The Farm 51’s thriller gets more mysterious with every step taken into its world
PC, PS4, Xbox One
As has already been well established,
Get Even isn’t a firstperson shooter or puzzle adventure, and it certainly isn’t a survival-horror game. But it is built on the foundation of its creative director’s deepest fear. “The very basis of the game is what I’m scared of most,” Wojciech Pazdur explains. “I’m a father, I’m 30-something, so I’m not afraid of zombies or aliens. I’m afraid that someone could do something bad to my kids and I wouldn’t be able to help them.”
That sense of helplessness, and parental lament, is reflected in protagonist Cole Black’s obsession with the girl he may or may not have rescued from the hostage situation he has patchy memories of prior to incarceration at the rundown asylum he now finds himself in. And while there’s no evidence that the girl was related to Black, she was somebody’s daughter, and as the target of his extraction mission she was also his responsibility.
“The main intention is to make you feel something,” producer Lionel Lovisa explains. “We’re going to toy with people’s feelings, not genres. And so we wanted a local story that you could believe was your own. And we build our mechanics around what we want people to feel at each point in the story.”
Having seen a larger portion of the game now, we’re happy – and relieved – to report that it remains as inscrutable as its opening hour even after some of the major plot points have taken root. While The Farm 51 has tightened up the game’s opening – there is now, for example, a handily positioned enemy to teach you how to perform stealth takedowns where before we breezed through the demo without ever realising a melee option was available – it’s what lies beyond Black’s initial asylum orientation that really intrigues.
The mysterious headwear that Black finds himself locked into, it turns out, is a Memory Visualisation Headset, codenamed Pandora, which is designed to allow him to access and relive memories of events he has already experienced. These memories are triggered by looking at photos of particular locations, and through these portals we work our way through a number of past missions and some darker, less official activities.
Once drawn in, Black experiences events as if they were real. He feels pain and can interact with objects and people in the world, but closer inspection reveals his subconscious poking through the mantle. Since Black’s recollection is shaky, he misremembers some aspects of the environment, and these fizzing anomalies can be scanned using your phone or gun to change things around you – conjuring up large planters that can be used for cover, for example. Black’s thoughts
manifest in other ways, too: in one puzzle, he can recall an access code to a door by finding pictures of himself at various ages around the office. And, as the player observes the world and tries to make sense of it, so too does Black through a darkly comic script that does a particularly good job of framing his predicament in a naturalistic way.
“We really wanted to make a story-driven game,” Pazdur says, “and the original idea came to me when I watched The Butterfly Effect in 2005. It’s about a guy who fails at something, and so he’s replaying his life trying to fix it, and then when he creates new problems he has to again go back and [take another run at it]. I wanted to create a story that doesn’t just make you follow these loops linearly one after the other, but allows you to play with them and shows you different alternatives, and gives you the feeling that you are shaping them somehow.”
How you approach each memory can change its outcome, and the options that are available to you throughout. If you try to recreate Black’s original actions – which, for the most part, means stealthily sneaking past enemies, and solving puzzles to proceed – then you’ll have a better chance of gathering all the evidence you need to start making sense of your past. You’ll also please the architect of your so-called treatment, the shadowy doctor who talks you through your ordeal. One example sees our path blocked by a scalding jet of steam. Experimenting with a collection of valves will eventually see the way become clear, but you could just save time and shoot the padlock off the gate next to it. This irritates your tormentor, and he will become less patient with you. Continue to defy him, and he’ll threaten to stop being nice.
It’s a little awkward, then, to discover that the less-favoured brute-force option presented by the experimental Corner Gun, which you steal during an early mission, is such an enormously satisfying one. The weapon is a powerful tool, allowing you to stay in cover while surveying for threats, and line up headshots unnoticed. You can bend it around corners, or over the top of low cover, then watch as enemies shatter in slow motion with each kill. It’s also put to good use in some puzzles – in one outdoor area we scan a discrepancy in a wall to reveal a gap, then use the Corner Gun to shoot the padlock off a door before sneaking through into the next courtyard. After avoiding the attention of the guards and reaching the other side, our disembodied doctor praises us for our quiet, clean effort. The resultant flurry of pride is followed by a pang of disappointment that we weren’t more rebellious, and so the enemies in the following room suffer the consequences amid a hail of well-aimed bullets.
However you tackle a memory, there’s always the option to replay it via a ‘filing cabinet’ for evidence and memories. This hub area is a plain office room whose ceiling cascades into a tangle of synapses above you. Each memory has a cork board on the wall, and all the evidence you’ve gathered from it can be reexamined. Coloured string draws links between them and provides hints as to where missing evidence might be located, while a percentage marker at the bottom shows how much you’ve discovered. Some evidence is only accessible if you make certain decisions along the way, but the cause of each branching path won’t necessarily be obvious. “If you’re flying somewhere, and you choose one flight or the other, it may have ramifications for you but not the rest of the world,” Pazdur says. “Perhaps you meet the love of your life on one, but not on the other? That’s how we’ve tried to play it with Get
Even, while still making it feel important.” There are many other revelations during our session, but in a game built so firmly around piecing together the situation, they’re best left for players to discover themselves. But in its confident assimilation of aspects from a multitude of genres, and a tightly curled central mystery that only seems to pose more questions in response to each one answered, it’s clear this esoteric vision is quite capable of sustaining a great deal more than an hour-long proof of concept.
“I’m not afraid of zombies. I’m afraid someone could do something bad to my kids”
FROM TOP Producer Lionel Lovisa and creative director Wojciech Pazdur