Review – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture


Developer – The Chinese Room
Format – PS4
Genre – Exploration

In a nutshell….

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (EGTTR) is a walking simulator set in a Shropshire town, where you follow a glowing orb (for the most part) to reveal a sparse narrative, delivered through the exchanges of phantom characters.

Let me expand….

Now, do not allow my opening statement to put you off, because although the premise may not sound ground-breaking, what EGTTR achieves in terms of building a sense of intrigue through an often bleak and inanimate world, is nothing short of miraculous.

I will begin by suggesting that EGTTR will no doubt divide opinion. Some will quip, “seriously man, it’s not even a game. You just walk around a press ‘X’ to activate radios and shit!”, whereas others will speak highly and fondly of an unforgettable experience that will leave a lasting impression. It’s fair to say that neither opinion should be judged too harshly, as both assessments of The Chinese Room’s latest creation, would be right on the money.

Set in the picturesque town of Yaughton, EGTTR immerses you in a beautifully rendered environment set in the English countryside, only to thrust you into the role of a detective right off the cuff.

As you take your first (very slow) footsteps you are met with a cryptic and poignant voice-over that dryly informs you, “This is Dr. Katherine Collins. I don’t know if anyone will hear this. It’s all over. I’m the only one left”. It’s quite an opening line and somewhat hard to digest when the town in view seems so quaint and colourful.

Initially, you are left with no immediate directive of where you should start in your search for answers, in the empty town before you. The story is narrated cleverly through the exchanges of a handful of key town folk via radio broadcasts, telephone conversations and through routine ‘phantom conversations’ born out of the light sphere that appears early in the game and points you to your next objective. These interactions build the plot and how the story unravels (and how much of it) is up to you – the player – the more you explore the town and locate important pieces of intel, will determine how much of the puzzle is pieced together at the end of the game.

The two main characters in the game are Dr. Katherine Collins and her husband Stephen, who speak about a mysterious light known as ‘the Pattern’ that they discovered when looking out at the stars from the town observatory.

As the story unfolds through various exchanges between Collins, Stephen and the other town inhabitants you piece together the close and fractured relationships of the townspeople and piece by piece you learn how and why people are disappearing, as well as what ‘the Pattern’ is and what it intends to achieve.

I spent most of my time in Yaughton overwhelmed with intrigue as I looked to unravel the mystery surrounding this lifeless but yet strangely vibrant town. I constantly expected the definitive answer to be right around the corner, but even as the end credits rolled there is still no one taking responsibility to spell out exactly what has just happened. In fact, as far as I am aware there is actually no reference to or mention of who you actually play as in the game, which leaves the whole narration open to interpretation.

A key element that enrichens the experience is the remarkable score that accompanies you throughout. Angelic voices call out in tandem, creating a chilling and emotional experience. If the perfect soundtrack was ordered to accompany the story, then the Chinese Room hit the jackpot when they appointed Jessica Curry to produce the sound bytes.

Opinions will no doubt be divided when summarising either a short-lived or absurdly rewarding journey into the unknown, but I ‘m sure a majority would agree that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a unique experience. If you’re looking for an all-action gaming experience, then EGTTR is not going to hit the spot. However, if you are looking to be immersed in a beautiful environment with a mystery to be unearthed, then this is a title worth the attentions of most.

Mesmeric and delightfully confusing, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an incredibly emotional and enlightening experience that lock on to our deepest and darkest fears and leaves a bittersweet message for all to engage with. The message may be unclear to some and is open to interpretation, but after completion I felt a pang of sadness which quickly

Why is EGTTR so engrossing and intriguing? I believe it’s strengths are in its story telling, despite the fact that the story-telling is actually pretty vague. The narrative rumbles along with no real fluidity and yet (assuming you explored most of the town) gives you just enough direction and information to piece some semblance of a story together. I confess that I was pretty confused and after completion I took to gaming sources that could spell out the whole experience for me and it kind of how I understood it to be. ‘Alien’ light source is detected, somehow it travels to Yaughton and vaporises its inhabitants and then spreads – presumably sending the World population to the Rapture.

It’s incredibly moving and its message is poignant. Perhaps others will read into the story delivery different and EGTTR will draw out different emotions, but the way I see it is there’s a tangled web amidst a story of love, connection and not taking things/people for granted.

The characters contained within the story all play their part. There’s adultery, jealousy, conflict and despair and above all there is love, devotion and valuing what we stand for as a race.

Whether or not this walking simulator is for you will be decided in the first hour or so, however if you choose to give into the light that seduces you as you learn the truth behind this tragic and moving story, then I’m sure it will leave a lasting impression and will leave you with an enduring experience to savour.

How it Scored

+ Incredible score
+ Clever and unique narrative
+ The perfectly rendered town of Yaughton
+ Great voice acting

-Some will be frustrated by the

A blissfully serene experienced laced with doom.

8.8 / 10

FIFA 16 Review…and FIFA 17 Wish List


Every year EA’s FIFA series strives to improve on presentation and gameplay in pursuit of creating the ultimate football experience and for the most part they succeed. However, year upon year certain elements remain either untouched or patched over, leaving a largely polished product stale and botched in certain areas. 

Authenticity

An area the FIFA series prides itself on is authenticity. Boasting an extensive catalogue of official licences from various leagues around the world, allows EA to showcase an authentic football experience that brings you closer to the action than ever before. However, despite their impressive armoury of licensing the FIFA series could still do more to capture a continued realism in the long-serving campaign modes and make a new season and various high profile fixtures different from the previous.

What can be improved? Now, I would rarely coin the phrase ‘take a page from PES’s book’ because Konami’s football series is an inferior product, but one element in the Master League mode which I would like to see FIFA adopt is the ability to change the styling of your teams kit. Although this would bring only a minor aesthetic offering to proceedings it would eradicate having to turn out in the 2015/16 kit when you’re 8 seasons into a career with your favourite club.

Gameplay Mechanics

No game should be easy to master and being presented with acceptable and challenging encounters are what make football gaming experiences so rewarding. However, rarely are games lost in FIFA by simply being outplayed by computer AI. In my experience if you find a difficulty setting that matches your playing ability every victory will be hard earned, but (this could be a case of sour grapes) defeats tend to be so frustrating it is impossible to accept defeat gracefully.

If you are a highly competent FIFA player then perhaps you are immune to such trivial frustrations. but if you – like me – find yourself in one of those encounters that you just can’t win then you’ll know exactly what I mean. Suddenly human controlled players get bullied off the ball and not only are the AI opposition clinical with every attacking flurry they spurn, they become superhuman mind readers that snuff out every pass and the ‘keeper manages to pull of a careers worth of world class saves in a 90 minute stretch.

This needs to stop. I don’t have a solution because I don’t know how to program a football game, but EA need to find a way to differentiate the different skill levels without simply adopting the zombies, slightly more intelligent zombies, demi-gods, gods and every player is Leo Messi on LSD and steroids approach to difficulty settings.

The easiest two settings on FIFA are too easy, surely even for those who are either new to the game or haven’t quite mastered it. On the easiest setting you can simply walk around players and on semi-pro you can easily run beyond the last line of defence and be left one on one with the ‘keeper at will. However, the jump from semi-pro to Professional is where all the finely tuned – and I imagine painstakingly assigned – individual player statistics get thrown out of the window. On Professional skill setting and above there is little point picking a team with quick, strong players because it doesn’t matter how quick or strong their stats suggest they should be, the superhuman AI will bully Akinfenwa off the ball and will outpace Walcott and simply outwit you at every turn. They are programmed to and when playing single player against computer AI on one of the higher difficulty (and this is going to sound like a ridiculously obvious statement) it becomes very apparent that you are pitting your wits against a machine….a machine that can react and counteract every button press you make. Hence why playing against other human players either on-line or in the same room is a far more rewarding experience.

  • How about goalkeepers drop or flap at crosses for once. When you launch a cross into the box near the ‘keeper there are two outcomes – they’ll punch it clear or gobble it up with assured hands. ‘Keepers are not that decisive.
  • Computer AI have become too good at retaining possession (especially in FIFA 16) which can lead to several minutes chasing the ball down in an attempt to win it back. Is it me or are the computer AI especially good at keeping hold of posession from the 80th minute when you’re in need of a goal?
  • Referees in real life get a lot of stick and I imagine a main contributor is the moronic decisions AI referees make on FIFA. I rarely use the slide tackle button but I still mange to concede more freekicks in one game than the AI conceded in half a season. Sometimes fouls are given against me that I don’t even know what they’re for.
  • Have you ever played a perfectly weighted through ball only to realise that the player receiving the ball is off-side….? Why is it that through balls only seem to go where you want them to when
  • Stray passes – passing seems to have taken a step back this season with the general pace of passing slowed considerably and through balls are even less effective than previous. A new quick fire or zipped pass has been added but the success rate of the receiving player controlling the ball is pretty minimal.

Career Mode

  • International management – I understand this feature gives players the chance to mix international management with everyday club management duties without having to have a separate campaign for each role, but how realistic is this feature really. If you’re manager of Manchester United you’re probably not going to want to manage Bolivia or Ecuador and even if you did I doubt you’d ever seriously be approached by those types of nations. It feature may really appeal to some players, but I’d like to see an option to disable this feature when creating a new career. There’s little more tedious than having to reject a job offer from some minnow nation every couple of weeks.
  • Ballon D’Or….how about it?
  • Open up the Women’s section of the game to include as many club teams as possible.
  • Expand player career mode for more leagues.

Every year millions of football fans splash out £40 or more on release day and online players cough up obscene amounts of money to unlock players in Ultimate Team and other online modes over the course of the season and although I would never suggest that EA are not trying to improve on the high standards they have already set, it does feel like some years there is little evolution from the previous FIFA instalment.

This year with FIFA 16, we were treated to gameplay ‘improvements’ that have made the game less exciting to play and more even more tedious. A new ‘revolutionary’ touch-less dribble system (does anyone actually use it?), pre-season friendly competitions and womens football were billed as the big changes on the much improved FIFA 15 instalment. The latter is probably the most welcome and revolutionary of the additions, but the rest fall rightfully under the meh category.

Are these adjustments, slight tweaks enough to justify having to put our hands in our pocket and pay full price for a new game when FIFA titles are essentially becoming version .5 of the previous instalment.

Progress is not always in small measures with FIFA. In fact, the jump from FIFA 14 to FIFA 15 was astounding. The inclusion of Sky Sports-esque presentation combined with the first true next gen (or current gen – I can never understand the difference) visuals lifted the FIFA series to new heights and delivered the closest football experience to date. Playing the demo for the first time and indulging in the authentic Premier League presentation and incredibly photo-realistic cast literally tearing up the turf filled me with an excitement that has been missing for several years. With every new FIFA title purchased I simply accepted that it wasn’t much different to its predecessor but an improvement nonetheless. FIFA 15 raised the bar considerably and perhaps wrongly, this level or improvement is what I have come to expect. Subtle changes are no longer enough and aren’t going to cut it when I now know what EA can achieve when they put their minds to it…and now that the PES series is finally being recognised as a serious FIFA competitor.

As FIFA 16 arrived I felt a pang of disappointment on my first play and even now after a month of exposure I can’t help but see FIFA 16 as inferior to its predecessor. Not only does it look and feel the same as FIFA 15 (which can in some way be seen as a positive), the new gameplay mechanics and improved AI have actually made it a more frustrating experience. Computer AI are more robotic than ever, whereby they intercept even more passes than before, making it increasingly difficult to play a killer pass in the final third. At times the AI are borderline mind-readers, snuffing out and predicting the trajection of passes far quicker than a human ever could.

Possession is easily kept by AI too. In FIFA 16 you will spend long periods being passed around like Barcelona, only Stoke and the less attractive footballing sides will be capable of high tempo ball retention for long periods. This means that when you have possession you have to make the most of it and deters from trying any play that could end up with you losing possession. Careful and calculated build up play is now essential as you try and engineer an opening by drawing a rigid defensive line that holds formation how an AI controlled defensive unit only could. Lack of discipline and lapses in positional awareness is almost non-existent so carving an opening in FIFA 16 is incredibly difficult and begins to feel like a tense game of Chess, every time you mount an attack.

Defences are much improved because of this and scoring has become more difficult as a consequence, but its a detriment to the free-flowing and exciting playing experience that FIFA has previously delivered with such gusto.

FIFA in recent years has become something of a marmite gaming series and anyone who has played FIFA for long periods will no doubt understand my meaning. When all is going well and you’re playing with confidence there are few gaming experiences that can match FIFAs enjoyability and longevity. Considering gamers tend to talk about huge RPG and adventure titles that amass 100-200 hours gameplay, FIFA can easily absorb well over those measly figures. However – going back to my marmite analogy – whilst FIFA can be incredibly rewarding it can also be frustrating, border-lining on the cusp of torture, during those sittings that defy all logic where defeats mount up and you fall out of love with football for a brief moment, only to thrust yourself back into your next fixture.

The Verdict

When twelve months pass in gaming improvements are expected to be made and perhaps EA’s efforts for FIFA16 are misunderstood and improving on last years instalment was going to be a big ask.

Pros

Inclusion of womens football is a first for the series and a welcome addition
Pre Season Tournaments add minor depth to a stale career mode
Official licencing for the Bungesliga brings even more authenticity

 

Cons

Improved player AI restricts spontinuity and results in tedious build-up play and careful ball retention
Referees still seem biased and inconsistent when giving free-kicks
Underwhelming career campaigns need fresh ideas

Decent – 8