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Psycho-thriller Get Even needs more time to get better

Our first taste of the survival horror leaves much to be desired

It’s been nearly three years since we first saw Get Even, and Polish studio The Farm 51’s latest game has come a long way since it was announced in 2013. In the build we played at Gamescom 2016 — the first ever playable demo of the survival horror-meets-first-person-shooter-meets-puzzle-game — we realized that, when it comes to this oddball project, "coming a long way" doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good.

Get Even is bound for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One next year, but it would strongly appear otherwise at first blush. The game bears a strong visual resemblance to Deadly Premonition, the last-gen survival horror title that curried favor with lovers of irony and B-movies. It’s an ugly world of grays and ... darker grays, with some blacks (maybe a brown or two) thrown into the mix. Such a limited color palette was a criticism of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360-era games, and playing Get Even reminded us why: It’s not attractive, it’s bland to look at and it makes everything look the same, to our detriment.

British amnesiac Cole Black wakes up in this setting with nothing but a cell phone — and a gun, of course. We are then tasked with somehow navigating him toward the girl his text messages are taunting him about, a teen who is about to be blown up for whatever reason and whom he has no hope in saving, according to his tormentors.

Thus begins a slow, plodding slog through several lookalike buildings, each one befit with creaky staircases and overbearing lights that make you wonder who’s paying the electricity bill. Switching through the different tools on the phone, like a scanner, a map and a UV light are meant to give these exploratory segments some purpose and diversity beyond "go find that girl you’re supposed to save." Unfortunately, most of them are little used, and none are good for much more than detecting footprints to follow through some dull rooms. Cycling through them is also a pain, due to wonky, sensitive controls.

Get Even is an FPS first, to its own detriment

Still, switching back and forth between tools gives Get Even a sort of interesting, puzzle-like mechanic. If the whole thing was about making smart choices about which equipment was needed when, the game would be better for it. The Farm 51 is trying to make its gritty, psychological thriller a first-person shooter first, and Get Even's combat is terrible.

Running into enemies along the way, we were first treated to some outdated character animation as disembodied voices murmured something about the plot. Cole has a CornerShot that allows his gun to bend, meaning we spent this exchange with our weapon at the ready — except that aiming from behind a wall (in slow-mo, no less) is no easy task. Gunning down enemies straight-on is also possible, of course, but feels imprecise and unexciting. More frustrating was that we had to knock out both enemies with just 40 bullets. This was inexplicable and unexplained, and it meant we had to replay this annoying fight a more annoying number of times.

Despite encountering all of this within the first 45 minutes of Get Even, it’s hard to say if combat and room-searching is all the game has to offer. Maybe the plot becomes ten times more interesting than "strong man saves helpless woman," as we first experienced it. Maybe the levels become less about backtracking through ugly rooms and instead put the game’s legitimately anxiety-inducing sound design to good use. Maybe combat is less infuriating later on.

Whatever the case may be, Get Even seems like it still has much, much longer to go before it’s out next year.