Get Even (PS4) Review

To say I've been excited for people to finally check out Get Even is somewhat underselling it. Smartly mixing psychological horror with Bourne-style action, it was something of an oddity which greatly enthused me during the time spent with its demo. Now the full thing's out, I can rave further, and hopefully some of you will now get where I'm coming from.

Be warned, though, that the biggest, most daring thing I loved about Get Even is something I absolutely refuse to talk about. But I'll get to that.

I first checked out Get Even many moons ago, so I'll borrow from myself in terms of outlining the plot:

"You play as Cole Black, a Sean Bean-accented mercenary who starts the game tracking down a kidnapped young woman in a dilapidated house filled with armed men. After seemingly setting off a bomb whilst rescuing her, Cole wakes up four years later outside an abandoned mental asylum, with no memory of the time in-between. A mysterious figure named Red informs Cole that he is here to relive some of his memories, in order to ascertain how he got to the asylum, what happened to the girl, and why one of his most recent contracts may have something to do with both."

During that First Impressions review, I said that the game had the hallmarks of a David Lynch work with "a bit more terra firma to it". Having now finished the whole story, I'd actually say it's closer to a Christopher Nolan head-trip; the memory-reliving Pandora headset which your character spends the entire game wearing adds a strong Inception-like spin to proceeding. It might make a few plot turns somewhat predictable - of course, your memories are not entirely reliable - but I can assure you that the story comes to a more complete conclusion. Or, at least, my story did.

Most of what I said in that First Impressions review still holds here. The game is good at creating psychological horror and somewhat poor at creating an engaging FPS experience. Though the heavy story focus and reliance on your trusty super-sleuth smartphone involves not firing your gun as often as you might in Deus Ex or Hitman, when combat does get going it feels somewhat unintuitive and fairly unpolished. The lack of a HUD makes the experience more realistic, but the somewhat inaccurate aiming and occasionally poor hit detection on enemies means your stealth kill headshot might turn into a cover-blowing neck graze with little to no warning, even at point blank range. When there are a plethora of enemies around, particularly in the later levels, the game oscillates between Cole being sturdier than a fridge with legs, and Cole only being able to take one or two bullets to the knee before keeling over and dying. Maybe the realism's at play again - a headshot or tag on a vital area won't let many people in the real world get up afterwards - but given that the game goes to great pains in explaining that you're inside a simulation, and thus are not strictly bounded by the rules of reality, it feels a little disingenuous.

The CornerGun is also not the most efficient of weapons. It's useful in one or two missions, and is handy at solving a couple of minor puzzles. Ultimately, though, it's a gimmick with some relevance to the story and little relevance to the gameplay. Its ability to host a variety of firearms is neat, but considering the game insists - and, in some cases, demands - that players don't shoot nearby enemies wherever possible, it all seems like so much effort for no real gain. The ability to stick an SMG onto the CornerGun frame is immediately countered by Red informing Cole that if he kills too many people, the memory will destabilise. Granted, I spent at least one level killing anyone I could find and the game didn't throw me out of the memory, which leads me to believe the no-kill insistence is solely in service of the story. But I'll come back to that in a moment.

The one big area Get Even's improved upon since my First Impressions is its visual design. I left the demo feeling that, while immersive to a point, the background details were quite sparse and lacked refinement. Here, though, the full game has a few more rings in its trees, with map aesthetics looking a lot more detailed. A warehouse you must infiltrate is richly drawn with its massive industrial crates sporting a used look, an open air part of the warehouse littered with uniquely designed rubbish, graffiti and newspapers. The asylum Cole navigates has a number of different rooms which are each individually delineated, with in-depth designs making each cell and level of the asylum look and feel unique. Though the NPCs themselves stumble around with somewhat janky movement physics, they still look deadly and come in a variety of facial and sartorial models.

And really, I have to emphasise that the story is just so very, very good. Despite any shortcomings I've noted above, Get Even tells a gripping, enthralling tale of innovation, memory manipulation and redemption. However, to do so, the game does something that almost alienated me from it entirely.

The story of rugged mercenary Cole Black doing his thing - reliving memories, finding out how he ended up in the asylum, dealing with lunatics who are trying to kill him - is pretty good, but it becomes somewhat off-putting when Cole is continuously robbed of agency throughout. With Red fully in control of Cole's experience while within the Pandora unit, he is able to extract Cole from memories at a whim, depositing him back in the asylum and ordering him to head to the next room full of colourful psychos. This invariably comes whenever Cole is on the cusp of learning something crucial about the plot. After eight hours of this back and forth, the game got a little tedious. I wasn't happy that the protagonist wasn't just adrift, but practically a plaything of the tides; Red was really in control, and Cole was not. It made it impossible for Cole to have any kind of real victory in the game, or to proceed to the truth through his own impetus. I got a little fed up.

But then, Get Even did something which I had sort of predicted it might, but in a very unexpected way, and all of that tedium quickly evaporated for the game's final stretch.

I might do a spoiler space post a little later on, because it really is a plot and gameplay development which deserves to be talked about. But I'm keen to see how some of you folks react to things when you play the game for the first time. I should say, actually, the first of many. One thing Get Even makes clear is that this is a game designed to be played multiple times, with the user interface constantly reminding you that your actions - including who and how many people you kill - have consequences. As to the nature of those consequences, I can't say; I only played the game through once, alternately killing and stealthing it up, but the ending was still quite satisfying for me.

As excited as I was for Get Even months ago, my excitement has only sharpened after going through it cover to cover. Its technical faults and occasional narrative shortcomings are balanced by a strong overarching story, some fantastic voice acting and a wonderfully creepy soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere. I suspect it's a bit of a Rorschach test for many players who may not have the patience for such a weird, off-kilter piece. For my money, I'm seeing something excellent.

- Chris

Get Even is due for release June 23 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Review copy kindly supplied to Geek of Oz by Bandai Namco Entertainment.


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