We don't often struggle for words when summing up a game, but Get Even is a unique proposition. This is a title that in many ways defies simple categorisation. Is it a shooter? Not really, but there are shooter elements. Is it an adventure game? Not really, but there are light puzzles to solve. Is it a horror game? Not really, but tension oozes out of every polygon and at times it can be genuinely unsettling.
Whatever it is or isn't, The Farm 51 has done a fine job here, crafting a game that mixes different elements to enthralling effect. Whoever coined the term "first-person thriller" had it about right, and we were glued to the screen throughout the 10-12 hours we spent in its company, each night postponing bedtime just so we could see what happened next.
We've not played a game quite like this before. That said, its cinematic and narrative influences are obvious; from Alice in Wonderland to Inception and back again, there's a strong emphasis on dreams or, more specifically, memories. The Farm 51 explores the darkest recesses of a troubled mind, and the journey through their subconscious is often disconcerting, to say the least.
We don't want to delve too deep into the narrative because that would be to spoil an exciting story campaign, but we will try and give you an idea as to its flavour, without ruining anything important. We've mentioned memories, and in Get Even we're occupying the mind of Cole Black; a mercenary turned security operative who works for an arms manufacturer. Through the course of the story, we explore the events around a kidnapping that culminate in an explosion.
The question of who was involved - and why - is at the heart of the experience, and Black must explore the furthest corners of his mind as he is guided by the mysterious androgynous voice of Red. Evidence litters the world, and when Black looks at a document or clue, that clue then appears on a notice board in something akin to a memory palace. Different memories each have a board that can be referred to later and even replayed (ideal for those who have to know absolutely everything that happens).
When not revisiting the past, Black inhabits a strange and twisted asylum of sorts; here, he gets to know Red a bit better, and we also start to piece things together. Or do we? We'll leave it there in terms of describing the story, because this is a narrative that twists and turns with almost reckless abandon, and it'll keep you guessing right until the very end - but in a good way. There's a mysteriousness to the story that makes for a gripping experience, one that's engrossing to both play and watch, and we had a series of shifting theories about what has going on. One thing we did like, though, is that at the end, we didn't feel like there was much in the way of loose ends, and any plotholes that we thought we'd spotted in the distance were carefully smoothed over by the time we got to them.
Black advances through the game using a gun and a mobile phone. The gunplay is solid, and there are some tense stealth sections punctuated by engaging firefights, although we wouldn't call either a strong point. There's a strange wobble in the movement of the player-character that's a bit more pronounced than we're used to, and traversal around the world is limited (you can crouch, for example, but you can't jump). It's limited as a shooter, then, but the combat almost always serves a point.
We were regularly asked to avoid fighting and told that shooting enemies would destabilise the memory, but we shot a lot of henchmen and it didn't do much to meaningfully alter the experience as far as we could tell. At times it felt like we were being given the illusion of choice, rather than genuine options. For example, in one section we were told to avoid enemy eyes, but we had to explore an area to find a way to proceed, and getting around the guards proved very tricky when attempting it for the first time. It felt like, in this particular case, combat was practically inevitable (although with hindsight we probably could have avoided it if we'd been either lucky or committed retry by suicide a few times). There was a similar incident in the asylum where we killed an inmate; our narrator chastised us for our violence, but there literally was no option to do otherwise because failure to fire first always led to our own death.
We've talked about the gun, but the mobile phone is arguably more important. You can mount the phone on a "cornergun" that does exactly what you think it does, using the screen to dispatch opponents from the safety of cover. You can do much, much more with it though. Certain items can be scanned in the environment; little green indicators help you find your objective (like a game of hot and cold); you can bring up a mini-map complete with enemy vision cones; read messages relevant to the story; and use a UV torch to not only illuminate the dark and dank world around you but also find certain clues which are unseeable with the naked eye.
Black swaps between the two, exploring the world, shooting henchmen, finding clues, and working out light puzzles as and when they appear. It's a nice blend of ingredients, and the action is sprinkled with short scenes as the story unfolds and more artistic sections where the player walks between themed memories, while the floor appears underfoot as you walk. During these sections, there's a lot of dialogue, and in general the voice acting is of a high standard, although it does sound a little bit like a radio play at times. We still don't believe that it's not Sean Bean who plays Black, and one or two voices don't quite gel with the faces of the characters they represent (that's a very subjective criticism though, and a lot of people may feel differently about this). The script is also pretty good, and the text in the various documents is of a decent standard, although it very occasionally doesn't feel quite as authentic as the narrative otherwise suggests it is.
The characters are largely static when memories play out, which means we avoid awkward cutscenes for the most part, and the character models are solid, with a distinctive angular style. The whole thing is wrapped up in a purposeful and stylish wrapper, and they blend together sci-fi themes with horror elements to good effect. The UI is really clever, giving you everything you need without having to access immersion-breaking menus, and overall it felt intuitive to navigate the world and explore the story, despite the relative complexity of the overall narrative. The soundscape further accentuates this sense of immersion, although every now and then the audio effects can overstep the line and become annoyingly repetitive.
The story holds up though, and that's the main thing. Combat and stealth mechanics aren't top tier, but they serve the plot well enough and the whole thing is very cleverly paced. The production values are decent across the board; it's a good blend of thoughtful visual design and clever storytelling, and we've not played a game this intriguing in some time. Get Even is a strange and engrossing game, but it's not perfect. However, unremarkable stealth mechanics and run-of-the-mill combat setpieces don't detract from the fact that, otherwise, it does a lot right. If you're after an engaging first-person experience to keep you up into the wee small hours, this tense psychological thriller should definitely be one to keep in mind.