[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
Get Even is a game with a ton of potential, and on more than one occasion the deep, dark and interesting story had me on tenterhooks. Unfortunately, an unusually broad range of technical issues hamper it, as does an overall lack of polish when it comes to the execution of key sections and features within the game. This is probably because of its ambition – Get Even is part psychological thriller in the vein of Layers of Fear, and part first person shooter in the style of a more cerebral Call of Duty: Black Ops. The reason you might want to keep playing though, is because of that story, which is one of the best I’ve seen in a first person game for a long time.
Get Even is the story of Cole Black, a man who, from the outset, is clearly a paranoid, troubled individual. We are introduced to him through an opening scene that has him sneaking, shooting and choke-holding his way through an abandoned building in search of a young woman who has been kidnapped. The rescue attempt soon goes awry, and Black snaps awake in an entirely different location – some kind of asylum – with a mysterious VR device called Pandora strapped to his face.
Here we are introduced to Red; a refined and measured sounding male voice that occasionally morphs into what sounds like a more disapproving female. Red often refers to his or herself as we, and the contrast to Black’s gruff, anxious and isolated mutterings is a clear and intentional juxtaposition. There is more to these characters than you can guess at to begin with, but what I liked most about Get Even was that even when I thought I had the twist nailed, things changed dramatically.
Get Even also has some stunning audio work, in addition to the shift put in by the voice actors themselves. The incidental music transforms what would otherwise be mundane ambles around the various locations into a menacing stalks and occasionally, terrifying creeps past enemies who are much less threatening than the sounds makes them out to be. Sound effects are similarly well executed, and when headphones or a home cinema are used, the audio work in Get Even can really get under your skin.
Graphically, things are considerably worse, although an extremely large patch in between when I began playing and when the game launched have improved things. The game has a fairly washed out look that is all its own, and whilst it isn’t bad in every respect, it is obvious that the development team have not lavished as much attention on things like furniture as they might have given more time, or money or whatever. Some locations defy this logic, such as an early outdoor scene. Awakening in the overgrown asylum garden, Black searches his way through dense, detailed and varied foliage as what appears to be the rising sun pierces through the canopy.
The problem isn’t the basic look of the game though, it’s actually the clunkiness of it, and some of the bigger problems that seem to arise from collision detection. For starters, Black’s movement is fairly heavy and ponderous, which seems to keep the game on track as a kind of walking simulator with shooting, rather than a traditional shooter, yet many levels require sneaking and shooting and killing. Prior to the patch I referred to, I was occasionally snagged by scenery, to the extent that I had to restart from the nearest checkpoint. I have a general feeling about Get Even that it would have been improved with a little more time, and whilst the major bugs have been resolved, a few minor gameplay tweaks would have resulted in a great game.
The game structure in Get Even is nonetheless interesting, taking place in both the present via the asylum sections and the past whenever the Pandora device identifies an item that can help to recover Black’s memory. The asylum sections are driven by the interaction between Black and Red, with Red often preaching to Black about how he lacks a sense of conscience and repetitively teaching the player about cause and effect. This theme carries into the much more varied Pandora missions, wherein Black is often more confident and assured, operating in his natural element as a special forces soldier or hired mercenary.
Despite the fact that these sections feature weapons such as silenced pistols, machine guns and other weapons such as the interesting corner-gun (which does exactly what you think it does) and Black is a capable takedown artist, Get Even is only rarely an action-focussed game. During most of these memories, Red pops up to remind us that during the events we are replaying, Black simply didn’t slay many of his foes, and to do so now would destabilise the memory. I don’t know why this is exactly, but it might be to heighten the challenge, or taking a cynical view, it’s because the AI is so woeful that it is basically incapable of presenting any meaningful opposition.
Because of the nature of the missions he undertook in his many past lives, and because killing is so often discouraged, Black will spend much of his time sneaking. As I said before, enemies are stupid, so navigating past them isn’t an issue, and I think if it were not for Black’s frequent muttering and Red’s strangely disconnected observations, Get Even would be a much more boring game. Once again, I am forced to go back to the assertion that Get Even is a walking simulator with gunplay first and foremost, and as such, it’s the story beats you’ll want to stick it out for as you navigate through around another dullard guard down another plain grey corridor.
Broadly, I think I’ve been quite negative about Get Even, but that’s because if I walked you through any more of the story, I’d spoil all of the good bits. Needless to say, when the mid-game twist comes, and the second half of Get Even kicks off, you’ll know why I still say that this is a much better game than the technical sum of its parts amounts to. I like the fact that developer The Farm 51 has tried to weave a proper narrative into a game with shooting elements, and I love how deep and dark they’ve been prepared to go, but I wish the execution were just a few notches round the dial, because Get Even could have been awesome. As it is, you should: