Get Even is one of those games that is a nightmare to review; not because of a lack of quality—in fact, this walking-simulator-in-a-first-person-shooter’s-clothing could be one of 2017’s cult hits—but because the storyline features so many twists and turns that one is constantly worried about giving too much away and spoiling the experience.
The Farm 51’s latest is a first-person psychological thriller that toys with the player from the off—providing very few details other than that the character’s name is Black, he sounds a lot like Sean Bean, and the game’s setting is unclear. (Although the writers did let slip that the opening is set 10 miles outside of Nuneaton in England.) Black’s mission is simple: save the girl.
While searching for the missing girl, the player is introduced to the suite of puzzle-solving gadgets available on Black’s smartphone. These include a map that helps him slip past guards; a black light to reveal bloody footprints and other clues; an infrared camera that shows enemies’ heat signatures and how hot parts of the environment are; and an evidence scanner, which serves a self-explanatory purpose.
After a rather depressing plod through a derelict building, solving a few simple puzzles and exploring every nook and cranny for evidence, Black finds the girl. However, as he attempts to disarm a homemade bomb that has been strapped to her, it explodes. (This element caused the game’s release to be pushed back by a month because of similarities to the terrorist atrocity in Manchester.) Black then awakes in a derelict asylum with a curious VR device welded to his head. This device allows people to relive their memories: memories that Red, a mysterious figure whispering in Black’s ear, wants to explore. The first of these memories is the time that Black stole a prototype weapon—the corner gun, an inherently cool piece of technology—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, players can turn the barrel of the weapon 90° and use the attached infrared screen to find and deftly pick off guards while remaining out of harm’s way. The weapon is incredibly fun to use and annoys Black’s handlers every time he opens fire, as it causes distortions in the memories, represented by the guards exploding into millions of pixels—a rather cool effect that begs for a wanton rampage.
This sense of fun creates a moral dilemma for the player. The shooting mechanics in the game are great, and the corner gun offers a fresh and thoughtful take on the mechanics of the average cover-based shooter. 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, actions in Get Even have consequences that are not always obvious at first. In fact, some are so subtle that they remain unnoticed until after the fact. Cause-and-effect systems play a large role in the game, with minor actions having wider consequences further down the line, and no good deed going unpunished. This system of consequence is one of the more interesting ways that Get Even plays with both genre conventions and player expectations. The game is a shooter that can be completed without having to shoot anyone, blurring the line between FPS and walking simulator in the best, and often trippiest, way possible.
As the game progresses, Black’s grip on reality slips away as the myriad mysteries slowly unfold and players are taken on a strange journey best described as Old Boy-meets-Inception in a dingy warehouse just outside of Stoke. The trippy narrative is backed by a strong and oppressive visual style, with environments constructed using a bespoke scanning technology that enabled the developers to use 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 lifeless husks and abandoned warehouses. Each space feels real, with a tremendous sense of place and presence. Any player who ever broke into an abandoned warehouse as a kid or had to walk past a dodgy underpass will be whisked back to memories they wish to forget and the ever-present sense of dread that hangs in the air in such places. The key difference is that, now, the maniacs in the dark, waiting to beat the player’s head in with lead pipes, are more than a figment of the imagination.
Backing the bleak visuals is a stellar score by French composer, Olivier Deriviere, and some of the best audio design ever found in a game. Get Even is an oddly musical affair, with every 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, as oppressive as 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 cast of crazies Black encounters in his trip to the asylum, each voice feels as vital and brilliantly executed as the last. This uniform quality is a praise-worthy accomplishment for what is, essentially, an indie game 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, Get Even, as with the best thrillers, is well worth a second sitting to experience the myriad eureka moments that go whistling past the player’s head in the first playthrough, but the significance of which are revealed once the story finally comes together.
In short, Get Even is one party that gamers, fans of Black Mirror, and the Nolan Brothers’ better films will not want to miss.