The Vanishing of Ethan Carter still holds up


The Ghost of You

Detective Paul Prospero always starts in that tunnel on those train tracks. Minutes away from discovering an abandoned train, and then seconds away from finding a legless corpse. Prospero's story -- which is really just a retelling of Ethan Carter's story -- is always the same.

We were first introduced to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter in 2014, and we've seen many retellings since then. It initially released on PC, but then a redux launched on PC and PS4. Finally Ethan Carter is on Xbox One (as of January 19), which is probably its final destination.

Even though it's old by video game standards, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter still holds up. It's still a masterclass in environmental storytelling. Some games are cracked by the sands of time, as a genre evolves and leaves them behind. Ethan Carter, with all of its macabre and fantastical and sometimes-seemingly-nonsensical plot devices, doesn't show its age. It's one of the very best of the narrative-heavy and mechanics-light games.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is billed as a mystery game, and that's an easy enough premise to draw us in. Stepping into a crime scene, gathering all the pieces, and reconstructing the order of events is a satisfying and clever means of presentation. But it's the layers to the mystery -- a village gone mad, some sort of occult presence, MONSTERS??? -- that hook us. And then it's the tangential mysteries, like a spaceman running through a forest, that make us love it.

Developer The Astronauts has taken steps to mitigate problems with the original version of Ethan Carter. A main complaint was that the "real" ending forced many players to backtrack across the whole game's open countryside. With the redux, a system was implemented that essentially eliminates any tedious retreading. It's a better game for it.

As for the Xbox port, everything's up to snuff. On Xbox One X, Ethan Carter looks incredible and runs competently. There's also a new free roam mode for taking in the scenery without the grisly details. That legless corpse really mucks up the otherwise picturesque lake.

Free roam is hardly a necessity though, and that means any platform is a fine enough place to play The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It's an enduring and endearing hallmark for immersive narratives. Maybe Ethan's story never changes, but you should really take it upon yourself to see Ethan's story at least once.

[This impressions piece is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby... ... more + disclosures



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