Get Even

EDGE - - CONTENTS - Developer The Farm 51 Pub­lisher Bandai Namco En­ter­tain­ment For­mat PC (tested), PS4, Xbox One Re­lease Out now

PC, PS4, Xbox One

There has been much con­fu­sion, in the lead up to

Get Even’s re­lease, as to what it ac­tu­ally is. The Farm 51’s de­but has been de­scribed var­i­ously as a first­per­son shooter, a hor­ror game, and – to use the stu­dio’s own la­bel – a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller. The fin­ished game avoids firm cat­e­gori­sa­tion, blend­ing as­pects from a number of gen­res as the stu­dio picks and chooses the me­chan­ics that best tell its dark story about loss, guilt and re­venge. The re­sult is a game that is par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful at evok­ing the gritty, dis­ori­ent­ing at­mos­phere of the films that in­spired it (a list that in­cludes Kill List, Me­mento and Old­boy), even if it isn’t al­ways as good at pro­vid­ing en­joy­ment.

Through­out the game, am­ne­siac pro­tag­o­nist Cole Black is held in an asy­lum and forced to re­live mem­o­ries dredged up by an ex­per­i­men­tal VR de­vice called the Mem­ory Vi­su­al­i­sa­tion Head­set (also known by its slightly snap­pier co­de­name, Pan­dora). By look­ing at cer­tain photos, Black can dive into la­tent mem­o­ries and try to re­call what hap­pened as he wres­tles with the guilt he feels about a botched hostage-res­cue at­tempt. A shad­owy fig­ure, known only as Red, or­ches­trates the whole thing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing via TV screens dot­ted about the in­sti­tu­tion and in­sist­ing this rather trau­matic process is a treat­ment for which Black vol­un­teered.

The pro­to­type head­set strug­gles to sim­u­late re­al­is­tic hu­man be­hav­iour (con­ve­niently ex­plain­ing the fuzzy AI), so killing peo­ple or go­ing off script while in a mem­ory will desta­bilise it. The con­se­quences for do­ing so are hardly se­vere – a terse dress­ing down from Red, per­haps, and a sub­tle change to the way some story events sub­se­quently play out – but you’ll still feel guilty if you pull the trig­ger. The Farm 51 toys with this ten­sion, ap­peal­ing to your sense of moral­ity while at the same time tempt­ing you with the prospect of com­bat. In be­tween these mo­ments you’ll solve puz­zles, ex­plore en­vi­ron­ments and gather ev­i­dence, try to glean wider con­text from news clip­pings and po­lice re­ports, and in­ter­act with a cast of highly un­sta­ble fel­low pa­tients.

The Farm 51’s de­ci­sion to never set­tle on any par­tic­u­lar playstyle en­sures that Get Even re­tains its abil­ity to sur­prise right up un­til the end. Pleas­ingly, it also means that the twist­ing sto­ry­line is re­flected in the game’s me­chan­ics. One mo­ment you might be sneak­ing through an un­der­ground car park try­ing to avoid the red vi­sion cones of a sur­pris­ingly di­verse Bri­tish se­cu­rity de­tail; the next, you’ll be do­ing a spot of light plumb­ing as you try to get hot wa­ter through a se­ries of valves us­ing an in­frared cam­era; later, you’ll be cow­er­ing in the dank bow­els of a de­cay­ing asy­lum, flanked by glass-eyed man­nequins, which ap­pear to change po­si­tion when­ever you look away.

None of the game’s var­ied se­lec­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties stand out as par­tic­u­larly ground­break­ing in iso­la­tion, but most ac­quit them­selves well. How­ever, in cherry- pick­ing com­po­nents that pro­vide ways to spin a yarn, as op­posed to build­ing me­chan­ics for the sake of play, the game’s fo­cus al­ways feels like it’s on the big­ger pic­ture as op­posed to the minute-to-minute ex­pe­ri­ence. The end re­sult is, de­spite the name, un­even.

Puz­zles, too, can feel per­func­tory, each re­quir­ing you to make use of one of your phone’s var­i­ous apps to re­veal the so­lu­tion. They’re not in­tended to hold you up, in­stead ex­ist­ing as sim­ple – and oc­ca­sion­ally sur­pris­ingly mov­ing – com­po­nents in a branching story that of­ten pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for you to choose be­tween play­ing an im­pas­sive or im­pul­sive hero. You might de­cide to shoot a lock off a door, say, rather than fid­dle with valves to shut off the jet of steam vent­ing into a crawlspace. That the solutions are rarely grat­i­fy­ing is an un­for­tu­nate side ef­fect. Yet one thing at which Get Even ex­cels is build­ing at­mos­phere. A great deal of this is thanks to sound de­signer and com­poser Olivier Deriv­iere’s ex­cep­tional sound­track, which con­torts it­self around the ac­tion to an unusual de­gree. Black’s breath­ing be­comes part of the rhythm of a track at one point; sam­ples and stems rise and fall in the mix de­pend­ing on which parts of the en­vi­ron­ment you’re look­ing at, and the drone of a stom­ach-turn­ing bass note reaches deeper in step with your own de­scent through the guts of a build­ing. It’s a stir­ring ac­com­pa­ni­ment to an am­bi­tious sto­ry­line.

It’s a pity that the en­vi­ron­ments in which all of this takes place aren’t as in­deli­ble. Per­haps it’s a de­lib­er­ate choice: the story, af­ter all, ex­plores the con­se­quences of mis­re­mem­ber­ing, and how dis­tinct mem­o­ries can be con­flated into some new, in­ac­cu­rate haze. But the samey en­vi­ron­ments feel more like a poor aes­thetic choice than a clever re­flec­tion of the game’s themes. While the pho­togram­me­try-cap­tured lo­ca­tions take in grave­yards, aban­doned build­ings, mod­ern labs and more, the game’s per­va­sive de­sat­u­rated colour pal­ette and non­de­script lo­cales con­spire to make them feel in­dis­tinct.

There are is­sues with pac­ing, too. Switch­ing be­tween so many styles re­sults in a stac­cato jour­ney in terms of me­chan­ics, even if the story it­self is in­trigu­ing enough to keep you on edge. It slightly over­stays its wel­come, and feels less taut by the end, but that doesn’t take away from the pow­er­ful con­clu­sion. The de­ci­sion to lock off one of The Farm 51’s best game­play ideas in the epi­logue ran­kles a lit­tle, how­ever.

The re­sult is a game that, while built from fa­mil­iar com­po­nents, feels unique as a whole. The Farm 51 should be com­mended for its bold de­sign de­ci­sions, and for at­tempt­ing to cre­ate some­thing that dis­penses with videogame con­ven­tions. That it doesn’t al­ways hang to­gether quite as well as it could is dis­ap­point­ing, but that doesn’t make ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the stu­dio’s sin­gu­lar vi­sion any less worth­while.

The game’s fo­cus al­ways feels like it’s on the big­ger pic­ture as op­posed to the minute-to-minute ex­pe­ri­ence

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