It’s hard to understand quite what’s going on in Get Even, a new psychological first-person thriller of sorts from Farm 51. A lot of it is an incoherent jumble of ideas, clumsily cobbled together to form an incohesive whole – yet there’s something oddly compelling, unusually intriguing about its mishmash of concepts, its imagination and its ambition.
What you do know – or at least, what you think you know – is that you’re Cole Black, a gruff and hardened hired gun. He’s trapped in a mostly abandoned asylum, where the last remaining inmates have VR-like units strapped to their heads. He has no idea who he really is, and it’s up to you to stitch together the broken fragments of Black’s memory. The headsets – called Pandora – allow users to dive through past memories, picking up extra detail as they experience the past.
With the Pandora headset strapped on, and the unseen guiding hand of his captor and observer, you’ll slowly put the meandering, malleable story together by exploring not just the dilapidated halls of the asylum, but also through Black’s splintered subconscious. Photographs, journals and other bits of information help fill in the blanks in Black’s broken brain. Much of the game plays out like game like Firewatch, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture or Dear Esther – the often pejoratively named “walking simulator.” Lots of walking about finding stuff, peppered with a few insultingly easy puzzles. And that would be a fine game right there.
You’re armed with a mobile phone, addled with apps that let your mobile device do nifty things like display thermal imaging; UV lighting to help you rack hidden footprints and see otherwise obfuscated writing. And then it sticks a gun in your hands. Within many of Black’s memories, you’ll have access to the silly Corner Gun a prototype weapon that – as its name suggests – lets you fire around corners. It has a hinged barrel that you can use in conjunction with your mobile phone to shoot enemies from the relative safety of cover.
It’s a little goofy, but it works to help pick off the guards that punctuate many levels. You’re given the preferred option, most of the time, to stalk your way around enemies – but it’s often just frustrating enough that killing everything that moves is your best course of action. Unfortunately, there’s no real finesse to the first person shooting, which remains just serviceable, but feels better than the stealth and its robotic AI. It’s a confused game, with the action and a bit of survival horror getting in the way of what is some good, if overwrought storytelling.
At its heart, it’s about telling a story, and it does that well, with its narrative twists and turns delivering a punchy Shyamalanian payoff. It’s just such a pity that more care wasn’t put in to its presentation. Dreary palettes, middling graphics and poor textures are made worse by an unsteady framerate and more than a handful of bugs, glitches, and instances of texture pop in. A few times, I had to reload a save from being stuck in the game’s scenery.
What it lacks in presentation it makes up for in production. Voice work, led by a mostly English cast, is largely superlative, and the audio has been given an especially large focus. Its audio cues are designed to keep you focused and perpetually on edge, with a dynamic soundtrack that layers upon itself to deliver a cacophony of distorted sounds and beats as it crescendos.
Last Updated: July 3, 2017
It’s ambitious, imaginative and often intriguing and does its best to deliver something fresh and unique. Unfortunately, Get Even fails to nail down the fundamentals, resulting in a sadly disjointed, overwrought experience.