I’m sure we can all think of a ‘thriller’ which has failed to thrill, much like a horror title that made you piss yourself with laughter rather than crap yourself with terror. I find the worst offenders are ‘psychological thrillers’, a term studios use to describe their “immersive” and “thought-provoking” dramas, where ambiguity and outlandish twists distract you from the eye-sore you’ve just sat through. I must admit, this is what I was thinking going into the latest thriller to hit the shelves, Get Even, a game with an intriguing premise that I was sure would fail to grip me with psychological turmoil. But I was wrong, very wrong. Embarrassingly wrong even, because this had me hooked in a way I didn’t think possible. Get Even has been a rather difficult game to critique, because I feel simply diving too deeply into it will ruin potential surprises and genuine shocks, the biggest one of all being how much of a master piece in storytelling this was; I hope you’ve slept well, because you’ll need all your brain power to crack this case.
Get Even is a psychological, first person thriller from the Polish team at The Farm 51 and published by Bandai Namco, releasing on PC, PS4 and XboxOne. Coming out of the shadows 3 years after being originally announced, Get Even puts you into the shoes of Cole Black, a … well black operative contracted to rescuing a young girl who has been kidnapped with a bomb attached to her. After following her trail, Black comes face to face with the young girl, only to be unable to disable the bomb and causing the entire compound to fall to rubble. Black wakes up in the grounds of Lithurst mental asylum, a facility specialising in treating its “patients” with new age technology and techniques, notably the Pandora/Savant headset, a VR device that can be used to explore dreams and unlock lost memories. It isn’t long before Black is confronted by ‘Red’, the man who seemingly owns and runs the asylum, and it’s up to the both of them to dive into Black’s blurry memories and find out exactly who the kidnapped girl was and why he’s the final piece of the puzzle. Get Even has been billed as a deep psychological adventure with twists and turns around every corner, which unfairly but naturally filled me with an immense level of scepticism, as I can name many games and movies who have offered similar and failed to deliver. But Get Even isn’t like other games and movies. Get Even actually follows through with its promise and delivers an intricate and highly enthralling dark tale with innovative gameplay and compelling storytelling. Honestly, this was the first game in a long while I genuinely couldn’t put down.
The story that Get Even tells is a very strong, cryptic and intertwining one, and one that ultimately pays off in not 1, not 2, but 3 major twists within the game’s closing chapters. It’s tough to talk about Get Even’s narrative without spoiling too much, but in an effort to be as vague as possible, think of it as Sherlock Holmes meets Shutter Island meets Inception, only with a few more mind games and tactical espionage thrown in for good measure. The omnipotent character only known as Red informs Black that when wearing the Pandora, he is able to revisit his forgotten and repressed memories in order to find out how and why Grace Ramsay was kidnapped. Each of these memories form an action-packed level, which themselves span over a couple of years and eventually leading up to the incident that started it all, the bomb. As Black you will not only relieve these traumatic events, but you’ll also be searching for clues and essentially a way out of the asylum you are currently being held hostage in. The asylum itself is like something out of Bioshock, deranged psychopaths and dangerous loners roam its corridors asking for help or forgiveness, and these moral decisions will affect the outcome of your investigation; it’s not clear exactly how much your choices impact the story however, so unfortunately, it’s not as thrilling as it initially sounds. Within the asylum lies a gateway to your repressed memories, and within each of these memories you’ll come to understand Black’s character, his job and ultimately why he just so happens to be involved with each of game’s protagonists and antagonists. Throughout this game I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat, not necessarily for the challenging gameplay, but because I was eager to be ahead of the pack and solve the crime myself. Get Even does get a little hard to follow at times, almost as if it’s trying to be too clever or shocking, however as it approaches its climatic finale, the pace quickens and as quickly as questions are answered more pop up in the back of your mind, leaving you reeling and rather exhausted from your recent findings. There’s little more I can comment on Get Evan’s story, it’s exhilarating, very mysterious and executed in a truly creepy, heart pounding manner, and I loved every second of it.
Taking a page or 2 out of the narrative, Get Even’s gameplay has a few twists of its own. Typically with a first person game you’ll traverse across the level with a mini map in the lower right corner, however in Get Even it’s up to you to display it and unfortunately you can’t have it there the entire time. Black’s most useful, albeit powerful tool in his arsenal is his mobile phone, which can not only be used as a mini map, but also a camera for scouting out clues or evidence, a thermal imaging camera, a UV torch or a means to receive and decipher cryptic texts and emails. The fact that you can’t have more than one of these on display at the same time can make for a rather tense playthrough, I mean you could scout the environment to uncover every clue for the case file (and in doing so will unlock a new weapon and a secret cutscene to further bolster the story), or keep your eye on those deadly enemies walking around you. How you deal with your enemies will genuinely play a large role in the success of your mission, and Red will often remind you of this. Going into each memory all guns a blazing with “corrupt the memory” as Red puts it, meaning it will become a lot more difficult when you revisit said memory later on in the game, such as adding in stronger enemies that weren’t there previously. Making a much more stealthier approach will not only be the best moral decision, but will preserve the memory and make it almost a walk in the park later on in the game, which in my opinion is the better option considering the frustratingly unbalanced AI that roam each level. I can’t decide whether the game’s AI is realistic or unnecessarily difficult, I mean of course if you were a trained soldier you’d be able to spot a shadowy figure crouched in the distance, however this a video game and it’s almost unfair how easily you can be spotted and how quickly you can subsequently be killed. This level of annoyance can easily be doubled when you’re struggling within an area with poor checkpoint locations, meaning not only will you be killed in a ridiculously difficult way, but you’ll then have to restart that from a far-off location, causing froth to quickly form in the corners of your mouth and steam to begin spouting from your ears.
Speaking of ears, something that The Farm 51 have really gone to town on is their sound design, which plays a large, terrifying role in your mental investigation. You may be equipped with a mini map, however you don’t have an arrow pointing you in the right direction, so you must let the soundtrack guide you to your objective. In similar fashion to a horror movie soundtrack, a crescendo insinuates that the character you’re following is approaching something or someone, and this is exactly what happens whilst playing Get Even, making your heart pound harder and triggering paranoia for what you’ll find on the other side of that door. The sudden impactful jolts, the tension raising dark background music, the cold wind rushing in, the sharp glass underneath your feet, every second of sound in this game truly encapsulates your senses, to the point I was anxious about sticking a headset on! This excellent high-quality sound design also follows through into the game’s cast, which are all in turn very convincing, impacting and difficult to turn away from, and considering that the game is set in the UK, it’s almost as if you’re following a well written and performed BBC drama, which nicely distracts you from the game’s bland visuals. Apart from the terrifying Lithurst asylum, every other location within Get Even lacks any real character or creativity, and playing it on the PS4, it just looked pretty dull at best. A combination of undistinctive, gloomy and unoriginal/tired environments makes Get Even a rather boring game to watch, but that being said, if it wasn’t for the thrilling gameplay, gripping soundtrack and captivating story that relies on your exploration, this could have been a much bigger issue; as a self-proclaimed narrative guru, the visuals thankfully don’t take credit away from the unfolding story or nerve-wracking gameplay.
With a deeply gripping narrative and mesmerizing soundtrack, Get Even is a staggering achievement, a real ‘edge-of-your-seat’ experience from start to finish. Inspired by the heart-pounding twists and turns of its story, Get Even’s gameplay too has a few tricks up its sleeve, which in turn add a fantastic extra layer of terror and panic to the already stressful environments you find yourself in. Get Even’s centre piece, the asylum, is a greatly disturbing HQ that will challenge your moral decisions and common decency, a dungeon packed full of deranged patients and real character, which in turn vastly outweighs every other of the game’s locations, showcasing just how bland and run-of-the-mill they are in comparison. We first learned of Get Even back in 2014, and though it may have slipped under the radar for a time, this has truly been worth the wait; a master class in storytelling and building tension makes this a strong contender for my game of the year!