Always bet on Black.
Developer: The Farm 51
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Format: PC, Xbox One, PS4 (Reviewed)
Released: June 23, 2017
“Save the girl”. These are the words that guide your actions within the first minutes of Get Even, when you’re dropped into a random location with nothing but a phone and a gun. But while it’s an objective as natural to videogames as butter is to bread, Polish developers The Farm 51, make you ask a simple question: “Why?” Why do you want to save a kidnapped girl you don’t know? And more to the point, why are you trying to save her when you don’t even know the motives of the character you’re controlling? From there, you’re plunged into an engaging psychological thriller plot, which is ultimately let down by muddled execution.
You assume the role of Cole Black, a gun for hire turned amnesiac who finds himself locked in a run-down mental hospital after failing to save the previously mentioned girl. With a strange memory-incepting headset strapped to his face and only the disembodied voice of a man calling himself “Red” to guide him, Black has no choice but to dive into his damaged memories to find out who the girl was and why he was there to rescue her in the first place.
Storytelling is probably the best thing that Get Even has to offer, providing a marvellously written story of redemption, regret and, as the title suggests, revenge, mixed with what I’m going to call “Inception meets Memento”. As you start to unravel the game’s complex mystery and explore the head-trip inducing memories of events past, it quickly becomes apparent that Black isn’t as reliable a narrator as he appears to be. Just as he begins making claims of good intentions, you’re soon presented with new pieces of information that reveal he may not be the hero he thinks he is. And I absolutely love how the game presents this enticing mystery that seems to answer its questions with further questions, begging you to figure out what’s going on, while also making you doubt what you already know.
In fact, the parts of Get Even I adored the most were the ones when it played somewhat like a tense psychological thriller. For half of the game, you’ll be exploring the dilapidated asylum, gathering evidence on the kidnapping and learning more about the other demented inmates, as well as your enigmatic guide, Red.
One moment I was solving puzzles with the help of Black’s strangely advanced smartphone which comes equipped with a UV light, thermal camera, and even a detective mode-like scanner. Then the next I was gripping my controller tight as I cautiously crept around an eerie mannequin-filled garden as the disembodied voices of the asylum’s patients screamed about how they were going to eat my eyes out with a fork. These points were definitely the highlight of the game, demonstrating the game’s fantastic sound design and pulse-pounding soundtrack. It created a wonderfully designed horror game atmosphere while keeping me on the edge of my seat — and the game’s mysteries tempted me to venture further into areas I dreaded entering.
It’s unfortunate then that the remaining half of the gameplay, which takes place when you dive into Black’s memories, is so poorly designed. During these sections, the game turns into a very simplistic and clunky first-person shooter with badly implemented stealth elements. Most of the time you’ll be plopped into an abandoned warehouse or factory area and told to make your way towards the exit door at the other end of the map. To get there, you’ll need to navigate your way around the same three enemy models that have been copied and pasted around the map, while also marvelling at how the game’s graphics have suddenly dropped in quality, sporting a drab grey/brown colour palette that makes Get Even look like a mid-generation PS3 game. And then, in a very questionable design decision, the game emphasizes that you shouldn’t actually kill any enemies you see because, for story reasons, it might risk the memory you’re incepting to collapse in on itself, meaning that you’ll need to take a stealthy, non-lethal approach.
The problem with this, however, is that it’s impossible to make it through these sections without killing at least a few enemies thanks to their poor placement and patrolling paths which stick them right in front of the path of progression. Which in turn make the moments when you do have to kill enemies all the more unsatisfying, especially when the game constantly berates you for doing so. To make matters even more confusing, the game gives you an interesting weapon in its opening hours that allows you to shoot people from around corners, making the aggressive option look all the more tempting. And while the game eventually does allow you to shoot to your merry heart’s content in its final hour, I had already given up on doing these sections properly. It was just a lot easier to instead sprint for the next area while trying not to get shot simply so I could go back to enjoying the story.
The funny thing is, despite being in development for almost four years, I can’t help but feel as though Get Even needed another year to percolate. With a little more time to polish and adjust, I think Get Even could have been one of the more interesting games of this year. While The Farm 51 have definitely presented an experience with wonderful sound design and an intriguing story full of twists and turns, Get Even is a hard game to recommend to those looking for a trippy story-driven campaign due to its schizophrenic switching of gameplay styles, outdated visuals and questionable design choices.
A rather disappointing experience with an engaging plot, but frustrating gameplay.