The lights are on
A lot of modern post-apocalyptic fiction revolves around
survivors in burnt-out cities fighting marauders and monsters just to persist.
But what if the end of world isn't as generically dramatic as all that? This is
the question raised by The Chinese Room, developer of Dear Esther and Amnesia: A
Machine for Pigs. This story-driven PS4 exclusive invites players to explore beautiful locations
where Armageddon's impact isn't immediately evident and discover what happened
to the people who lived here.
The demo I saw during E3 2014 takes place in a calm rural
settlement on the outskirts of London in the 1980s. The Chinese Room deliberately
chose this setting for its apocalypse due to simpler living of the game world's
inhabitants, less reliance on technology, and the Cold War tensions of the
'80s. The section highlighted during the preview is unlike most
post-apocalyptic games, with lush green trees, a lovely pond, and a charming
dirt road weaving through a collection of quaint houses. The uninhabited,
hauntingly beautiful world of Everyone's Gone to the Rapture looks great
running on the PlayStation 4.
Despite the lack of people, the fields and forests of London
stir with activity. A breeze moves through the field, causing an expanse of
wheat to sway unpredictably with the breeze. Insects and birds go about their
business, hinting that Rapture's invitation to the afterlife is a human-only
In addition to the ambient life, a few ethereal entities
float through the world. A golden wisp flies around you excitedly, reacting to
certain items in the environment. Fuzzy silhouettes of lingering spirits
inhabit the world, going about their afterlife business if players care to
eavesdrop. For example, two transparent, shapeless blurs lightheartedly discuss
their family on a stone bridge. A female voice playfully talks about how
much "the kids" love the other's magic tricks, then float off down the road. Players
can follow these apparent spirits of the deceased if they wish, or look for new
clues about the apocalypse.
Exploring a farmhouse reveals a few interesting clues to
both the family and possibly the greater catastrophe at hand. A hastily-loaded
hatchback is parked behind the house, a few metallic cylinders visible through
the rear window. Opening the back reveals a sizable collection of oxygen tanks – an enigma without knowing the greater context of mankind's extinction or the
condition of the family members.
The interior of the house appears to be in perfect condition
after entering through the backdoor. Whitewashed walls and a clean living room
(complete with the tacky furniture and wood-paneled décor of the time) offer no
evidence of a problem. Suddenly an empty wheelchair flashes on the screen in a
desolate room. Further exploration reveals the chair in another room next to a
sparsely prepared bed. Maybe the oxygen tanks weren't meant to counter some
airborne hazard, but rather to help a sick loved one? The kitchen is a mess - a
messy heap of boxes packed with spoiled food sits on the table. I start to get
the sinking suspicion that the family that lived here didn't make it. These
intriguing environments, along with radio transmissions, phone calls, and
static-laden TV channels offer other glimpses into the greater story.
The gold wisp, which has been following me the whole time,
jolts ahead as the player approaches a lone tree standing high on a hill. The
wisp swirls excitedly around the tree, suggesting it holds a great deal of
significance. Could this ethereal being be the lasting soul of someone who died
in the reckoning? The developer at the controls uses the DualShock 4's tilt function
to interact with the swirling gold tendrils, which change form as he twists his
hands. Eventually the dev hits a sweet spot that makes the tendrils align and
bright light bursts forth.
The presentation ends here, but it's obvious there are many
more mysteries to explore in Rapture's world. The Chinese Room has proven it's
capable of delivering moody, story-driven experiences with disembodied
voiceover telling bits of the tale, but Rapture is something else. Its
environmental hints and audio snippets makes it feel more like Gone Home taken
to a larger scale. Though, instead of trying to discern what happened to your
family, you're deducing the fate of the human race.
Looks really cool
Just skimming this, but so far what I read reminds me of Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, and that's always a good thing.
This sounds like a quiet thrill, something that lulls you into a false sense of peace and security before revealing a heart-stopping, tear-jerking bombshell. I must get a PS4 before this comes out.
This game looks awesome. Definitely something I am interested in.
Interesting that they appear to be taking on a calmer apocalypse story. I wonder how many religious implications are in the game, such as the Rapture?
Sounds like they are taking a line from the new HBO series The Leftovers; a series about 2% of the population disappearing and the way the rest of the population reacts in the years following.
Is there a rough idea of when this may release?
Sure, everything looks calm. That is until you get to James Franco's house and Jonah Hill gets possessed.
Sounds like an interesting game. I may have to give it a try.
Just one more reason to get a PS4
Looks like a real cool game.
Super interested in this, I've never played any of The Chinese Room's previous IP's so I'm down for this.
Sounds pretty cool. Can't wait to see more of it.