What if you could re-live your memories and the memories of others to see the world through their eyes? How would that make you feel about your own life decisions? Get Even, from Polish indie studio The Farm 51, tackles those questions and more. Get Even’s best element is no doubt its story. With plenty of twists and misdirection, this psychological thriller contains an emphatic and thought-provoking ending. But its gameplay, which consists of puzzle-solving and shooting, does nothing of note other than distract you along the way.
Get Even starts in dramatic, bewildering fashion. Playing as Cole Black, a former soldier with a long criminal record and cloudy motivations, you start in what looks like a creepy psychiatric hospital. You’re armed only with a silenced pistol and a smartphone. You are told nothing about why you’re there or where you are, but you quickly discover that your objective is to save a young girl with a bomb strapped to her chest. After taking down the men who captured her, you try to defuse the bomb, but it goes off. Casualties are presumed. Fade to black. You then wake up with a virtual reality device strapped to your head.
Black cannot make sense of what’s happened to him or why. (You might also note that he sounds just like Sean Bean, but he isn’t). The story gets even more distressing from there, as you try to piece together what happened as a mysterious scientist, Red, guides you through the asylum over monitors and speakers as part of your treatment.” You eventually discover that the asylum is not all it seems, and Red’s motivations only become more murky.
The first half of Get Even is spent under the guidance of Red, who is later revealed to be a character named Ramsey. You revisit Black’s memories, piecing together clues and attempting to unravel the story behind the mysterious victim. You find evidence as you explore these virtual memories, which ultimately ends up on a board scattershot with photos and newspaper clippings. You may not discover everything there is to see during your first recollection of each memory, but you’re free to return at any time to find what you might have overlooked and add a new piece to the puzzle.
Your vehicle to the virtual world–the Pandora headset–is Red’s life work. It allows you to be a fly on the wall in Black’s memories, where you can look but you can’t touch. Finding the answers you seek is complicated by memories that are maliciously corrupted. Apparently someone or something is trying to conceal the truth to make it difficult to understand what is real and what merely appears to be.
For a while, trust in your own judgement feels out of reach. It’s an intriguing way to tell a story, though it can be a lot to wrap your head around as the new and complex possibilities are introduced. But it all comes together in the end for you (and Black) in a very satisfying and unexpected way.
The action in the early stages of the game revolves around puzzle-solving and a limited amount of shooting, mostly with a weapon called a CornerGun. Black steals this item from a business rival of Ramsey’s, and like its name suggests, its barrel can turn 90 degrees, allowing you to shoot around corners. This is one of the more unique aspects of Get Even’s shooting. It takes some getting used to, as firing around corners can be disorienting at first. It ‘s a logistical challenge to learn where you need to stand or crouch to effectively fire around a corner, and it is very satisfying when you get the hang of it. Once you do, you can sneakily creep around, taking down enemies in secret.
When shooting the CornerGun, you must land a headshot and make sure other enemies aren’t closeby or else they will be alerted to your presence and come after you in an organized way. It’s a bit unforgiving, especially on the Traumatizing difficulty (of note: Traumatizing and Gentle are the only two difficulty levels.) But it’s a good challenge and very satisfying when you get it right. Enemies inside Pandora vaporize when you kill them, and the action pauses for a moment as they disintegrate into shards. This is a cool-looking effect the first time, but it eventually wears out its welcome as the ensuing pause slows down the action with frustrating frequency.
Another item at Black’s disposal is his smartphone. It does basic things like display text messages and play voice calls, but is also equipped with a scanner that you can use on key items to learn more about them, while a heat vision camera alerts you to nearby enemies. A Vision tab on the smartphone illuminates certain key elements based on the context of a particular scene. All of this is critical info when problem solving.
Though it’s an unremarkable looking game, Get Even is backed by a wonderful soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere that heightens tension and accentuates action with pulsing, pounding electronic sounds and string instruments.
Get Even’s puzzles are rarely challenging or unique, and some can be frustrating when you have to look at the environment through your cell phone; bumping into objects while staring at the phone’s screen is a common annoyance. But there are a few puzzles that provide new and interesting challenges. One of the more memorable instances comes in the second half of the game, where you essentially play out a game of Clue. Using evidence like newspaper cutouts and police reports scattered in a room, you must correctly name a murder weapon, a perpetrator, and the bullet’s entry wound on the victim. It’s not the most difficult task, but it’s exciting to play the role of an investigator and it feels satisfying when you finally solve the mystery.
Eventually, you assume control of Ramsey, and this is where the story and gameplay get even more interesting. Ramsey performs an “audit” of Black’s memories to try to learn more about the events leading up the the girl in the warehouse. He wants to…get even with the people responsible.
When you’re playing as Ramsey, you have even more abilities than Black, one of which is a scanner that shows you where all nearby enemies are. Ramsey isn’t armed by default, but he can “assimilate” into the enemies, taking over their bodies and picking up their weapons in the process. You can sprint, but you can move even faster by warping, and when performed in rapid succession, warps allow you to get the jump on enemies in superhuman fashion.
As you play through these memories, you will feel a sense of deja vu, as you’re revisiting some of the places you played through as Black, but the story is experience in a new, unique perspective way. It is sort of like The Lion King 1.5, where you see the events of The Lion King from the perspective of Timon and Pumbaa. You tap into “engrams” scattered throughout the memories to see who Black spoke with, what they talked about, and how it contributes to the girl with the bomb. The mystery of the story is key to the intrigue of Get Even, and unraveling it yourself is the best part.
Though it’s an unremarkable looking game, Get Even is backed by a wonderful soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere that heightens tension and accentuates action with pulsing, pounding electronic sounds and string instruments. If you are in a memory that begins to break down, strange things can happen. In one situation, I was shooting my way through enemies and a pop song played over the action because I was going in guns-blazing instead of the quiet and controlled manner that Ramsey advised, leading to the memory breaking down and glitching. The performances of the voice actors is also notable, as lines are delivered with believable conviction and emotion, especially in the case of Ramsey.
Get Even tells a devastating story that ends with a striking M. Night Shyamalan-like twist. Interestingly, it’s the most crucial part of the entire story, and you see none of it. The visuals are left entirely to the imagination, which is unexpected and impactful. It is these kinds of powerful moments that emphasize Get Even’s key strength–delivering a twisting narrative that is fascinating enough to make up for its lackluster gameplay elements.