Trig­ger Happy

Shoot first, ask ques­tions later

EDGE - - SECTIONS - STEVEN POOLE Steven Poole’s Trig­ger Happy 2.o is now avail­able from Ama­zon. Visit him online at www.steven­poole.net

Steven Poole longs for a pint in Ev­ery­body’s Gone To The Rap­ture

As some­one who grew up in Lon­don and has lived in big cities ever since, I have a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship to the coun­try­side. When I’m not there, it seems as though it would be de­light­ful to be sur­rounded all the time by trees and grass and goats and what­not. If I spend too long in the coun­try­side, how­ever, it be­gins to feel as though civil­i­sa­tion has col­lapsed af­ter some apoc­a­lyp­tic event, and that the few re­main­ing sur­vivors have been driven to make their own en­ter­tain­ment with rakes and cat­tle troughs. I rapidly be­gin to yearn for the con­crete jun­gle bustling with well-dressed peo­ple on their way to do some­thing hip.

Hap­pily, I live in an age where the vir­tual pas­toral of videogames al­lows me to visit the coun­try­side for a tol­er­a­ble pe­riod of time with­out all the fuss of ac­tu­ally get­ting on a train and com­plain­ing about the in­ad­e­quate fried break­fast at the inn. In the­ory, then,

Ev­ery­body’s Gone To The Rap­ture should be my ideal dig­i­tal mini­break, since not only is it one of the most stun­ningly nat­u­ral­is­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tions yet of the bu­colic ideal, but it also so con­vinc­ingly re­alises my pre­mo­ni­tion of civ­i­liza­tional col­lapse.

Like all anti-games or non-games or – I know, let’s call them ‘un-games’ – of course, Rap­ture func­tions mainly as a Rorschach test for the player’s pre­ex­ist­ing predilec­tions. I like ex­plor­ing in games, even wan­der­ing, and there is a lot to wan­der around here. But my en­joy­ment is hob­bled by the all-too-fre­quent in­vis­i­ble walls, and even­tu­ally I couldn’t for­give the fact that I was un­able to clam­ber over a knee-high fence or climb up a cou­ple of small rocks to get where I wanted to go. Mean­while, the quiet un­canny plea­sure of wan­der­ing around

Rap­ture seemed lamentably un­der­cut by the ram­pant orb-nag­ging: those pup­py­ish, sleeve-tug­ging yel­low lights that are con­stantly shout­ing: “Hey! Come over here!”

Of course dif­fer­ent play­ers will – and should – have dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. Rap­ture is for sure a glo­ri­ous lo­cale, and in many ways a brave and cre­ative game. The ac­cre­tion of small, clever touches – fly­ers on no­tice­boards; the con­stantly eerie sound of those “num­bers sta­tions”, with voices read­ing out in­te­gers on crack­ling ra­dios; an aban­doned crutch out­side a church; a haunt­ingly for­lorn rail­way car­riage tipped 45 de­grees to the hor­i­zon­tal; a garage named af­ter a poet – is a tri­umph of at­mos­phere-build­ing. So I be­gan to fan­ta­sise about a game that trusted more in those su­perb as­pects, and had more con­fi­dence in the player’s own self-mo­ti­vated cu­rios­ity, a game that would be more a de­tec­tion-- in­ter­pre­ta­tion ex­plo­ration game rather than a prom­e­nade ra­dio drama. Oh dear, yes, I hate and de­spise the long-run­ning Ra­dio 4 soap, The Archers, even though it is ob­vi­ously very good at be­ing what it is. In­evitably, I felt ex­actly the same way about the au­dio scenes in Rap­ture. (Af­ter scrawl­ing this down in de­spair while play­ing, I dis­cov­ered that

Edge’s own re­view also made an Archers com­par­i­son, although in that in­stance it was not a deal-breaker. Dif­fer­ent strokes!)

Yes, you could say that Rap­ture is just an ex­ces­sively sign­posted scavenger hunt for au­dio di­aries. And, sure, per­son­ally I wish there had been more to do there, and a way of mo­ti­vat­ing the player to do it that wasn’t sim­ply mak­ing them fol­low danc­ing lights. On the other hand, what a beau­ti­ful place; what an out­stand­ing choral-and-or­ches­tral score; and how touch­ing it can be in its bless­edly quiet mo­ments. To dis­cover the for­est car­peted with blue­bells is a mo­ment of true aes­thetic won­der. Of course, as I have long ar­gued, get­ting ever closer to pho­to­re­al­ism is not ev­ery­thing – I still think Hyrule Field in Oca­rina Of Time in­duces a more in­tense aes­thetic emo­tion than Rap­ture man­ages – but if this is the next gen­er­a­tion of vir­tual tourism, I am ex­cited to see where we can go next.

But let’s not con­fuse any of this with re­al­ity. The most re­cent walk I took in some ac­tual coun­try­side was less beau­ti­ful and more un­com­fort­able (it started rain­ing; we got lost), but a lot more fun (I was with some­one else rather than be­ing the last per­son on Earth). Still, my equally metropoli­tan com­pan­ion and I agreed that by far the best thing about walk­ing in the coun­try­side is the pint of lo­cally brewed ale you’ll try in the next an­cient inn. For that – much as I en­joyed the price nos­tal­gia of the sign in Rap­ture’s pub say­ing “Curry and a pint £2” – videogames have yet to come up with a sat­is­fy­ing sim­u­la­tion.

I still think Hyrule Field in Oca­rina Of Time in­duces a more in­tense aes­thetic emo­tion than Rap­ture

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