The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review

Ethan Carter

Red Creek Valley is a place of exceptional beauty. A mirror-like surface of a lake surrounded by dense vegetation. A lonely railway disappearing into the distance, towards civilization. Small houses, secluded and peaceful. It is in such corners of the planet that writers usually go in search of inspiration, like Alan Wake did, for example. And it is in such places that mysterious murders traditionally occur, as happened in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Private detective Paul Prospero had his own reason to be here – Ethan Carter. The boy’s letter was different from all the others, frightening with details of things that no one should know. Something is not right in this story. Something… Damn, it’s so beautiful here!

At first, it is extremely difficult to concentrate on the narrative: the very first overgrown path follows one of the most picturesque routes in the game, so at that moment, you will hardly care about anything else except taking screenshots. Sun rays play on the water’s surface, autumn leaves float above your head, and a misty forest stretches to the horizon as far as the eye can see – Unreal Engine 3 really pushes the limits here. A critical eye tries to find visual flaws in nearby objects, but the models created using photogrammetry withstand even the closest scrutiny.

Ethan Carter Landscape
Ethan Carter Road

Maybe, forget about this Ethan? He disappeared – he will be found. The developers, I remember, talked about complete freedom of movement throughout the visible area, and what to do, in general, is not very clear. The temptation to see what is there, on the other side of the bridge, is too great, and here we are already carefully walking on the uneven wooden surface under the monologue of Paul Prospero – a slightly improved Dear Esther. It is no longer fashionable to criticize walking simulators, so we simply enjoy it.

And we stumble upon a legless corpse.

From this moment, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter mobilizes its detective instinct and starts investigating. Various guesses are in the air: cause of death? Blood loss? Head trauma? Further down the path, right by the shore, lies a bloodied lever – a clear murder weapon. On the ground near the stump, a dent from a stone is clearly visible, and the hero’s intuition immediately suggests where to look for the missing element. When all the evidence is collected, the paranormal activity begins.

Itan's relatives. They are separated by only a few seconds from the brutal murder

Ethan’s relatives. Only a few seconds separate them from a brutal murder.

Prospero is not an ordinary detective, but a medium detective who can see the past by touching the deceased. The reconstruction of events happens similar to Murdered: Soul Suspect. The detective is transported to another dimension, the space is colored in blue tones, and frozen silhouettes of participants appear at key points of the crime scene. By placing them in the correct chronological order, they find out who exactly hit the man lying on the ground and why his limbs are on the railroad tracks. It’s simple, but intriguing.

In this way, the game finally draws our attention to the story. Mysterious hints about Red Creek’s danger make sense, as the above-mentioned episode is a scene of a massacre between the Carter family members. The detective not only has to find the missing Ethan but also discover why the relatives, as if possessed, suddenly killed each other.

Ethan Carter Train

This is what becomes our motive for advancing into the depths of the valley. The visible expanses are completely open for exploration, and as it was said in the introductory video, no one will lead us by the hand. If desired, you can continue along the path and cross the threshold of the nearby dilapidated house. But it is also possible to bypass all the buildings and head towards the cemetery to explore. Even better, turn towards the thicket and immerse yourself in the embrace of ancient trees. Either way, in any direction, there are not only beautiful landscapes, but also fragments of a story that fuel interest in the game.

However, the gameplay, unfortunately, is somewhat lacking. Despite the urge to investigate, the mechanics are more focused on contemplation rather than direct participation. The player’s activity until the very final video will consist of reconstructing murders, simple searching for clues, and wandering around the surroundings. If this set of activities is enough for a couple of attempts, closer to the end, there is a desire to finally find out what it’s all about.

This lamp is the most important evidence, without which the detective will not enter the trance

This lamp is the most important clue without which the trance detective will not enter.

The strongest aspect of the whole experience is the atmosphere. More precisely, the dynamics of its changes. The relaxed mood of the first few minutes gradually dissipates with the immersion into the storyline, and revelations about what is happening soon no longer allow you to look at familiar places with the same calmness. Having come to terms with your loneliness and reading another draft of the fantasist Ethan’s work under calm music, you will definitely startle when you hear someone’s footsteps on the upper floor. Did it seem like it?

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a novella with a slightly higher degree of interactivity than its counterparts. Incredibly beautiful, very interesting, and incredibly atmospheric, it still diminishes the importance of gameplay, assigning the role of observer to the player. However, this does not prevent you from spending unforgettable four hours in the lap of virtual nature.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Adventure, Indie, Quest
The Astronauts
The Astronauts
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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