The beauty of Everybody's Gone to The Rapture is its quiet. This is a game about an apocalypse, which doesn't feature any explosions. A game about a deadly virus, which doesn't feature any zombies. A game about a community at war, which doesn't feature any guns.
Instead, it tasks you with piecing together the story of the former inhabitants of a small English village in Shropshire. As you walk around the abandoned streets, you're 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 they are. Thanks to the consistently fantastic writing, these are some of the most absorbing and well-realised people in modern video games. This is the sort of writing which is complex enough to allow for arguments about motivation, while still being accessible enough to avoid pretension.
Indeed, you've probably met some of these people. There's Jeremy Wheeler, a local priest who finds his faith tested as the virus sweeps his hometown. Or Wendy Appleton, a war widow whose memories of her husband cling to every surface of her empty home. Or, most notably, Katherine and Stephen, the scientists whose story winds through the entire experience, and touches on everything from metaphysics to small town race relations.
"Everybody's Gone to the Rapture's strongest character, though, is Yaughton itself"
Perhaps the strongest character, though, is Yaughton itself. Crafted with bewilderingly meticulous detail, every inch of this abandoned valley makes use of its 80s setting to the fullest effect. In particular, light and shadow allow for moments which wouldn't feel out of place in a horror game. What's more, the lack of an overworld map forces you to rely on tourist signs scattered around the town, making for a refreshing exercise in pure exploration.
Unlike previous games by The Chinese Room, however, there is also a strong focus on interactivity. The sheets on the clothesline sway gently in the breeze, most of the buildings can be explored, and telephone boxes and radios which hold clues to the nature of the apocalypse litter the valley.
Tying the entire experience together is the achingly gorgeous soundtrack, which is a very serious contender for the most stunning video game score of all time. It does an astounding job of evoking the game's small town setting, while also wrestling with its deeper extraterrestrial themes. Just like the title itself, it's hopeful, chilling, and beautiful.
There was a long, slow, and painful build up of expectation prior to the release of Everybody's Gone to the Rapture; Sony constantly used it as an example of how mature and diverse its platform was going to be. Thankfully, that build up wasn't for nothing, as it turned out to be the smart, gorgeous, heartbreaking experience that we were all hoping for.
But perhaps the best encapsulation of what makes the title special can be found in a hymn which plays in one of its early sections. "Consider and hear me," the song pleads. Indeed, this is a game which, more than any other, will make you listen, think, and feel.
Did Everybody's Gone to the Rapture leave you feeling rapturous – or ruptured? Take a trip to the end of the world in the comments section below.