Get Even Review

Memory is a funny thing. It can be a tricky companion or a cunning enemy. It can deceive you as easily as you can deceive it. What if memories you thought you didn’t even have could be accessed? More so, what if you could access someone else’s memories? Would they be real or altered by your own needs? Polish psychological thriller Get Even plays with these mind tricks. Be careful what you remember. It may not be real.

There’s a girl tied to a chair with a bomb strapped to her chest. Ex-mercenary Cole Black remembers he reached for her and tried to help her but then things went boom. The next thing Black remembers is waking up in an abandoned mental asylum and hooked into a Pandora VR set. He is tasked by the mysterious "Red" who bosses Cole into retracing his steps via the headset and TV screens. How does the kidnapping of the girl connect to a bitter rivalry between two weapon manufacturers, a theft of a prototype gun and a secret lover of Pandora’s inventor?

There’s a lot of assumptions in Get Even. One of them is assuming you play the role of Cole Black. Presented in the 1st person view, Black roams the dirty corridors of the asylum and collects evidence to make sense of his predicament. Black has a handy smart phone with built-in applications but you hardly need UV light or infrared. Most of the time you’re viewing the map to navigate and using the camera to trigger crucial memory scenes. They can suddenly whisk Black somewhere else entirely, into other memories.

It’s not all just sightseeing. Some environments present enemies and even though imaginary, they’re deadly altogether. Black carries the infamous stolen prototype weapon, a corner gun. Its barrel turns 90 degrees left or right, making it possible to pop out enemies from dead angles. Stealth is encouraged by Red who warns about the excessive mayhem but the eagle-eyed enemies make that approach useless. It’s better to try to pick up a few stealth kills and then just shoot the rest of the baddies. The game really doesn’t punish for violence.

Marrying exploration and gunplay is not entirely frictionless. The mind detective part of the game is more interesting than the action which only breaks up the moody blues. Having said that the feel of the action is great. It’s not a case of going gun-ho but requires more attention and accuracy. It even feels somewhat realistic. Be prepared for a few retries as you’re pretty much made of glass. It doesn’t help matters there are some nasty glitches when the shootouts take place in the outdoors. You can get stuck on rocks and trees and the only option is to load the latest checkpoint.

For the longest time Get Even feels disjointed and seems to lack focus. The game plays with the usual conventions of narrative experiences where you have to trigger events by finding them in a linear path formed by closed doors, dead end corridors and other obstacles. But Get Even wants to be more than just a walking simulator with added action and realities. It’s hard to get grip of the story when the player is constantly being torn from one memory trip to another again and again. Maybe it’s all deliberate. After all, what memories are if not free association?

Based on what I had read about Get Even, I was under an assumption it takes some eight hours to finish the game. When I had hit that time stamp and was still doing the same things over and again, I felt the game is just dragging on for its own good. If I were an average Joe I probably would have stopped playing there and slapped Get Even with cozy three stars. Nice but boring. In that case I would have done severe injustice to the game.

The story gets much needed focus the closer Black gets to his goal. I almost anticipated the end credits rolling in. Instead Get Even takes a wild twist and presents a second act where all the previous events are being reviewed. It’s a great, entirely unexpected plot device to spark a waning interest in the game and one which I really can’t say anything more about without spoiling it. All I can say it discards most of the previous game mechanics and presents new tricks for some cool sci-fi action. The second act is more conscious of its structure and doesn’t drag on needlessly. Its strength lies in a remixed mystery fused with a fun gameplay. If you can call Get Even fun in any sense though. It’s dark, very dark and wait until you get to the epilogue… Can you say mindfuck again?

Within decadent frames of abandoned asylums, warehouses and dimly lit server rooms, the presentation and character models of the game are convincing and even superlative. Washed out colors and frail outlines of memories create an oppressive and desolate atmosphere. A distorted soundtrack by the always great Olivier Derivière erupts sporadically to the beat of the player’s actions and enhances the rich texture of the ambience.

For its running time Get Even is certainly not a walking simulator or walk in the park. It takes 16-19 hours to complete the game, depending on the player’s willingness to sweep every nook and cranny for all the clues. But Get Even is not an action game either. It’s a mixed bag really. It’s problematic with its identity, reaching out in different directions and jumping all over the place but in the end, it’s this blurred identity which is the focal point of the game. For those who have the stamina to go for the full length of it all, Get Even is a disjointed, schizophrenic, exhausting but ultimately rewarding experience.

Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.