Get Even is one of those games that is a bugger to review; not because it isn’t any good. Not at all. In fact, the Farm 51’s walking-simulator- in-a- first-person- shooter’s-clothing is one of 2017’s best surprises and bound for cult classic status.
No it’s a bugger to review because the narrative features so many twists and turns that I’m worried that if I talk about it too much, I may give the game away and spoil it. Let’s put it this way, I have been biting my tongue since I finished because it’s really damn good, and I really want to talk about it. But I can’t because spoilers (and one of them pesky NDAs)
The Farm 51’s latest is a first-person psychological head fuck (the writer’s words not mine) that toys with the player from the off—providing very few details other than that the protagonist’s name is Cole Black, he sounds a lot like Sean Bean (but isn’t), and he doesn’t have a clue where he is. (Surprisingly 10 miles outside of Nuneaton in England.) like northern Booker DeWitt – Black’s mission is simple a simple one: save the girl.
While on the hunt for the kidnapped lass, the player is introduced to the dank and dingy world of Get Even and the suite of puzzle-solving gadgets available on Black’s smartphone that players use to interact with it. These include a map that helps him slip past guards; a black light to reveal bloody footprints and other hidden clues; an infrared camera that shows enemies’ heat signatures and hot parts of the environment; and an evidence scanner, which, umm, scans evidence.
After a rather depressing plod through a derelict and mostly abandoned building, solving a few simple puzzles and exploring every nook and cranny for evidence. Black finds the girl. However, this when things take a turn for the tragic as when he attempts to disarm the homemade bomb vest that has been strapped to her, it explodes. (Thus the months delay, because bastard terrorists)
Black then awakes in a derelict asylum with a curious VR device known as the Pandora welded to his head. The Pandora allows people to relive their memories, for better or worse: memories that Red, a mysterious figure whispering in Black’s ear, wants to explore. In particular, the time that Black stole a prototype corner gun from the headquarters of a major British arms firm.
The corner gun does exactly what the name suggests: shoots around corners. With the press of a Button you can turn the barrel of the weapon 90° and use the attached infrared screen to find and deftly pick off guards while remaining safely out of harm’s way. The weapon is incredibly fun to use and annoys Black’s handlers every time you opens fire, as it causes distortions Black’s memories (which are not that reliable anyway), causing guards to explode into millions of pixels upon death – a rather cool effect that just made me want to go on a rampage all the more.
Oddly though the strength of the unique shooting mechanics created a strange moral dilemma. Killing people in Get Even is a lot of fun – with the corner gun brings with it a fresh and thoughtful take on the mechanics of the average cover- based shooter that makes you feel like a badass. However, scratching that itchy trigger finger will negatively affect the way that other characters react to Black. In a similar manner to Telltale’s The Walking Dead games, your actions in Get Even have consequences which are not always obvious at first. In fact, some are so subtle that they remain unnoticed until way after the fact. Cause and effect is everywhere in the game, with minor actions having wider consequences further down the line, and no good deed going unpunished. Get Even gleefully fucks with the players head by undermining genre conventions and player expectations at the drop of a hat – It is a shooter in which the player is encouraged not to shoot anyone: Blurring the line between FPS and walking simulator trippiest, way possible.
The dark, surreal narrative is backed by a strong and oppressive visual style, with environments constructed using a bespoke scanning technology that enabled the developers to use repurposed real-world locations to fill Get Even with amazing detail. The realism provided by this approach gives environments a lived-in feel, despite Black spending most of his time exploring the lifeless husks of abandoned warehouses and other urban nightmares. Each space feels real, with a tremendous sense of place and presence. If you ever broke into an abandoned warehouse as a kid or have to walk through a dodgy graffiti strewn underpass will find themselves clutching their metaphorical keys between their knuckles, as they are reminded of that ever-present sense of dread that lives in such places. The key difference being that the maniacs in the dark waiting to beat the player’s head in with lead pipes, aren’t just a figment of their imagination.
Backing the bleak visuals is a stellar score by French Composer, Olivier Deriviere and some of the best audio design ever seen in a game. Get Even is an oddly musical affair, with every piece of environmental sound keyed to a certain note. As the player progresses, the air hums aggressively, and the sound of doors opening and the character’s footsteps subtly add to the overwhelming and oppressive soundtrack that peaks and troughs with the player’s actions. If Silent Hill composer, Akira Yamoaka took over as the artistic director of Stomp, Get Even’s audio would likely be the result: a cacophony of incidental industrial noise relentlessly bearing down on the player, as oppressive as it is compelling and best experienced through a decent pair of headphones.
The ambient audio is accompanied by brilliant performances from Get Even’s small and mostly British voice cast. From the Bean-esque northern grumble of protagonist Cole Black to the the oddly reassuring voice of Red, and the wider mob of maniacs Black encounters in his trip to the asylum, each voice feels as vital and brilliantly executed as the last. A major accomplishment for what is, essentially, an indie game (just with top notch production values)
Clocking in at 8-10 hours for the first playthrough, Get Even is a weekend well spent. Though the wider narrative strokes remain unchanged, as with all the best thrillers, it is well worth a second sitting to just experience the myriad eureka moments that go whistling straight past your head in the first playthrough, but all come together nicely at the end. (I would recommend watching the side story trailer again too for another ‘ahhhh’ moment).
Like a playable version of Black Mirror ( now there’s a thought) Get Even is one party that gamers will not want to miss. Come join the Party. The Party! THE PARTY! THE PARTY!