The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has finally made its way onto the Xbox, four years after its initial PC release.The game has been fully overhauled this time as the developers have ported it from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4, and it really shows. The main difference between the PC version and the Xbox One version is how the game looks. It was already a pretty game on PC, but now especially on the One X it looks drop dead gorgeous. As The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is very much a walking simulator type game, it is important that the level of detail present is jaw dropping, and it really is.
The only real new feature in the game is a free-roaming mode which drops the story in favour of showing off how stunning the environment is, down to the level of detail in each little blade of grass. For those of you who don’t know what the story is about, I will try to offer as spoiler-free of an explanation as possible. You play as paranormal investigator, Paul Prospero, who was sent a letter by a young fan, Ethan Carter, which encouraged Prospero to visit Ethan’s hometown of Red Creek Valley. Upon arriving in this small mining town, Prospero encounters some strange paranormal activities and notices evidence of violence on the edges of town. Prospero learns that Ethan released a spirit into the town known as the Sleeper. Ethan managed to escape, and it is now up to Prospero to find the young boy and tame the spirit.
That might sound like a very generic story which should be short, quick and easy to complete, but the developers have crafted such a fascinating tale, and the twists and turns of the plot left me with my jaw on the floor at points. The path Prospero takes gradually reveals what has happened in the town, and you might think that you have the entire thing figured out about halfway through, but then the game takes your notions and chucks them out of the window.
Prospero possesses abilities like being able to reassemble a timeline of events and to sense where important items are located to aid the player, as there is no real HUD present, so you are left to pretty much become a real paranormal investigator. That doesn’t mean you become Derek Acorah for hours and just shout into rooms hoping a spirit comes and says hello, but you truly put together the events that have happened in the town and feel the ending is truly rewarding.
There are truly only two real gripes I had during my time with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, one was the strange auto save system and the other was the frustrating puzzles down in the mine portion of the game. The auto saving only really became an issue when I went and played other games and then came back to this one, only to have to replay a large section of the game, which disappointingly made the story lose some of its luster. The puzzles in the mine became extremely frustrating as time went on as the area itself isn’t very well lit and made finding the specific solutions to the puzzles unnecessarily difficult. These issues still didn’t prevent the game from being absolute perfection, in my opinion.
In conclusion, if you enjoyed the likes of Firewatch and Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture, then you will love The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It is a visually stunning game with an incredible story. This game is a definite must buy in my opinion as it is much cheaper than your usual AAA games and is a true delight to play. It’s true that it is not the most replayable of games, but for £16 on the Xbox Store it is worth buying just to see what a beautiful world they have lovingly created in this game, and the story will entertain you throughout and will leave a long-lasting impression on you. This game is also for those people who love to take a tonne of gameplay screenshots in order to fully appreciate the game world and all the little details of its environment. Fair warning though, try and have extended play sessions with this one as playing it in spurts will frustrate gamers due to the issues with the auto saving system requiring you to replay sections over and over again, which could lead to what is an absolute gem of a game being unfairly criticized.