The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was one of 2014’s most unique games. An open-world murder mystery with a distinctive Twin Peaks-esque vibe, Ethan Carter was widely praised for its outstanding visuals and art direction, evocative sound and music, and strong writing. Although some critics and gamers complained that the game’s lack of linear direction made it easy to miss some significant clues, exploring the beautifully rendered environment was a pleasure.
The game has come to PS4 and looks and plays just as great as on PC, with sharp textures and loads of detail. Exploring and manipulating the environment with a controller is a totally natural experience.
For anyone who missed it the first time around, The Astronaut’s The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is about a world-weary detective-slash-paranormal investigator named Paul Prospero, called to Red Creek Valley by the titular Ethan Carter. What Prospero finds is a town overcome by mystery and evil forces, and that Ethan Carter has disappeared. The player uses a combination of physical evidence and Prospero’s psychic abilities to solve crimes and piece together the story.
In many ways, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a close cousin to games like Gone Home or Dear Esther, where exploring meticulously designed and highly atmospheric environments is essentially the entire experience. Ethan Carter, however, has quite a bit more story and is more puzzle-heavy than some similar games.
Playing through it again on PS4 reminded me how much I appreciated the game’s excellent sound design, voice work, and really outstanding musical score by Mikolai Stroinski. Stroinski’s music was nominated for a number of awards, and underscores much of Ethan Carter with subtly shifting and emotionally evocative writing.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is not a fast-paced action game, but it evokes escalating unease and fear quite well. For anyone who passed it by on PC, it’s absolutely worth checking out on PS4.
Reviewer Statement: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher.
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