The Farm 51’s dark amalgamation of genres keeps things odd
Publisher Bandai Namco Developer The Farm 51 Format Xbox One ETA 2017
Horror games have a problem to overcome. For a time, simply leaning on the traditions and beats of cinematic horror was enough, as the novelty of being cast at the centre of the action would counter even the most cynical genre stalwart’s doubts (indeed, we’ll happily go through it all again if developers come up with some heart-stopping rehashes using Hololens and our really safe-feeling homes). But the jump scares and techniques that have kept us on our toes in games like Resident Evil, The Evil Within and even Dead Space are starting to become increasingly familiar, losing their potency – even if, admittedly, we still leave the light on at bedtime for a few evenings after a good scare session. (You don’t?)
So it’s a relief to see something like Get Even come along, that – on early expectation at least – resists easy definition, although it opens on one humdinger of a cliché. The game casts you as Cole Black, a man whose past is initially a mystery, but whose capabilities and kit suggest a military background, as you wake up apparently alone in an abandoned asylum. Hold on, don’t go – stay with us. Black can only access a single memory: the attempted rescue of a girl held hostage with a bomb strapped to her. He doesn’t know where he is, why he’s there or what he’s supposed to do.
Succeed or dial tryin’
Thankfully, Cole’s equipped with a rather snazzy phone. Rather than call for help, however, he gets stuck using its range of probably-not-availableon-the-App-Store capabilities. Chief among these is a tool that lets you know when there’s evidence nearby, and lets you analyse it. There’s also a map that can track the movements of nearby humans, a UV light for revealing bodily fluids and other stains, as well as a heat sensitive camera that can highlight electrical and heating systems behind walls.
As you creep around the dingy, graffitied corridors of the asylum, Get Even feels like the gritty cousin of games like Dear Esther and Gone Home. After a little investigation, though, we’re given a gun, and all of a sudden we’re sneaking through the undergrowth, past patrolling guards (or, as we did, shooting one in the back of the head and then discovering the way we’d just cleared was a dead end). In another scene – this time a flashback – we use an advanced rifle to shoot a man around a corner, then storm a room in a slow-motion hail of bullets. It’s not just a creepy walking simulator, then, but a tense combination of stealth and action.
There are puzzles, too, which we’re forced to solve as we move through the building, and which turn out to be some kind of twisted ‘treatment’. A shadowy figure appears on TV screens throughout the game, telling us that all of this – and the weird VR-style headset that’s locked to our heads with an explosive charge – is for our own good. We’re not so sure.
Get Even’s staunch avoidance of single-genre classification, along with its disorienting narrative and convincing vocal performances, lend the game an enigmatic air that makes its central mystery all the more appealing. If The Farm 51 can keep players guessing, this could be an unexpected treat full of dense atmosphere and fresh scares.