the draw distance, while good, isn’t always great. Add on to that the game froze on me once, and crashed twice, once while recording video of it. Again, nothing horrible, but, with a game like this where you can’t manually save, and saves only happen at predetermined story points, you could go a long time and be screwed if a freeze or crash happens. So, yeah, add poor save system to the cons list. I also had a stretch where textures and objects acted bonkers. Also recorded, so that may be something you want to see once I put those videos up. I’m going to chalk that up to having the system in Rest Mode prior, because it didn’t happen again after that first time in my initial play through, so, with that, keep it in your mind. Didn’t break the game per se, but it wasn’t pleasant, either.
The sound in the game is wonderful. Kudos to that, because a game like this has to rely on that pretty heavily. The ambient sounds, the score, the music hitting at the right moments, even to the voice actors. All top-notch. Not once did I hear someone talking and think they did a bad job, they were all great. You can tell the voice direction was solid from all aspects of production. Great job on that, because this is an area where we get 90% of the story. Falter on that, and you have a mess on your hands. Not this time. I had a hard time placing one of the main actresses, knowing I’ve heard her before, and it’s a “duh” moment when you eventually find out if you didn’t figure it out from the jump. I felt dumb, but I’ll let you find out for yourself.
Graphically, the game does look good, but does not look as spectacular as we are led to believe. I’m not saying it looks bad. Not at all. It looks really nice, but not REALLY nice like I’ve been hearing for months. The lights and light shows are really neat, though. I always like those.
I know I’ve written a lot so far, and I hope you’ve stuck around, but shockingly, I’m having a hard time writing my thoughts down, because, as I explain numerous times throughout this review, so much of this “game” is predicated on story and finding “clues” to what is/has gone on, that much of what I want to talk about could potentially ruin a story beat for someone. I use game and clues in quotes because this is more of an interactive experience than it is a game in my eyes. You can’t really fail unless you stop moving (or turn the game off), and the clues you are finding aren’t really necessary to beating the game, and seem really only there for those of us who want to know as much back story of the people in the village as you can get. Which, save for a few moments needed to advance the story, is all really up to what you want from it.
Potential spoilers ahead: Even after beating the game twice, I still am fuzzy on what this event, this Rapture, this “thing” is. I mean, I know what it is, but I don’t KNOW what it is. I can see how that statement is odd or stupid, but hopefully someone else who has beaten the game will understand what I’m getting at with it. And perhaps it’s my fault for not uncovering all the radios or phones that could have given me more of a definitive answer, but I counter that with maybe the devs could have also given us more concrete info during the unavoidable instances, especially at the end to help us figure it out. Unless that was their point, to leave it up to us. Get us to a certain point, and let our imaginations finish the rest. Sometimes, I enjoy that trope. This time, I do not. With a game so heavy on story and not much else, I don’t feel like the ending should have much to leave us with an “it is what you want it to be” scenario. Again, maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I missed something crucial both times, but as it stands, I’m pretty good with most of the things, but not all, like I want to be.
End potential spoilers.
I honestly believe you won’t see everything unless you play more than once (or are so thorough that you’ll be wandering this empty village for many hours more than it reasonably takes to beat the game), which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but the slow movement makes you question whether you want to or not. I know it definitely did with my second go around. I had to pause and stop just to get the, I don’t want to say boredom, but I kind of have to, get the boredom out of me so I could endeavor on. If you’re trying to get everything you can from the game in a single run, good luck to you, because you’re a better lad than I in that regard. I don’t know how you could do it reasonably. Add in that the Trophies won’t allow it. That has at least 2 plays in mind, and I’m thinking maybe at least 4. And yes, there is a Platinum for those wondering. I will say the Trophies are kind of neat. There are no real story ones, save for beating the game or triggering every story beat (the icon shows radios, phones, and computers, but is that really all they want? The story comes from flashbacks, too…), and most task you to do odd or out of the ordinary things, many, as of the writing of this, have no solutions because very few have them and the ones who do aren’t spilling the bangers and mash on how to acquire them. I kind of like it.
At the end of the day, I have to look overall at my experience and judge it that way and if I’m being honest, it’s not the amazing experience I was led to believe it would be. Part of me feels like I wasted my money, while the other part of me who loves these kinds of experiences thinks the story was worth seeing. Personal hiccups aside, I feel that this is a perfect example of keeping hype were it needs to be, which is on the periphery. Don’t completely buy into it, otherwise you might be splattered by the train.