Hands-on with the amazing, mind-bending, Derren Brown of thriller video games

Get Even will leave your palms sweating – and your brain hurting

29 March 2017
by Stuff Staff

Time was, creating a scary video game meant hashing together levels with enough jump scares to make a Blair Witch sequel, serving up some close-quarters melee combat and piping in tense background music.

It’s 2017, though, which means that just won’t cut the mustard any more. Sure, games of said recipe are still being served up – but they’re hardly doing anything new.

Enter: Get Even. A mind-bending thriller that’ll have you searching through spine-tingling environments and scratching your cranium in equal measure, this is no re-imagining of a worn-out concept.

In fact, while the sell – ‘What is real?’ – makes it all feel a bit concept-over-content, having been hands-on with the title at Bandai Namco’s HQ, I can say for sure that this is one fright-filled game that definitely deserves your time.

Why? Here’s why.

WHAT’S THE STORY?

Without revealing too much, Get Even sees you playing first-person as Cole Black, a man with scattered, disrupted memories who keeps finding himself in urban environments that might or might not be real. He also sounds a lot like Sean Bean – but isn’t.

With some strange VR-like helmet apparently strapped to his head, instructions from a mystery source (that could be friend or foe) are delivered through various devices, such as TV screens and a pocket scanner device.

With a murky military past, Black’s quest revolves in equal parts around repairing his own recollections and following orders to uncover secrets – though the purpose is far from transparent.

While it might all sound like a plot from a dodgy Jason Statham film, give it 5 minutes and the mind-bending antics will soon have you hooked.

WRITTEN TO THRILL

It’s no coincidence that this game messes with your head: its writers are Iain Sharkey and Stephen Long.

Sure, you probably haven’t heard of them, but they’re the same blokes who’ve written a host of Derren Brown’s productions. You know, the guy that makes a living by playing psycho mind tricks on people?

It’s little surprise, then, that as you progress through the early levels of Get Even inexplicable goings-on will leave you baffled – and more than a little bit petrified.

See, this game doesn’t deliver terror as many pulse-racing, thick-in-the-chest slashers do; rather, it makes your skin tingle with a fear of the unknown and unexplained. You’re not sure what you’re afraid of, you just know that you should be.

Distorted, broken-voiced silhouettes issue instructions from TV sets, for example, that leave you wondering just what decision is the right one and, much like with Mr Brown’s antics, whether you’re actually in control at all.

PROPER RPG DECISION MAKING

Control, in fact, is a big part of the gameplay, with every action and discovery written to feel like it might have been planned out for you – which, suffice it to say, is not a comforting feeling.

That’s not to say, mind, that you don’t get to sway the gameplay. Rather, it almost feels like whichever way the game goes – and it can go many ways, apparently – that was the way they wanted it to go.

Who they are remains to be seen, but as you determine how to progress through levels there’s a very real sense of involvement and isolation – despite the presence of your digital guide.

Whether you creep past guards or kill them (and, indeed, how you kill them – do you save bullets by stabbing them?); whether you release prisoners or not; whether you choose to fix switches; whether you turn left or right: almost every action (or inaction) feels like it has a weight to it.

That even goes so far as how you use your handheld device. This is a nifty bit of kit that works as an evidence scanner, a UV torch, a comms device and a map. Different actions will uncover different evidence, and it all amounts to a sense of uncertainty in your own independence.

LEVELS FROM THE REAL WORLD

That all of these decisions are taking place in urban environments that feel utterly real and properly deep only serves to heighten the sense of impending danger and creeping discomfort.

Part of that is rooted in how Get Even’s developer has modelled the levels: they’re all based on real places that have been 3D-scanned into the game. Besides delivering levels that feel far more developed, vast and realised than a game of this budget has any right to, that tech also keeps you properly fearful.

As you explore an abandoned mental institution, for example, the knowledge that it’s based on a real-world location only serves to add to the thick weight of foreboding as you fight to find out just what’s real and what isn’t.

The levels are well rendered, too, from crumbling walls to creepy stairwells, though it’s actually the way that this link to the real world is used together with the reality-bending mind tricks that makes things so creepy.

See, while you know the tunnel you’re pacing through is probably scanned from a sewer somewhere in the world, as pipes begin to warp and disappear, or you go through door after door after door at accelerating pace in a real Derren Brown twist, you realise reality (or a version of it) is breaking, and the illusion disappears.

When you wake up, are you out of the illusion, or was it all a part of another one? That’s a question you’ll wrestle with constantly.

SOUNDS TO SCARE YOU

Behind all of these cranium stretching goings-on, you’re accompanied by a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in a proper, Stephen King-inspired thriller film.

What’s more, you’re properly wrapped in that soundtrack. The game’s score was recorded in full 3D format which means, when playing with headphones or a surround sound setup, the terrifying strings feel as if they’re surrounding you.

Some sounds are rendered by the game’s engine; others are pure orchestral playback. These are blended seamlessly together to match in-game moments and progress that polishes and completes the immersive sense of fear and restless foreboding that pervades the gameplay.

Scored by composer Olivier Deriviere, Get Even plays like a game where audio was considered as important an element as the graphics or, indeed, the events themselves.

This is a title that has to be played to be grasped. It’s not just another fear-fest: it’s a constant roller-coaster of torment and turmoil, where levels, sounds and decisions (or the lack thereof) merge to deliver unrelenting back-of-the-neck prickles that won’t go away in a hurry.

WHEN’S IT COMING?

Get Even is released on 26 May 2017, and will be available for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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