STAFF REVIEW of Get Even (Xbox One)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Get Even Box art The terms ‘underrated’ and ‘hidden gem’ are thrown around a lot, but it’s often for good reason. Get Even, the latest game from Polish developers The Farm 51 (Painkiller: Hell and Damnation, Deadfall Adventures) is one of these cases, as it provides a great example of a quality game that will most likely be overlooked due to a lack of marketing and limited word of mouth.

Here’s hoping that this won’t end up being the case though, because mature gamers owe it to themselves to give this dreamstate mindbend at least one playthrough.

Taking the form of a first-person shooter, albeit not the typical, bullet-heavy type, Get Even is a game about exploring one’s memories in order to piece together what happened. Specifically, how a young woman was kidnapped, who’s to blame, and what their motive was. Even then, the answers are clouded in mystery and can leave more questions than they answer if you don’t do enough exploring or figure out exactly what’s gone on.

Within these confines, you play as Cole Black, a former criminal turned security official (and man for hire) who’s lost the ability to remember. After watching him succumb to the effects of an explosive blast, we find our protagonist outside of an abandoned mental institution. It’s a location where Mr. Black should have stayed out of though, because it isn’t long before he’s knocked out and comes to with a strange device strapped to his head. An experimental, high-tech memory exploration device, if you will.

Upon waking, you’re greeted by a man (or woman) named Red, whose communication with the player (and Mr. Black) takes place through radio chatter and TV screens. Red is as mysterious as anything in this game too, because the character’s face is blackened while on-screen, and their voice alternates between male and female frequencies. All we know about this shadow figure is that he or she serves a purpose and it’s not hard to deduce that they’re behind our entrapment within the closed down, deteriorating asylum.

The whole concept behind this game is that, through photographs, Cole is able to travel back in time and explore memories he’s otherwise forgotten. The machine is to blame for this ability, and it’s finicky beyond belief, meaning that it can’t always be trusted. Fragments can be missing, glitches do occur and killing enough enemies can cause disruptions, although those are warned about more often than they’re actually experienced.

Over the course of the next eight hours, players will find themselves hopping between memory state and the present, wherein they get to explore the asylum and talk to its unique and sometimes dangerous patients. Along the way, they’ll come across some interesting moral decisions, such as whether to let certain characters out of holding. Your choices will always matter too, because who you help will determine how things will play out later, and can lead to the deaths of important characters who play notable roles in the asylum’s story. Furthermore, making the wrong choice can affect your ending, as well as which achievements you’ll unlock.

How you tackle each memory sequence also affects the endgame, because you’re rated on how well you handled every situation. Being stealthy and avoiding conflict, or foregoing gunfire in favour of quiet takedowns, isn’t easy though, because the game’s somewhat limited enemies have good vision and some impressive hearing. It’s possible though, and will earn you the most credit if you’re able to manage it.

When spotted, enemies will alert each other and will work together to take you down, whether it’s by shooting or flanking then shooting. They’re pretty good shots, too. The good news here is that Black has some impressive tools at his disposal, those being a cellphone (with lots of apps) and a special corner-gun, which has a viewfinder that can be used to see (and shoot) enemies who happen to be located to the left or right of any corner you’re using for cover. This same principle also works when you’re crouched behind cover, as looking up at the ceiling can allow you to angle the viewpoint in a way that you’re able to shoot over the top of the blockage.

Needless to say, the corner-gun is not only neat, but also very helpful, especially if you plan to go through the game stealthily. Its basic attachment is a silenced pistol, but you can also pick up and add a louder machine gun to it if you don’t mind making some noise. Enemy assault rifles also get dropped, making them available for use as well.

That said, Get Even is less of a shooter than you’ll expect. It’s more of a narrative-focused detective experience, wherein shooting is often optional. Enemies are limited (some memories don’t have any), and there are only a few major encounters worthy of that title. Most of your time will actually be spent exploring environments, in search of newspaper clippings, letters, emails and photographs, which can be used to piece the story together.

In fact, a recurring photograph can even be used to travel from Cole’s current location to a police interrogation room of sorts. Once there, you'll find multiple light boards house all of the intelligence that you have collected, making it easier to look at things as a group and piece together each individual event. There’s a lot of evidence to find though, meaning that you’re looking at quite a bit of reading and the slowdown that comes with it. Hell, there are even patient files and audio recordings that can be listened to and explored.

All of the above combines to create an interesting, thought provoking and downright good experience, which deserves an audience. That said, Get Even will not be for everyone because of its slow pace, limited combat and occasional bit of horror. It’s for these reasons that I would only recommend it to mature gamers who appreciate something different, and love to find those diamonds in the rough.

That said, Get Even is not perfect. While it may end up being one of 2017’s sleeper hits, it isn’t without its faults. The most prominent of these is how, despite being full of great ideas and concepts, the game’s unique menagerie of mechanics isn’t fleshed out to its fullest potential. It’s simply too short to really take advantage of everything it introduces, though its' developers deserve credit for trying and for doing everything they did.

Sometimes things can get a bit obtuse too, as even though Cole’s smartphone has a lot of helpful apps, the game’s limited puzzles aren’t always properly explained. I got through them, though, and I don’t consider myself to be very good at puzzles or the puzzle genre itself.

Speaking of the in-game cellphone, it’s important to mention exactly what it offers. From text and call features (both of which are incoming only) to a flashlight/UV light feature, it has everything you’d expect. It also doubles as your gun’s viewfinder, can track heat sources, and features a helpful map that displays the location of each and every enemy, as well as their field of vision. Think of Metal Gear Solid when you imagine that.

What I can’t stress enough though is taking your time to explore each and every nook and cranny as much as possible. If you don’t find enough evidence, you may end up confused once the game comes to an end. Get Even is too much of a mindbending experience to play quickly, because if you fail to read or listen to the things that you find, you’ll lose out on vital information.

Now, when it comes to performance, there’s thankfully little to complain about. For the most part, Get Even runs very well and looks good in the process. Its realistic art style, quality textures and detailed environments aid its dark story, as do the digital glitches that occur throughout the memories themselves. Going further, some impressive writing and solid (British) voice acting also help to flesh out this quality experience.

The downsides to the Xbox One version come in the form of slowdown, which appears every so often. It’s usually during gunfights where it shows its ugly face, although it rarely ever hampers the gameplay much. In fact, there was only one occasion where I would’ve called the slowdown bad. Then again, considering how cryptic and stylish the game is, it’s possible that the developers wanted that to happen.

Alas, I’ll conclude this review by simply saying this: Get Even is a winner, and if you like film noir, dark crime stories and/or games that make you think, then you need to check it out.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.9 / 10
Visuals: 7.9 / 10
Sound: 8.3 / 10


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