Confusion reigns in The Farm 51’s smart firstperson horror thriller
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Get Even first broke cover back in 2014, its cryptic launch trailer blending live-action footage of a military squad in a dilapidated, near-photorealistic version of the same environment. The words “What is real?” flashed up at the end of the trailer, and then the game went back into hiding. Reemerging at this August’s Gamescom, Polish developer The Farm 51’s enigmatic firstperson horror is now in playable form and threatening to be formidable.
Don’t let the genre or hackneyed abandoned-asylum setting fool you: Get
Even’s tone is closer to Ben Wheatley’s crushingly dark 2011 film Kill List than it is to Outlast or FEAR. The game casts players as Cole Black, a man who awakens in the dilapidated asylum with no memories other than that of an attempted hostage rescue he was once involved in. We’re informed, through a video link, that we’re here for “treatment” and tasked with a series of macabre, flashback-triggering tests.
The crumbling plaster walls are covered in graffiti, and the floors strewn in rubble and detritus. Light streams in through the windows and throws a dusty haze across the space. Our screen is a little dark in the overly bright Gamescom business-area booth, so it’s a little difficult to assess how the visuals in this build of the game compare to that early trailer and subsequent tech demo. This build isn’t quite as punchy visually, but on a number of occasions the way the light catches the 3D scanned environments is enough to make us stop and stare for a moment. External environments don’t fare quite so well, nor character models, so clearly there is some way to go if The Farm 51 is to reach the high quality bar suggested by Get
Even’s reveal trailer. Despite Black’s apparent military past, much of our time is spent wandering around with an app-filled phone as we investigate the environment for clues. Green lights next to the screen illuminate as you close in on evidence, and a green AR box denotes when you’re in the right position to scan it for intel on the situation. A UV torch, meanwhile, highlights blood stains and handprints,
while an infrared camera allows us to trace the path of a damaged electrical system back to its faulty origin. Pictures you take using the phone can be flicked through at any time, and a handy map function shows the whereabouts of enemies. Switching between the different apps lends the game a substantial puzzle element that makes your time in the mostly empty corridors and rooms feel more involved.
When we do pick up a gun, it feels incongruous amid the tense, but unhurried, exploration game the opening minutes suggest. In one of the demo’s disorienting segues, we find ourselves wandering through long grass outside of a building, armed with a silenced pistol. A guard patrols nearby, whistling. He enters a tunnel and we follow, crouched and taking aim, before dropping him with a single bullet to the head. It turns out that killing him is unnecessary as the path ahead is locked – the door we wanted was actually behind us and we could easily have sneaked past. In another instance of questionable morality, we use an advanced military rifle to take aim around a corner and shoot a hostage-taker talking on his phone. As we approach the body and the dropped phone we hear a female caller suggesting that he take the kids for a burger this weekend, before repeatedly asking if he’s still there.
The gunplay itself feels solid, and a scene in which everything slows to a crawl as you burst into a room and open fire on two targets is spectacular. Thanks to the paucity of enemies and The Farm 51’s deliberately provocative guilt trips, each kill feels consequential and pulling the trigger becomes a weighty decision.
The combat and exploration components of the game are bound together with some exceptional audio work, the game’s convincing script brought to life by a talented cast of voice actors. Black’s goal in all of this is to mine his memories in order to understand who the girl was, why he was there, and why he is now being tormented under the guise of treatment, which makes his frustration and panic understandable. But it’s the abstract music that really stands out in this demo, a thumping industrial pulse that builds and envelops as you close in on key events.
If The Farm 51 can build on the smart pacing and tight structure of this first showing, Get Even has a shot at shaking up a genre whose beats and scare tactics are becoming increasingly familiar.
We’re informed, through a video link, that we’re here for “treatment”
The identity of this girl – and why you, as Cole Black, became involved in her rescue attempt – are the central mysteries that must be unravelled
You can’t use your phone and weapon at the same time, so you swap between them when you want to check enemy positions. In this section, we panic when our phone picks up an enemy on the floor above
Your phone’s UV app is not only useful for finding DNA traces in environments – and, as a result, leading you to secret passages – but also serves as a general torch in the game’s darkest corners
TOP LEFT The grubby asylum’s abandoned rooms contain evidence of past and present inmates, as well as the people who vandalised it in the intervening years.
ABOVE In our demo we use the infrared app to trace an electrical system through the walls and back to a blown fuse, but there will be other puzzles that make use of it
Your anonymous tormentor uses screens around the asylum to explain what is expected of you, but you also receive taunting texts during flashback sections