Game: Get Even
Developer: The Farm 51
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Get Even may be marketed as a first person action game, but to call it that would do a disservice to the ambition of the developers, as well as drastically misleading consumers. Get Even is a title which is hard to pigeonhole, and its unique structure both intrigues and frustrates in near equal measure. The best I could do is to call it a psychological thriller, but that does little to explain anything about the game as a whole. You take up the mantle of Cole Black, a common or garden hired muscle-by-numbers.
You join proceedings as Black finds himself in an unknown location, searching for a kidnapped girl. Things quickly go to pot and, one failed bomb detonation later, Black has a case of video game amnesia, waking up in an abandoned asylum. I know, I know; amnesia, a creepy asylum, muscle bound protagonist; so far, so stereotypical. What makes things a little more unique however, is that Black finds he has had a strange VR headset strapped to his head, which gives him the ability to revisit buried memories and replay them, to gather new insight. Your only guide is a sinister voice in your headset, known as Red.
It is with this headset that the player must work out what happened to the girl in the opening scene, and what events led up to that point. This involves delving into a complex web of criminals, shady cops and not-so-mad scientists. The plot is certainly gripping right from the get-go, with unanswered questions and mysterious occurrences at almost every turn. Being able to unearth and follow the clues scattered throughout your memories is the difficult part, as you try to make sense of the thoroughly complex web of information. Your choices and discoveries, or lack thereof, will influence how different moments throughout the game play out, but none have any meaningful impact on the final outcome of Get Even.
Clues are drip-fed in small chunks, and most discoveries create more mystery than they solve, but it is consistently gripping. There are many issues fighting against the allure of the plot that make it difficult to carry on though, even when you really want to know what happens next. Pacing is a constant problem, with many sections of the title feeling too empty, broken up by all-too-short bursts of action or intrigue. Indeed, the majority of gameplay is made up of searching through rooms in the asylum, or other cookie-cutter run-down environments, looking for the next hotspot to investigate.
Your smartphone is key to all investigative sections, with a selection of apps helping to analyse and make sense of everything. You have a scanner app, which highlights and explains key objects, an Ultraviolet light used for following blood trails and the like, a heat vision mode for scoping out the location of any nearby enemies or live wires, and your map and text messages, for obvious reasons. With quick taps of the directional pad you can swap from one app to the next and quickly examine your surroundings with ease, which is all fairly intuitive, if a bit overly obvious when each app needs to be implemented.
Whereas these sections might be a little too slow and ponderous, at least they work well, whereas the supposed tense moments are more often than not ruined by pointless jump-scares and worn-out horror tropes (one such example being a creepy Monkey tin toy). Any moments of combat in-game are thoroughly disappointing too, with weapons being difficult to aim and a lack of melee combat in the confined corridors of the asylum a constant annoyance. The enemy artificial intelligence is also very patchy, ranging from those who run straight into your bullets without a thought, to stupidly accurate shooters who take you down within seconds. There is no consistency, making any combat sections very frustrating.
The gun-play is entirely unsatisfying with your regular array of guns, and this isn’t even saved by the centrepiece of the combat in Get Even, the cornergun. Only usable in certain memories, this gun lets you shoot around blind corners. This is an original idea, but the same AI issues and poor controls plague this weapon too; and that is on the rare occasions that you can actually use the gun. Red repeatedly encourages you not to kill anyone, as it will lead to corrupted memories. Even stealth take-downs seem to act as kills, so as the player you feel the need to avoid all confrontation, rendering the inclusion of a unique weapon more or less pointless.
It should be said that Get Even is not a good-looking title either. Its previously mentioned drab locations are rendered in a fairly unimpressive way, with particularly poor faces on character models throughout. Even for such basic locations, the visuals are very unimpressive. This is balanced somewhat by the sound design, which actually evolves and reacts to the way you play. Background music seamlessly ramps up in tempo and intensity when the action does the same, or creates horrible screeching, unnerving noises when you find yourself in a particularly tense predicament. The music isn’t catchy or memorable in any way, but is used successfully as a narrative device to heighten the emotion when needed.
As you have probably gathered already, Get Even is distinctly uneven. There is much promise in the story laid out by the development team, and there are a lot of interesting gameplay devices in action. Leaping back into memories and investigating the truth behind your own past actions is fascinating, but so many other moments fall flat. The gun-play is laborious, and the jump-scares irritating. There is clearly the basis of a good game buried in here somewhere, but you almost feel like The Farm 51 needed to choose whether they wanted to make an FPS, a horror game or a criminal investigation adventure. The three aspects don’t sit well together, and lead to a disappointing conclusion, with the obligatory M. Night Shyamalan-style “What a twist” ending.