Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture was a frustrating, unmoving, underwhelming experience… because apparently I’m an asshole.
I must be completely out of touch. Everyone raved about Rapture. For a small game it had solid hype leading to its release and scored fantastic reviews afterward, even being mentioned as Game Of The Year or at least making the short list. However, to me, I was so underwhelmed that I searched the internet to have it explained to me, thinking that I had missed some godly revelation along the way. No, I completely understood the proposed beauty of sinking depression. It just didn’t affect me.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a quirky art-school game where you play as an un-identified first-person discovering an English countryside village where all of its inhabitants have mysteriously vanished. You’re completely alone throughout the entire game to wander and be chilled by the vacant landscape, besides being guided by glowing orb of light. The light ball keeps you on course throughout and is a catalyst that triggers various glowing human-shaped memories of the townspeople. These visions performed by the ball of light are to aid you in piecing together the tragedy of the rapture. The whole story is Tarantino’ed and as you come across new information you’re left to figure out how all these out-of-sequence bits are pieced together.
On the surface, it sounds like a pretty sweet game that would be right up my ally. I like this type of crap. I am the target market this game was trying to reach. While it can feel a little eerie due to the vast emptiness, I like that the game is virtually stress-free and you just follow along to a story as it unfolds. And I guess that’s where things quickly derailed for me- I never once cared about the people in this town. I had no reason to. I had no reference point of self-identity. Who was I and what emotional bond did I have here? Was I a first responder arriving at the scene? Was I a ghost of one of the vanished? Was I a superhuman medium that could communicate with the spirit world? Was I consciousness manifested by the glowing ball of light itself? I’m pretty sure I was none of these things and understand the symbolism of me being nothing, as nothing can exist after the rapture takes place. However, that nothingness lead to not a single heartstring being tugged within my pea-sized soul, even as I looked down at a child’s toy that been dropped and left behind.
To add insult to injury, the further I progressed into the story, the more and more I loathed everyone that the rapture had taken. These were terrible people. The writing was probably a fairly accurate depiction of the skeletons hiding beneath regular everyday life, but ultimately these characters were just a bunch of shitheads. Adultery, abandoning a terminally ill spouse, assisted suicide, self-righteous busybodies, alcoholics, pregnant smokers, murders, a couple purposely abandoning their infant in the middle of the crisis, and it was all capped off by a priest who had lost his faith. The whole story was driven by dishonesty, lust, and regret with no counterbalance of true love, courage, or selflessness that you could rally behind. The town personified a dull weak sigh of humanity and I couldn’t think of a more perfect place to begin the apocalypse.
But wait, according to the Good Book aren’t only the righteous supposed ascend? Well, this isn’t that kind of rapture. As far as I can tell, a couple of astrologists invited a sentient being of light from a far off celestial body to Earth through some telescopes which then integrated itself and traveled through our electronics before beginning to killing every living thing in its path- birds, dogs, cows, humans, you get the idea- by giving them a headache and then turning them into light. Still with me? I’m sure there’s poetry here somewhere, but it’s not the kind from Nantucket.
My aggravation with the game began early on when I was still impressionable and excited about its possibilities. In the opening chapter entitled Jeremy, based around the parishioner who had lost his religion, my god-damn ghostly ball of light glitched and froze up on me, never allowing me the satisfaction of witnessing his death. I only know what happened because I was so angered that I couldn’t go backward in the game after the reboot that I went on YouTube and watched a video of the sequence.
The game runs (ha, runs…) about 5 or 6 hours long, 4 hours longer than it needed to be due the incredibly slow pace at which your mysterious geriatric first-person character walked. I wanted to force-feed the PS4 a Geritol and cup of coffee- it was bad. In the beginning you were excited to explore every nook and cranny, gathering as much information as you could to discover what the hell happened. After backtracking a few times thinking that you may have missed something, and there’s really no way of telling if you did or not, you quickly say “fuck it” and just follow your ball of light in hopes of reaching the end.
The slow pace of the game was spurred purely by the developer’s pride and had little to do with the game's ability. They really wanted to make sure that their lack-luster story was sinking in and that you to ooh’ed and aah’ed at the landscape, which looked on par with a mid-life PS3 game. I will give them credit for their lighting, as that was one of the most impressive aspects of the game. Landscapes did look beautiful under different times of day with the sun seeming to cast shadows, bounce, and reflect naturally. However, the first person movement during your leisurely stroll seemed as jagged and square as Goldeneye and the extremely basic controls were confusing. I didn’t fully understand the controller-motion-tilt-thingy that you were required to use when communicating with your singalong-bouncing-ball-of-light until about halfway through.
Speaking of singalongs, the soundtrack was another rare shinning moment and masterfully orchestrated. Big church-like choirs of angels sung in a rapture-esq manner, faintly reminiscent of Jim Carey’s “aaaaallllllllrighty then,” which followed you around from place to place. You knew when a big chorus was cued that the game was striving for a sentimental moment, but nothing seemed to invoke my tabernacle sensibilities. The composition was impressive and contributed to a mystical aurora but that quickly faded as you limped around in the bushes for 20 minutes in a giant circle.
When you finally reach the ending, I presumed you’d be rewarded with a revelation dependent on how many transistor radios you turned on throughout the town. Huh? Don’t ask. Having no idea if I found everything I needed to accurately tell the story, or at least enough to be able to piece things together, I was given a spectacular let down in the form of an epiphany. It wasn’t that the sentiment was bad but I felt I had earned a much larger bow-tied package containing the “meaning of life” than I was getting. I mean, seriously, I had just walked a really long way.
“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine” keep racing through my mind as the game culminated in a vague and rambling philosopher’s stone of astrology masked by astronomy. I understand this game is about the journey and that I was supposed to feel something towards these poor English bumpkins, but what did Kate- the bitch leading the charge that unleashed this hell upon Earth- teach me? That dying is great and we should all do it sometime? That it was all worth it because now our collective consciousness can be reunited with the cosmic light?
I know I’m taking a giant dump all over the Rapture but the story hinged around characters that I felt no attachment towards what-so-ever. I felt like I was the Alien Light God on a working vacation in England to check in on my death ray and see how it did. “Yup, seemed to work fine. Wiped these assholes out real good,” I thought whilst I whistled to myself and took baby steps through a giant wheat field.
The game wasn’t poorly made, and it wasn’t even poorly written. I believe the creators accomplished exactly what they set out to do and told the story they wanted to tell, which is why I don’t feel bad for not liking it. It’s purely a matter of taste, and according the vast majority of the gaming industry- I have none.