Get Even (Video Game)
Developed by The Farm 51
Produced by Bandai Namco Entertainment
Available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4
Rated M for Mature
Raise your hand if you haven’t heard of Get Even. Don’t be shy, I certainly hadn’t. I was vaguely aware that a I had seen a trailer for a game about dudes with VR headsets that shoot around walls over a year ago, but I hadn’t thought about it since. I honestly thought that the people at Bandai Namco had emailed me the code by accident. “Get Even” hardly sounds like a horror game, more suited for a Streets of Rage rip off or a girl power movie about getting back at your cheating ex. Even though a VR headset is featured prominently in the game, Get Even is confusingly NOT a VR game. It sat in my inbox for a week before I got tired of Warhammer one day and figured I’d at least see what it was about. I booted it up, started playing, and suddenly it was tomorrow.
Get Even drew me in like a black hole made of whiskey and procrastination. I’m going to keep the review spoiler free, which is damn difficult this time around. Most of why I love it would be considered major plot points. You play as Cole Black, a mercenary hitman that wakes up one day with a mysterious device called the Pandora strapped to his face. A voice over the intercom identifying himself as Red informs you that this is part of your totally voluntary and not at all forced psychiatric treatment. For reasons not disclosed, there are gaps in your memory that only this aggressive therapy can fill. All you can remember is that you were trying to rescue a girl with a bomb strapped to her chest.
From Red’s distorted voice to the various other maniacs running around, it’s clear that this isn’t your typical therapeutic sessions. You’re given a pistol, and told to proceed to the next area to continue your treatment. These sections are linear, but strewn with different documents and clues for you to collect and add to your journal. Your main method of investigation involves your handy smartphone. Serving six different purposes between flashlight, map, and… well it’s also a phone, you’ll use it to scan clues and add it to your mental evidence board.
You eventually make it to a photograph that Red asks you to stare at. Looking at it long enough will transport you into one of Black’s memories. From here, you’ll investigate and try to piece together the clues of what happened. These also serve as Get Even’s primary combat arenas. You’re informed that finding more clues will decrease the chances of “distortion,” and to try not to kill anyone.
Now despite being told that killing is bad, the combat has a unique twist that makes it hard to resist. To compliment your standard shooter arsenal of pistol, shotgun, submachine gun, etc., you have a device called the CornerGun. Not an actual weapon itself, the CornerGun is an attachment for your firearms and smartphone that allows you to turn your gun 90°. This allows you to fire around walls or over cover without ever exposing yourself. It sounds basic, but in practice it fundamentally changes how you approach a situation. You die in a few shots, so planning how—or even if—you want to engage an enemy is crucial. Aiming is also a bitch in a fevered firefight, making the advantage the CornerGun provides limited. For such a basic premise, it was a surprisingly fresh take on an FPS.
So you go through these memories and do… things, then go back to the asylum and do… things, and then things happen and you find out… things. Yup, I hit the spoiler wall! I could go on for pages about the genius of the storytelling (this is a fact, my previous spoiler version of the review was 7 pages long). What I can say without really giving anything away is that this one of the few games I’ve played that gets an unreliable narrator right. You see, Black doesn’t remember things correctly, and there’s a real reason behind it. Generally this is in service of a trite and predictable plot twist like, “you were the bad guy the whole time!” In Get Even, there’s much more to it than that.
That alone would give it the nudge from mediocre to superb, if not for another twist at the 70% point that floored me. I seriously thought I was just about done with the game, only to learn I had a significant chunk left. In this second segment, the gameplay mechanics, tone, and style change completely. I was shocked. This is also the part of the game where the emotional core starts to come full circle. By the end, Get Even had grabbed me by the throat, slammed me to the floor, and repeatedly punched me in the feels until I was numb.
There’s yet another twist at the very end that wraps it all up in a fantastic bow of melancholy and grief. Once again without spoiling anything, it turned all of my petty grievances about plot holes and my choices not mattering right around on me. During several points in the game you are told that your decisions will color how others perceive you. If the game ended when I first thought it would, then it would have all amounted to a couple different encounters that ultimately don’t matter. When you find out all of what’s really going on, the differences are subtle, but poignant.
God, I haven’t even yet mentioned the sound design! I’ve always had a softspot for video game sound design, something that most games have boiled down to having soaring orchestral soundtracks or heavy synth beats. Get Even’s meticulous attention to how sound affects your perception and sense of wellbeing is true horror genius. In the opening levels, there was an intermittent clicking sound, like a gear shifting in my brain, that seemed to come out of nowhere. In the asylum, the constant chanting about a party made my skin crawl. When the game does bust out the orchestral violins, it moved me. There’s a fantastic juxtaposition of sound here, where a pop song in a cemetery firefight genuinely adds to the story. It was absolutely magnificent.
Get Even is not without its flaws. The enemy AI is practically nonexistent, and I grant 100 kudos to whoever can figure out how what constitutes me being visible and hidden. Without a quicksave function, having to load an autosave three rooms back because you didn’t realize the tip of your big toe was visible is infinitely frustrating. I also got stuck in a wall twice. But the few blemishes don’t detract from Get Even being a unique and marvelous experience. Clocking in at about 8 hours for the main story, I easily doubled my playtime finding all the evidence and unlocking the various secrets. Add on another easy 4 hours to get the different endings, and you’re looking at a 20 hours single player experience. At just $30, Get Even is impossible not to recommend.