Get Even review
These days it sometimes feels like your sci-fi doesn't count unless it's questioning the nature of perception, memory, or reality itself - and Get Even is no exception.
The new first-person thriller from Polish studio The Farm 51 tasks you with alternately exploring an abandoned asylum and a series of mysterious memories, encouraging you to piece together the truth - while continually reminding you never to take anything for granted.
Get Even review: Price and availability
Get Even is out in the UK from 23 June 2017, a delay from its original 26 May release out of respect for the Manchester Arena bombing.
If you want to order a copy for yourself, it's a retail exclusive at Game in the UK, where you can buy it for £29.99. Otherwise, you can pick up a copy directly from Steam, the Xbox Store, or the PS4 store for £24.99/$29.99.
Get Even review
So, what is Get Even?
It's a frustratingly difficult game to explain in simple terms. At first glance, it looks like a pretty typical first-person shooter. Except when you play the game, it's as much about stealth as it is shooting, and just as much again about horror, exploration, and puzzling through the story.
There's a lot going on here, so let's start with the basics.
You play as Cole Black. As the game begins, you're working through a militarised complex to save a girl who's been held hostage and strapped to a bomb.
To help you out, you have a couple of nifty gadgets at your disposal. The first is your phone, which also serves as an IR camera, UV light, map, and more, giving you a variety of ways to scope out your surroundings, spot enemies, and plan your route.
Even cooler is the game's big combat innovation: the Corner Gun. This is a rifle that can bend at right angles in either direction, allowing you to shoot round corners while staying entirely in cover.
At first the Corner Gun simply seems a handy way of expanding your stealth abilities, but as you break into some of the game's bigger firefights it has a more drastic effect on the geometry of combat, encouraging you to re-think the way cover works and take up positions that would never work in any other game.
That's important in part because the game's stealth mechanics are frequently frustrating. Despite frequent verbal reminders to minimise violence and sneak around instead, it's too often either unreasonably hard or just plain impossible to avoid being spotted.
That means getting dragged into big firefights more often than the game seems to intend, accidentally amping up the challenge because Cole isn't really built to take on a whole army at once, and big fights have a tendency to result in repeated deaths as the game progresses.
Just when you think you've got the hang of what Get Even is though, it shifts gears. Reach the girl, and the bomb, at the end of the first mission and everything suddenly changes. Now you're in an abandoned asylum, and it's not clear why.
As you explore, a mysterious voice begins to explain. This asylum is where you really are, and that mission was in fact nothing more than a memory, one you're reliving thanks to a high-tech headset, all in the effort to piece together clues about what happened, and why.
From here the game alternates, giving you the chance to explore the asylum a bit before dropping you back into another memory - often at a different point in the timeline - as you work to figure out the truth.
There are a few more big shifts and twists as the game goes on, and it's to Get Even's credit that it does manage to consistently up-end both story and even the core gameplay mechanics as it evolves throughout.
This is where the game's story begins to kick in properly, as you unravel a conspiracy of industrial espionage, secret affairs, and general wrongdoing in the British arms industry, together with a parallel B-plot digging into the history of the asylum.
For a game so heavily reliant on its story, it can be decidedly up-and-down. The asylum plot is particularly ropey, devolving into some very familiar riffs on the Mad Hatter and creepy convicts that mostly feel like rejected scenes from a Batman: Arkham game.
The main plot is better. While the central corporate espionage story isn't up to all that much, the warped-memory mechanic keeps you guessing, especially as you later re-visit memories and see them in a different light. The payoff is a bit ho-hum, and it can get repetitive, but there's enough here to keep players engaged.
Arguably the surprise highlight is the sound design, which is consistently impressive. Composer Olivier Deriviere seamlessly blends sounds from the game world into the score, clocks ticking and steam hissing merging with the music, and a huge amount of the game's tension comes from the taut sound design.
Get Even's ambition has a tendency to outstrip its reach, but it's always worth encouraging games willing to try and push the medium's limits. Slightly uneven gunplay and a few clichéd story beats aside, Get Even is consistently memorable, interesting, and surprising, and for that alone it's worth your time.