Get Even, from Polish studio The Farm 51, is definitely one of them.Some games refuse to be described in a single sentence.
It’s a first-person shooter, but it relies far more on exploration than blasting; firefights are few and far between. It makes a point to frighten players with the occasional tried-and-true jump scare but overall Get Even leans much more heavily on psychological horror for its chills. It’s an investigative thriller with what initially seems like a dash of simple sci-fi shtick, but it had twisted my brain into a pretzel after the first 60 minutes.
Get Even is all these things, which is what made pitching the game to publishers very difficult.
“‘So it’s a shooter? It’s a first-person shooter?’” says producer Lionel Lovisa, mimicking the kinds of questions the Get Even team were fielding from potential publishers. “And you say, ‘No.”
“So, it’s a horror game?’ ‘No, it’s not; we don’t want to make a horror game.’”
According to Lovisa it was when Get Even creative director Wojciech Pazdur explained his intent to move people emotionally and his desire to “make people cry” that Bandai Namco bought into the concept.
Ultimately Get Even is a little bit from column A, and a little bit from column B-through-F; a curious first-person cocktail of themes and gameplay systems from Condemned, Gone Home, and Manhunt, with a pinch of Assassin’s Creed and a light sprinkle of the Batman Arkham games to top it off. To me that still fails to paint an accurate picture but the result is intriguing as hell.
In the beginning we assume the role of Cole Black (a gravel-voiced, blue-collar Englishman who sounds like a slightly off-brand Sean Bean) who appears to be in the final stages of investigating an active kidnapping. Black finds the girl strapped to a chair, wearing a bomb vest. Just moments later it becomes apparent the kidnapping event is actually in the past and that Black is reliving the past memory of his (possibly failed) attempt to save the victim via a high-tech device fused to his face.
In actual fact Black is marooned in a dank and dilapidated asylum, filled with other patients wearing the same kind of device. He’s confused and angry but repeatedly told by a mysterious voice (a voice that crossfades between that of an unknown man and an unknown woman) that he volunteered for this exercise. He doesn’t know why, or if that’s even true. Nonetheless, the voice continues to antagonise him, prodding him through both the asylum itself and a series of fractured memories.
The two hours of Get Even that I played raised many questions and answered none. Who is Black, why is he really stuck in this asylum, and why is he permitted to be armed? Who are these other inmates, especially the one chanting loudly through the halls about an imminent and sinister-sounding party?
What was the real outcome of the kidnapping, and how is Black related to the victim? And what is the relevance of these other memories – like one featuring a curious act of industrial espionage, and others featuring snapshots from the lives of two newlyweds – that Black is being forced to revisit?
Are all the memories Black is revisiting even his own?
At the very least, Get Even has already succeeded in making me want to uncover the answers to these questions.
The game itself has gone all-in on browns and greys but there’s a great level of detail and authenticity to the environments. This is particularly notable in the decaying walls and floors of the asylum, peeling with age, carpeted with debris, and defaced with bespoke pieces of graffiti. The Farm 51 used photogrammetry to craft the locations, scanning real-life places to build around 80 per cent of the environments in the game (including an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Owińska, Poland).
“You have people that like it; you have people that don’t like it,” says Lovisa of the technique, explaining it was an effective way for a small team to craft a good-looking world quickly.
But perhaps the strongest element of Get Even so far is the sound design. The British and Irish cast deliver some very good and very genuine dialogue with a broad range of accents and, while the game is often spookily silent, The Farm 51 utilises clever and creepy musical cues to hint to us when we’re headed in the right direction.
While gun battles are uncommon, Get Even’s ‘CornerGun’ – a pistol mounted to an LCD screen and a hinged device – adds an interesting additional layer to combat. During memory flashback sequences, areas of distortion indicate a chance for Black to alter the level in real-time. This will see Black recall (or forget) a piece of the world that may either materialise to protect him from enemies (or vanish to reveal a new safer, route through the area).
Additionally, Black is equipped with a smartphone that he can use to scan the environment, learn new information, and solve puzzles with (like tracing warm electrical wiring to search for a fuse box). Black can also produce static, holographic crime scene recreations to scan and explore.
First revealed way back in January 2014 and initially planned to release in 2015, I can’t say Get Even has ever really registered on my radar, despite the extra time on the hoist. What I will say is that the question The Farm 51 continues to stress here is, ‘What is real?’ and that I left my lengthy session with Get Even very keen to find out.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.