The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of those games that will easily take you to a dark and scary place. The story puts a world of sadness in front of you that you have to uncover. This is a game that will haunt you from the start of the game to days after completing it. Now I understand this game was released in 2014 on Steam. Over the past few years it was released on the PS4 and has finally made its way to the Xbox One console. This is the first time I have heard of this game.

*Game was provided as a code from the developer

Story

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has a story that I feel is close to perfection. It may be so dark and disturbing that I would not let my daughter or niece around the game until they are older. That said, the story was told in a wonderful way that was engaging to me as a gamer. Players embark on a journey through Red Creek Valley. They play as Paul Prospero, a paranormal investigator that has been getting some strange fan mail from Ethan Carter. You journey through Red Creek Valley solving the murders of the Carter family and trying to uncover what the “Sleeper” is.

The game originally is over three years old so I don’t feel like talking about the end of the game will spoil it. Yet I feel like just telling people how dark the game’s story can be would ruin the journey. The way that the developers at The Astronaughts presented the the story to unfold is magnificent. If Black Mirror had just a little bit of this game’s style it would have been so much better. Being a parent, I still can’t really get over how the ending left me. It was not the story that I was expecting.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Ethan Carter is simple. You don’t have any chance to die or get harmed. Players will just interact with highlighted items that either are clues to a murder or a piece of the puzzle. Players don’t have to use many buttons on the Xbox One controller, aside from running. The stories that you will encounter will take you to some strange places that may throw you off as you play. The one thing you have to remember – this is all part of the game’s narrative when you are in story mode. Including a free-roam mode on a game like this with such beautiful surroundings was a great call. Players can just take a relaxing break from the outside world with no expectations.

Being told at the start that I will not be forced to play along one path was refreshing. It gave me the sense that the developer really wanted me to enjoy the game and not rush through it. After playing through games like Destiny 2 and Madden, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was a well deserved break from the same old type of play mmechanics with a different cover. If you are looking also for a great way add a decently easy 1,000 points to your gamerscore, this game should be for you. Most of the achievements unlock as the story goes.

Audio

This game is almost perfect in my opinion. The voice acting is steady and it never feels annoying. I never got to the point that I didn’t want to hear the actors speak. Even huge AAA titles don’t get this kind of voice acting right in a game. I’m very excited to see what comes next from the developer.  Aside from the voice acting, the game features some spooky audio cues. If you take the time to listen, even the wind blowing through the leaves gives you the sense that something is not right in Red Creek Valley. The music to the game is actually something that I can’t remember as I write this review. That’s not a bad thing with this game since I was far too focused on the safety of Ethan Carter to focus on the music.

Graphics

This is the one category of the game that actually has some issues. For the most part, when you look at Reed Creek Valley and the surrounding area, the visuals are stunning. As you progress through the game you really have to mess with the brightness setting in some of the areas if you want to see what is in front of you. Given the fact you don’t have a source of light, this can be annoying. One of problems you see in games like this is the use of so many dark colors that cause the images to all look the same. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about in this game. The valley is full of color.

The second and last issue I had with the graphics of this game is when certain items just kept that blocky look to them. It was like they never fully rendered as you walked towards them. This happens quite a lot when you would walk up to a rock face that had no detail in it, yet the rocks right next to it looked realistic. The developer has created a wonderful looking game that could easily challenge some of the best looking games on the Xbox One.

Verdict

Some of the games I play never stay with me after I’m done with them. I don’t think about how the story could have changed if one character were a little different. Yet with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter I can’t stop thinking about how this game ended. It was a gut wrenching story of a child who created a world of mystery and deceit. This is the kind of game that I would be more eager to play on a steady basis. With that said, I will recommend this game to everyone. I may have to go back and play it over again just to see how many different ways I can unlock the story. So far this is my top game of 2018 for the Xbox One.