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The Chinese Room

Review: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Aug 22 // Steven Hansen
Everybody's Gone to Rapture (PS4)Developer: The Chinese RoomPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: August 11, 2015MSRP: $19.99 That technical snafu highlights Raptures biggest problem: it is slow and empty. It is too big. I've lived in San Francisco all my life. It isn't small town England, but I've literally walked it from end to end; it's not huge. And still there are blocks, stores, buildings, entire neighborhoods that I have hardly any connection to, that walking through wouldn't evoke any intimate feeling. The exploratory nature of Gone Home, confined to a single family house and connected with tactile engagement, develops its personal story through telling detail. Rapture, on the other hand, is scaled towards a mysterious apocalypse that has seemingly wiped out all things, including this entire village. It is world-concerning. The "pattern," the frightened townspeople fed lies about "influenza," the bloodied tissues strewn about, the quarantine. And it is stuffed with characters, but you only hear them in snippets, like a radio play, after stumbling on orbs of light (and awkwardly tilting the PS4 controller) or abandoned radios. I, apparently, struggle telling a dozen English voices apart and remembering their names, devoid of context or faces. After triggering enough events to start figuring out who's who, I did appreciate the quality character performances. I clung to these characters' story, too, because it was obvious the mystery of the apocalypse was being withheld. The interpersonal drama of village living, of life lost in war, of forbidden relationships, of difficulties in small, religious community. [embed]305705:60101:0[/embed] But why the long walking between points of interest? Rapture is beautiful, no doubt, but that fidelity and scale means that differing local pubs carry the same hand-written signage and no one seems to have personal affects in their vehicles. The beautiful village is unremarkable to the outsider, and the flitting luminescence of peoples' lives hardly feels grounded in the environment that was meant to have connected them. Snooping through the detritus of peoples' homes should say more. There is a difference between the thematic, profound emptiness of the absence of others and the dull emptiness of a beautiful world that doesn't feel lived-in, though aesthetically consistent. Then we are back to the issues of scale, as the story, which guides you through the waning lives of several characters, loops back to its key ones and back to the science-fiction mystery we've given up on for hours in favor of English infidelity. It almost feels garish to go back to, admitting that the in media res character sketches, the handful of dialogue lines about and around interpersonal drama, are not, in fact, enough. Or at least not obvious enough. The end is the theme extrapolated, turned up. Rapture deals with mature, human subject matter -- failing relationships, aging, death -- with notable verisimilitude before acquiescing to its lurid, fantastical bent. The latter feels disconnected from the initially analog apocalypse and your thoughts on Dear Esther will likely echo off this ornate end. What Rapture does well feels slight. Interwoven character sketches stretched out like clippings of a short story dropped every mile. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Rapture review photo
A moment frozen in time
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture wouldn't end. I was lost in the middle of the 1984 English countryside having made my circuit trudging through several connected areas, yet suddenly I was back somewhere in the middle. Without ...

Everybody sprints photo
Everybody sprints

Pro tip: You can sprint in Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Hold down R2 for a bit
Aug 11
// Jordan Devore
I haven't started Everybody's Gone to the Rapture yet, but if I had, I'd probably be among the people wondering why such an exploration-heavy game doesn't let players sprint. It does, though -- hold down R2 for a few seconds ...
Rapture photo

I'm going into Everybody's Gone to the Rapture mostly blind

Alone again (naturally)
Aug 03
// Jordan Devore
I've been following Everybody's Gone to the Rapture on and off for years. It's slotted away in my memory as "that exploration game from the Dear Esther people about the surprisingly serene end of the world as seen from an Eng...
The Chinese Room photo
The Chinese Room

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is coming August 11

Left Behind 2: The New Batch
Jun 11
// Mike Cosimano
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, a first-person exploration game from Dear Esther developer The Chinese Room, will be coming to PlayStation 4 on August 11, according to creative director Dan Pinchbeck. "We look back now ...

Online gaming photo
Online gaming

Lonely Chinese gamers can hire escorts for the feels

What a time to be alive
Apr 22
// Robert Summa
The Chinese can take gaming very seriously. So seriously in fact that they have created an entire industry revolved around keeping lonely gamers happy while grinding away in their virtual wastelands. While in places like Amer...
PS4 photo

An all too brief trailer for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

It still exists!
Jun 12
// Jordan Devore
The Chinese Room and Sony Santa Monica let out a quick trailer for their PlayStation 4 title Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and, oh, it's over already? Okay. But there's more to go on. It's June 1984 and, unfortunately, the...
Amnesia pig necrophilia photo
Amnesia pig necrophilia

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs had a pig banging a corpse

Sep 30
// Steven Hansen
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs was a drastic departure from the much loved survival horror darling Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Its writer, Dan Pinchbeck, recently spoke with Kill Screen about the bizarre sequel and some things th...

Review: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs

Sep 09 // Jim Sterling
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs (PC)Developer: The Chinese RoomPublisher: Frictional GamesReleased: September 10, 2013MSRP: $19.99 With a game as reliant on an unravelling story as A Machine For Pigs, it's difficult to discuss almost anything relating to narrative without ruining the whole thing. To give you the basics, however, the year is 1899, the turn of the century, and a lone man in an abandoned house is in search of his two sons. To say much more about the story itself would serve us a hard turn into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, The Chinese Room weaves a most disturbing tale.  Amnesia benefits from dabbling in medical horror, by far one of my favorite subgenres, and overlaying a genuinely authentic Victorian atmosphere over the environments and dialog. Audio recordings and documents unveil the game's backstory, and all carry with them unnerving surgical detachment married to a stark romanticism of language. As an exercise in period horror, A Machine For Pigs displays its pedigree with pride.  Much of what made The Dark Descent enjoyable has been carried over, too. As one might expect, a vast amount of the game is made up of walking through dark rooms, jumping at creaky floorboards and clanking noises. Every now and then, a minor puzzle may provide a hindrance, though such tasks usually involve very simple activities such as replacing broken fuses or pulling the correct levers. Thorough exploration of each area to find hidden switches makes up much of the experience, and discovering each gramophone or discarded letter is required to further understand what soon becomes a most perplexing story.  [Stay tuned for our official video review, coming soon!] Enemies are few and far between, and cannot be directly combated. As with Dark Descent, the presence of monsters requires switching off the light, hiding quickly, and praying to God you sneak out alive. The fear of making one's move, the often disarming terror at the idea of alerting the twisted creatures that stalk the halls, has all been preserved from the original game, though the instances are incredibly rare, perhaps moreso even than last time.  For all its atmospheric preservations, the influence of The Chinese Room is keenly, sometimes overbearingly felt. For one thing, Pigs is far more about walking and having a story told to you than Dark Descent was. Gameplay elements such as light sources, tinderboxes, and the sanity meter have all been removed, leading to a game with a lot less to worry about. A Machine For Pigs gives you a lantern, that can be switched on or off at will, and that's about it. Even tactical use of the lantern is rendered moot, since there are so few enemies to deal with. Make no mistake, this is a game that wants to tell you a tale, and it does all it can to ensure you pay attention without distraction.  Thanks to this often exclusive emphasis on story, much of the ground-level horror has been reduced. The concepts involved in the narrative are unsettling on a psychological level, but the scares themselves, the stresses of maintaining one's sanity and safety, are at a remarkable low in comparison to The Dark Descent, and fans who wanted more of the same may well be disappointed by what is far more of a guided tour than a survival horror experience. It wouldn't be unreasonable for some horror fans to think, "is that all?" when the game's four hours are up.  Those who find themselves drawn into the story, however, will be impressed by the presentation, especially the use of music and the gorgeous design of the environments, both of which add real weight to the game's most dramatic moments, even at times when the plot itself borders on the incomprehensible. The whole adventure builds itself up to an impressive crescendo, escalating the pace on a subtle level and pulling back the curtain on its weirdest elements at the perfect moment. The evocative imagery the dialog drums up, especially the very real and dismal meaning of the titular "Machine For Pigs" itself, delivers a different kind of horror experience from the jump scares and visual body horror we're so used in games, a mentally alarming tactic not seen since the earliest Silent Hill games. Even if it's low on the scares, there's an undeniably "creepy" vibe that permeates A Machine For Pigs, and it effectively keeps the game tense, even when it's obvious there's no immediate danger.  Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is a threadbare successor to The Dark Descent in several ways, taking out tangible gameplay in order to provide an experience undeniably closer to Dear Esther than many of us may want. Even so, it at least makes an effort to compromise and bring us a lot of the atmosphere enjoyed in both Amnesia and Penumbra, while the perturbing story and half-surgical, half-industrial imagery contribute to an evocative game, if not a wholly satisfactory one.  It's hard to recommend A Machine For Pigs to every horror fan, as it provides something that could so easily delight or dismay, something that is unique and effective, but potentially shortchanging. If you want to be told a vexingly bizarre story presented with a real sense of style, The Chinese Room may have exactly what you want. If you're a massive survival horror fan who wants to be made to scream, however, you probably want to stick your snout in someone else's offal. 
A Machine For Pigs photo
That'll do, pig
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a beloved title for a number of reasons. As well as becoming a viral darling thanks to a cavalcade of shrieking YouTube videos, Dark Descent was praised for bringing back a sense of true survival ...

Now Bloody Playing photo
'I will cry all the way home'
It's time for another playthrough from your best buddy Jim Sterling! This time we're having an early look at Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, the upcoming horror game from The Chinese Room.  Don't expect screaming and yelli...

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