Game of the Year: #9 – Everyone’s Gone into Raptures (PS4)
The beauty of Everybodys Gone to The Rapture is its calmness. This is a game about an apocalypse, which has no explosions. A game about a deadly virus, which does not include any zombies. A game about a community at war, which has no weapons.
Instead, he tasks you with piecing together the history of the ancient inhabitants of a small English town in Shropshire. As you walk through the abandoned streets, you are shown sections of the lives of the title’s six main characters in the days and weeks leading up to the disaster.
And what characters are they? Thanks to the consistently fantastic writing, these are some of the most compelling and well-realized people in modern gaming. This is the kind of writing that is complex enough to allow for arguments about motivation, while at the same time being accessible enough to avoid pretense.
In fact, you may have met some of these people. There’s Jeremy Wheeler, a local priest who finds his faith tested when the virus sweeps through his hometown. Or Wendy Appleton, a war widow whose memories of her husband cling to every surface of her empty house. Or, most notably, Katherine and Stephen, the scientists whose story weaves throughout the entire experience, touching on everything from metaphysics to small-town race relations.
“Everyone has gone to the strongest character in the Rapture, however, it is Yaughton himself”
Perhaps the strongest character, however, is Yaughton himself. Crafted in unnervingly meticulous detail, every inch of this abandoned valley makes the most of its ’80s setting. Light and shadow in particular allow for moments that wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror game. Also, the lack of a map of the outside world forces you to rely on the tourist signs scattered throughout the city, which is a refreshing exercise in pure exploration.
However, unlike previous The Chinese Room games, there is also a strong focus on interactivity. Clothesline sheets sway gently in the breeze, most buildings can be explored, and phone booths and radios containing clues to the nature of the apocalypse fill the valley.
Tying the whole experience together is the achingly beautiful soundtrack, which is a very serious contender for the most impressive video game score of all time. It does an amazing job of evoking the game’s small-town setting, while also grappling with its deeper alien themes. Like the title itself, it’s hopeful, chilling, and beautiful.
There was a long, slow, painful buildup of anticipation leading up to the release of Everybodys Gone to the Rapture; Sony constantly used it as an example of how mature and diverse their platform was going to be. Thankfully, that buildup wasn’t for nothing, as it turned out to be the smart, beautiful, and heartbreaking experience we’ve all been hoping for.
But perhaps the best synthesis of what makes the title special can be found in a hymn that plays in one of its first sections. “Consider me and listen to me,” the song pleads. In fact, this is a game that, more than any other, will make you listen, think and feel.