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Games : Highly Recommended
Release Date: September 25th, 2014 Movie Release Year: 2014

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Overview -

When People Can Fly, the developer behind 'Bulletstorm' and 'Gears of War: Judgment,' went away, three of the studio's original founders re-emerged as The Astronauts. Their first game has no guns, takes itself very seriously and binds itself in no way to a parent company. Free to explore to their hearts' content, 'The Vanishing of Ethan Carter' is presented as a rebellion to expectation, a weird fiction-inspired, first-person detective tale less about killing than the consequences of an act so horrific as taking a life. "We believe that video games have the potential to be the ultimate form of art," reads The Astronauts' website. Now's the time to prove it.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Release Date:
September 25th, 2014

Video Review


Red Creek Valley is a beautiful and detailed place, rewarding any wandering with picturesque backdrops, forests swaying in the wind and hauntingly vacant buildings. An autumn palette signals the place's dark change, and never in doubt is Ethan's peril. The Unreal Engine supports The Astronauts' ambitious vision for this small world, but in reach of extreme technical achievement, my less-than-optimal PC sometimes struggled to render a completely fluid experience. Textures popped and the frame rate grew choppy the more trees I fit in-screen.

For a game so brief, however excellent, I'm not sure asking for premium specs was the best choice. That said, I'm not going to count that against the game. It's gorgeous, granted you've already invested in gorgeous games.

Audio Review


The score transitions seamlessly from eerie to hopeful, granting ever more context to the surrounding environments and mysteries. A small, almost optimistic theme seems to backpack off Ethan's own hopes and subverting despair. Like the detective mechanics, the music is designed in expert coalescence with the game's themes.

The voice acting is serviceable at worst, though never all that enticing. The words are rarely as important as the images splayed across the screen, so it's no surprise top-notch talent wasn't recruited.

Final Thoughts

'The Vanishing of Ethan Carter' is not a perfect game. It's an alarmingly creative step in the ongoing trek of telling stories through games. At times, I got lost, and some of the puzzles seem like the output of a developer running out of steam, but the core mechanics at play are always gravitating towards Ethan's trials as a kid struggling with family. Exploring these overgrown environments is a way to step into Ethan's lonesome shoes, solving the crimes show his fears and uncovering his stories meaning passing through the doomed optimism of a young, fertile mind. There's tragedy in the small and big moments alike. The framework for this story has been told before, but never like this, never in a way that only games can tell it. Supernatural indeed.