Get Even

Scary, min­i­mal­ist, melan­cholic: this thriller is ev­ery­thing you wouldn’t ex­pect

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper The Farm 51 Pub­lisher Bandai Namco For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin Poland Re­lease 2017

PC, PS4, Xbox One

The first hour of Get Even – like, you would hope, the rest of the game – is dif­fi­cult to de­fine. It’s scary, but not a hor­ror. You have guns, but it isn’t a shooter.

Lionel Lo­visa, the game’s pro­ducer, whose pre­vi­ous cred­its in­clude Metal Gear Solid 4 and Peace Walker, de­scribes it as a “thriller”. Though its lo­ca­tions are empty and sparse, its in­ter­ac­tions bare and few, Get Even puts you on the edge of your seat.

“I’m ex­pect­ing to have peo­ple hate the game be­cause it’s not a shooter, or it’s not their kind of a game,” Lo­visa says. “I also ex­pect to have peo­ple who say it’s blown their minds. With some­thing like Call Of Duty, you have re­ac­tions be­tween, let’s say, 70 and 100 – one way or an­other, peo­ple don’t re­ally com­plain about it. I ex­pect Get Even will have a much big­ger range of re­sponses.”

As Cole Black, a Sh­effield-ac­cented mer­ce­nary with, seem­ingly, a trou­bled past, your open­ing as­sign­ment is to res­cue a kid­napped woman be­ing held in­side an aban­doned school. Get Even’s slow, muted pace is im­me­di­ately strik­ing. There is no boom­ing mu­si­cal score, no horde of en­e­mies, no pro­tracted, jar­gon-heavy mis­sion brief­ing. Ac­com­pa­nied only by the sounds of Black’s breath­ing and of doors open­ing and clos­ing some­where in­side the vast, dead build­ing, you me­thod­i­cally work your way from the top floor to the base­ment. When you do en­counter a guard, he’s on the phone to his wife, ex­plain­ing that he won’t be home un­til late. Black takes a deep breath. The aim but­ton slowly raises your pis­tol. You re­peat an ac­tion learned from count­less videogames, and the guard falls im­me­di­ately dead. But it feels some­how wrong. Nei­ther sat­is­fy­ing nor overtly melan­cholic, your first kill in Get Even is as cold and in­dif­fer­ent as the base­ment in which it takes place. The sound re­mains muted. There are no ex­otic blood ef­fects. All you can hear is the guard’s wi­dow: “Hello? Hello?” Demon­stra­bly, this game is mess­ing with your head.

Cre­ated by Pol­ish de­vel­oper The Farm 51, Get Even al­most capri­ciously toys with genre con­ven­tions. It builds up to jump scares, but they never quite ar­rive. A large-scale gun­fight breaks out but it’s un­spec­tac­u­lar and over quickly. Com­pared to so many games, which take pride in their clar­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity, when play­ing Get

Even, you never quite know how you’re sup­posed to feel. Sim­i­larly con­trary and slowly paced games, such as Fire­watch and

Every­body’s Gone To The Rap­ture, fore­ground their themes, char­ac­ters and emo­tional con­ceits. Big ac­tion ti­tles live and die by their set-pieces. Be­tween both these archetypes,

Get Even treads a dis­tinc­tive, in­tran­si­gent line – so far, at least, it re­fuses to suc­cumb to shooter, hor­ror or dra­matic con­ven­tions.

“Even if noth­ing is hap­pen­ing, a lot of things are hap­pen­ing,” Lo­visa ex­plains. “You play for an hour and you don’t do very much. But you’ll feel like you’ve done a lot. You won’t know what hap­pens when you open the next door.

“You know, if we talk about Un­charted, for ex­am­ple, there you have a puz­zle, then shoot­ing, then ad­ven­ture – it’s puz­zle time, then shoot­ing time, then ad­ven­ture time. Do­ing it like that, it’s re­ally easy to bal­ance a game. With Get Even, it’s dif­fer­ent. There’s a dif­fer­ent feel­ing in al­most ev­ery room. There are no two places where you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence the same rhythm. You don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen. That’s what kind of game it is.”

In­de­pen­dent games are of­ten cred­ited for their writ­ing, their un­pre­dictabil­ity, their un­usu­al­ness; big-bud­get games are ad­mired for their pro­duc­tion val­ues. But rarely do the two seem to com­bine. It’s as if, over the past five to ten years, a line has been drawn in the sand, defin­ing what cer­tain kinds of games are al­lowed to do and to be. As it moves out of the aban­doned school, into dream se­quences, di­a­logue-heavy ex­plo­ration sec­tions and fi­nally a lengthy shoot­ing and sneak­ing mis­sion, rem­i­nis­cent of this year’s Deus Ex, Get Even – con­sis­tently sur­pris­ing, but nev­er­the­less pol­ished to modern, triple-A stan­dards – feels like a rare ex­am­ple of a game that is pre­pared to strad­dle both in­de­pen­dent and main­stream sen­si­bil­i­ties. The Farm 51 has the equip­ment and know-how to cre­ate some tech­ni­cally ac­com­plished me­chan­ics and en­vi­ron­ments, but its com­par­a­tively small size al­lows it to ex­per­i­ment and chal­lenge, too.

“The Farm 51 has one of the big­gest scan­ning rigs in Europe, used to 3D-scan real-world ob­jects,” Lo­visa says. “We don’t have 300 artists to make props, so scan­ning lets us get high-de­tail as­sets into the game. It’s a dou­ble-edged sword, be­cause it’s get­ting very real. It looks like re­al­ity but it also doesn’t – it’s that un­canny val­ley ef­fect. But we can also change things in this game in about half a day, make switches and put things in – or take them out – very quickly. You can’t do that on a triple-A game. When I worked on 300-peo­ple projects, I’d have to talk to the di­rec­tor, who’d talk to the leader of the an­i­ma­tion team, who’d talk to the an­i­ma­tor, who had to find time in the sched­ule, and so on. Here, I talk to maybe two peo­ple and it’s done. Will some­thing work? Will it not work? The at­ti­tude is, ‘I don’t know, but let’s put it in.’ We haven’t set a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions for the game, so we can ex­per­i­ment how­ever we like.”

Its di­a­logue is oc­ca­sion­ally clunky and there are a cou­ple of hum­drum se­quences (a rot­ted old asy­lum, the pa­tients of which are be­ing used as mil­i­tary test sub­jects, is hack­neyed), but the first hour is un­like any game re­leased over the past decade. Per­haps that means it doesn’t pre­view well – aside from its con­stantly shift­ing but al­ways sub­tly un­com­fort­able at­mos­phere, there’s no sin­gle thing by which Get Even can eas­ily be de­fined. But its sparing and painfully con­tex­tu­alised flashes of vi­o­lence are enough to turn your stomach. Its abil­ity to lean, softly, into recog­nisable videogame ele­ments makes it en­gag­ing. For the long­est time, games have slot­ted them­selves sim­ply, ea­gerly, into gen­res. ‘Shooter’ is an eas­ier sell than ‘char­ac­ter drama’. ‘Plat­former’ brings to con­sumers’ minds a tan­gi­ble, fa­mil­iar prod­uct. If Get Even con­tin­ues in its cur­rent vein – a high-end game with­out ad­her­ence to even the new­est, most fash­ion­able con­ven­tions – it will, at the very least, for crit­ics, play­ers and de­vel­op­ers alike, be a talk­ing point.

“A shooter we could do eas­ily,” Lo­visa says. “A puz­zle game we could do eas­ily. When I came onto Get Even it wasn’t well-bal­anced, but it had po­ten­tial. It’s not generic. It’s dan­ger­ous. This game is quite ex­pen­sive but it’s also un­cer­tain, at this point, how much peo­ple are go­ing to like it. If it works, we can make more ti­tles of this kind and scale. And right now, those are rare.”

“With Get Even, it’s dif­fer­ent. There’s a dif­fer­ent feel­ing in al­most ev­ery room”

Lionel Lo­visa, pro­ducer

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