Get Even is one of those games that is a nightmare to review; not because of a lack of quality—in fact, this walking-simulator-in-a-first-person-shooter’s-clothing could be one of 2017’s cult hits—but because the storyline features so many twists and turns that one is constantly worried about giving too much away and spoiling the experience.
The Farm 51’s latest is a first-person psychological thriller that toys with the player from the off—providing very few details other than that the character’s name is Black, he sounds a lot like Sean Bean, and the game’s setting is unclear. (Although the writers did let slip that the opening is set 10 miles outside of Nuneaton in England.) Black’s mission is simple: save the girl.
While searching for the missing girl, the player is introduced to the suite of puzzle-solving gadgets available on Black’s smartphone. These include a map that helps him slip past guards; a black light to reveal bloody footprints and other clues; an infrared camera that shows enemies’ heat signatures and how hot parts of the environment are; and an evidence scanner, which serves a self-explanatory purpose.
After a rather depressing plod through a derelict building, solving a few simple puzzles and exploring every nook and cranny for evidence, Black finds the girl. However, as he attempts to disarm a homemade bomb that has been strapped to her, it explodes. (This element caused the game’s release to be pushed back by a month because of similarities to the terrorist atrocity in Manchester.) Black then awakes in a derelict asylum with a curious VR device welded to his head. This device allows people to relive their memories: memories that Red, a mysterious figure whispering in Black’s ear, wants to explore. The first of these memories is the time that Black stole a prototype weapon—the corner gun, an inherently cool piece of technology—from the headquarters of a major British arms firm.
The corner gun does exactly what the name suggests: shoots around corners. With the press of a button, players can turn the barrel of the weapon 90° and use the attached infrared screen to find and deftly pick off guards while remaining out of harm’s way. The weapon is incredibly fun to use and annoys Black’s handlers every time he opens fire, as it causes distortions in the memories, represented by the guards exploding into millions of pixels—a rather cool effect that begs for a wanton rampage.
This sense of fun creates a moral dilemma for the player. The shooting mechanics in the game are great, and the corner gun offers a fresh and thoughtful take on the mechanics of the average cover-based shooter. However, scratching that itchy trigger finger will negatively affect the way that other characters react to Black. In a similar manner to Telltale’s The Walking Dead games, actions in Get Even have consequences that are not always obvious at first. In fact, some are so subtle that they remain unnoticed until after the fact. Cause-and-effect systems play a large role in the game, with minor actions having wider consequences further down the line, and no good deed going unpunished. This system of consequence is one of the more interesting ways that Get Even plays with both genre conventions and player expectations. The game is a shooter that can be completed without having to shoot anyone, blurring the line between FPS and walking simulator in the best, and often trippiest, way possible.
As the game progresses, Black’s grip on reality slips away as the myriad mysteries slowly unfold and players are taken on a strange journey best described as Old Boy-meets-Inception in a dingy warehouse just outside of Stoke. The trippy narrative is backed by a strong and oppressive visual style, with environments constructed using a bespoke scanning technology that enabled the developers to use real-world locations to fill Get Even with amazing detail. The realism provided by this approach gives environments a lived-in feel, despite Black spending most of his time exploring lifeless husks and abandoned warehouses. Each space feels real, with a tremendous sense of place and presence. Any player who ever broke into an abandoned warehouse as a kid or had to walk past a dodgy underpass will be whisked back to memories they wish to forget and the ever-present sense of dread that hangs in the air in such places. The key difference is that, now, the maniacs in the dark, waiting to beat the player’s head in with lead pipes, are more than a figment of the imagination.
Backing the bleak visuals is a stellar score by French composer, Olivier Deriviere, and some of the best audio design ever found in a game. Get Even is an oddly musical affair, with every environmental sound keyed to a certain note. As the player progresses, the air hums aggressively, and the sound of doors opening and the character’s footsteps subtly add to the overwhelming and oppressive soundtrack that peaks and troughs with the player’s actions. If Silent Hill composer, Akira Yamoaka took over as the artistic director of Stomp, Get Even’s audio would likely be the result: a cacophony of incidental industrial noise, as oppressive as compelling and best experienced through a decent pair of headphones.
The ambient audio is accompanied by brilliant performances from Get Even’s small and mostly British voice cast. From the Bean-esque northern grumble of protagonist Cole Black to the the oddly reassuring voice of Red and the wider cast of crazies Black encounters in his trip to the asylum, each voice feels as vital and brilliantly executed as the last. This uniform quality is a praise-worthy accomplishment for what is, essentially, an indie game with top-notch production values.
Clocking in at 8-10 hours for the first playthrough, Get Even is a weekend well spent. Though the wider narrative strokes remain unchanged, Get Even, as with the best thrillers, is well worth a second sitting to experience the myriad eureka moments that go whistling past the player’s head in the first playthrough, but the significance of which are revealed once the story finally comes together.
In short, Get Even is one party that gamers, fans of Black Mirror, and the Nolan Brothers’ better films will not want to miss.
American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.
Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.
The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.
The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.
Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.
Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.
The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.
The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.
American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.
Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.
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