“Save the girl.”
This is your only instruction when Get Even begins. You play as Cole Black, an amnesiac who wakes up in an abandoned warehouse with no memory of who he is or why he’s trying to “save the girl” — it’s up to the player to piece it all together.
Get Even toys with this theme of memory, and although it doesn’t quite use game mechanics to reinforce the concept, it delivers a story of corporate warfare, revenge and family that had me obsessing over every new detail and clue in a way I haven’t obsessed over a game narrative since BioShock: Infinite.
Playing with Pandora
After that opening scene, Cole Black discovers that he’s been imprisoned in a defunct insane asylum by a mysterious figure calling themself “Red.” This captor has given Cole the Pandora, a headset that lets users revisit their memories, so that Cole can piece together the events surrounding the kidnapping of the girl.
None of this is told to you though. The game throws you right into one of Cole’s memories without telling you anything about the Pandora, the girl or even your name. At first, this was frustrating, but then I realized, and later appreciated, that the absence of context or guidance simulated the same experience Cole Black was experiencing as an amnesiac.
Collectible evidence is scattered across each memory, and each new clue adds more insight into the game’s labyrinthine plot. Get Even tricks you into thinking that finding evidence is important to the story — it even adds an extra bonus for finding every item in each memory — but whether you find zero evidence or every piece of evidence, Red will come to the same conclusions about each event at the end of every memory.
This is disappointing in a game that wants players to experience the struggle of regaining lost memories. When you explore each memory in Get Even, the evidence is what helps you learn the truth of these events, but if Red comes to the same conclusion regardless of my diligence (I replayed some memories four or five times in order to find every clue), does my participation in the investigation matter at all?
If my choices in the game world don’t impact the narrative, wouldn’t the narrative be better suited to a film?
Two Ways to Play
At its core, Get Even is a first-person shooter. There’s a variety of guns to choose from, including the novel CornerGun — a sniper rifle that bends around corners, allowing you to headshot unsuspecting enemies. The combat mechanics are passable, but don’t go into this expecting the snappiness and fluidity of Call of Duty.
Get Even is also a stealth game, and you can play through each memory without killing a single bad guy. Like many stealth games, enemies are on scripted paths, allowing you to sneak past undetected if you have the patience,
unlike me. The game works well both ways, however there were one or two unfair moments that put you in situations that are nigh impossible to sneak through unnoticed.
Early on, you’re told that your actions will have consequences in the game, and to get the best outcome, you’re encouraged to play Get Even as a pacifist, but the game doesn’t always succeed in informing players when they can and can’t avoid conflict. For example, in one early asylum sequence, I needed to slip past a music-crazed inmate to access the next room. If you get too close to the exit, the inmate will attack you, but if you shoot his boom box, he’ll become docile. Another sequence though has an inmate charge at you from down a hallway. The first time I played this, I shot him on instinct, but since I was trying to play non-lethally, I reloaded my save about four times trying to find the “boom box solution.” I couldn’t find one.
Where the game’s choice-driven structure fails, the story compensates. Every memory in Get Even surprises with new twists and shocking revelations, and I was impressed and thankful that for every question that popped up during my playthrough, there was an answer buried in some note or audio log or voiceover. Get Even is a game that demands a second playthrough to grasp the intricacies of its plot.
There’s something to be said about the pacing, too. Memories break up the increasingly dreadful Asylum sequences, which I found as pleasant reprieves from the Outlast-invoking halls. The environments in each memory are London-dreary — you’ll visit a lot of graffiti-blasted abandoned buildings throughout your time with the Pandora — but there was just enough diversity in each memory that made me excited to see where the next memory might take me. (In part because of a sluggish framerate, outdoor areas were often a drag.)
All of this is underscored by a moving soundtrack that added intensity to the game’s most fear-inducing moments and tension to the emotional highs of the narrative. (Sometimes the sound design was poor, admittedly. In certain sequences, the score changes based on triggers in the environment, but if you’re a completionist like me, you’ll have to suffer ear-bleeding repetition while you scour environments for every piece of evidence.)
Get Even is a respectable first-person shooter, sure. But despite finishing the game eager to start a second playthrough to experience the story with new perspective, the lack of player choice was a considerable disappointment. I felt duped for hunting down every piece of evidence during my time with Cole Black, because it didn’t influence the truth that ultimately emerged. This omission reduces Get Even from an imaginative game to a passable one that made me feel I was watching a thriller film more than playing a game.