As much as I loved Shinji Mikami’s last entry in his venerable series of horror games, The Evil Withinleft me wanting more closure from its convoluted and gap-filled story. Any plot details that were given weren’t terribly straightforward, the ending was left way too open and just about nothing was explained in regards to how Juli Kidman, Sebastian’s partner, knew as much as she did about what was going on. Thankfully, the first episode of DLC, The Assignment, remedies this by offering a story-driven look into Kidman’s role in the proceedings.
Stepping into Kidman’s shoes this time around, The Assignment follows the shady double agent as she tries to track down Leslie, the psycho-savant who could get her out of the STEM’s nightmare world. Working for Mobius, she is told that she will be given a way into the system that will make her largely invisible to Ruvik and that any deviation from her mission will result in terrible consequences. Since the upcoming second part of the season pass is titled The Consequence, it’s easy to guess how things will turn out for the rookie.
Much of her story takes place alongside Sebastian and Joseph’s, who she is told are expendable if they ever get in her way, leading to a few interesting moments repeated from the original game that feel more eerie after learning more about her character. Although Kidman rarely interacts with her partners, she often sees them moving ahead of her, making it all the more clever to see how she gets in a few of the positions she ends up in during The Evil Within‘s campaign. We get to see how she ended up locked in a glass box filling with water, and it’s finally revealed how she’s unaffected by the pulses that drove others insane.
Although The Assignment moves along at a steady pace, keeping the plot moving with just enough action and horror to keep you on the edge of your seat, it ends abruptly with a thrilling chase that blue balls you out of nowhere. Amazingly, unlike most DLC, nothing ever feels rushed, and the story unfolds at a natural pace comparable to the original game, even if it only clocks in at around four hours for cautious players. Similar to The Evil Within, a new enemy constantly reappears throughout Kidman’s campaign, and although I won’t spoil the design, it is a frightening creation that struck me with fear every time it arrived on the scene.
So The Assignment plays like another four hours in the shoes of Sebastian, right? Actually, Tango made the surprising decision to craft this DLC with a stealth focus, leaving Kidman alone and unable to protect herself for a majority of the game. Aside from one short, scripted sequence, no guns are fired, stealth attacks are extremely limited, and cunning is necessary to keep Kidman in one piece.
Since Kidman didn’t have the foresight to bring a knife to a Mikami game, she doesn’t have any stealth attacks outside of one-use axes that present themselves at optimal times. Rather than kill every enemy she encounters, she must distract them with noises, hide in lockers or lock them in rooms to keep them from quickly killing her. It’s amazing that Tango actually utilized their lacking stealth system that didn’t really work too well in The Evil Within here, but it’s even more shocking that it makes The Assignment that much better for it.
The stealth isn’t incredibly deep, as enemies won’t notice Kidman’s flashlight beam and appear completely oblivious at times they should have obviously seen you, but the lack of stealth attacks make each encounter more thrilling than usual. Using nothing but a glass bottle to get three enemies impaled on spikes or a cell phone to lock two baddies in a closet is much more satisfying than snapping their necks.
Boss battles this time around are also completely reworked from The Evil Within, playing more like intense games of hide-and-seek rather than a battle of wits. The battle with the recurring monster that takes place early on is horrifying in its simplicity, and a more complex encounter later on opens up the arena a bit and is a tense blast to play through.
There isn’t much in the way of collectibles here, with a few audio files, puzzle boxes and key items lying around, but after completion a New Game+ mode is unlocked, allowing for a replayability factor on par with The Evil Within. A new feature also finds Kidman using her flashlight to focus on markings on the wall to make doors and other objects appear, many of which are the key to finding all of the secrets The Assignment has to find.
While the stealth-based approach may turn off the shallower fans of The Evil Within, the major addition to its storyline makes The Assignment more than worth its asking price. Although not a terribly deep experience, it was an intense burst of fear that retroactively makes The Evil Withina more complete experience while also standing on its own as an exciting step in a different direction for the series. If The Consequence manages to wrap up the story and be half as satisfying as The Assignment, then Mikami’s latest project could be among his best yet.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the season pass, given to us for review purposes.
You know, 2014 has really done some serious damage to me, in a sense that I'm a lot more skeptical about upcoming games and how they will turn out, which, given what happened with Unity, Destiny, MCC, etc, isn't at all a bad way to approach things, in fact, I think it worked out in my favor. Anyways, I expected The Assignment, in which we take control of Juli Kidman, a mysterious character in the original campaign. If I'm being completely honest here, I, for the most part, expected more of the same deal with this DLC, which, isn't bad, considering that The Evil Within was my favorite game of 2014. That said, I can't express how surprised and how happy I am that the DLC managed to provide a unique and slightly more tense experience.
The Evil Within wasn't exactly a scary game, but it was a very intense and taxing one, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. Trudging through darkness on low health and ammo as I was hoping to god that I wouldn't encounter more of thous godforsaken doppelgängers was truly mind-wrenching. However, there is a very huge difference between the main game and the DLC. One, regardless of what people say, is a mix of survival horror and action, because you actually have a way of fighting back and directly killing your enemies, whereas the other, is completely stealth and strategy oriented. And yes, it's true that the Evil Within did have stealth mechanics, which I occasionally found useful, but the difference was that the game itself wasn't built on it. Outside of certain occasions, which only becomes apparent when played on harder difficulties, Sebastian could get through most of his enemies through force, even if he had to stay in the shadows here and there, whereas Kidman has to completely rely on stealth and sneaking around. Moreover, what I found interesting and quite refreshing was the fact that the switch from offensive to a defensive gameplay , which is a pretty radical change on it's own, didn't really compromise the core of the original campaign, since familiar elements such as using your environment to your advantage and luring enemies was maintained. Speaking of which, I think it's worthwhile to mention that most of the mechanics associated with covertness have been molded, or "upgraded" if you prefer, in order for it to fit in with the more stealth-like tone of the DLC, which means that everything Kidman has at her disposal is to help her avoid confrontation, since she isn't as tough as sebastian physically. As such, Kidman's main weapon, unlike Sebastian, is only a flashlight that she uses to keep a look out for her enemies, solve puzzles, etc. Also, the environment and level design in general, despite the absence of deadly traps and such contraptions(there was only a few If I remember correctly), serves to help the player to better manipulate his/her enemies. I wonder if such mechanics will later be incorporated into the main game if any sequels and such were to be released.
And much like everything else, boss battles had a distinct approach as well. I wouldn't call them real boss battles, but as far as immersing the player goes, the game did a find job of getting you invested in what was going on. This is because most of confrontations were basically tests to force the player to utilize everything they had learned beforehand, which included sneaking around, luring your enemies, moving quietly about the environment, and quickly vanishing when spotted. And, on that point, what I find pretty interesting is that this stealthy approach managed to intensify the game even further. I mean, the main campaign was taxing before, but in the Assignment, your options of survival are severely limited and completely depended upon your patience and planning, which, in my personal opinion, makes the experience all the more unnerving.
Now on to the best thing about this expansion. The Evil Within, no matter how much I liked it for it's creative designs, was pretty much ambiguous in terms of storytelling. It's true that I attributed this as a strength, but now that I've played the assignment, I'm a bit pissed off that hey'd hold this off as a DLC. Look I'm not gonna change my stance on the fact that I enjoyed the mystery in the Evil Within, and it's potential for sequels, but seriously, if they had distributed Kidman's parts( we'll still have to see how the second part of the DLC fairs) throughout the original campaign, the story would have been absolutely fantastic, considering that the Assignment already filled in some much needed gaps about what had happened in The Evil Within. Furthermore, I enjoyed Jennifer Carpenters performance( voice of Juli), more so than that of Anson Mount( Voice of Sebastian). Don't get me wrong, I liked how ridiculously cheesy Sebastian was, but Juli actually felt more interesting to me, which is probably a result of the fact that the game gives her a greater exposition and actually tries to develop her as a character. I think Sebastian's diary should have been audio recordings since it would have given Anson Mount a better chance to present his character, but since we had to read all of them, we really couldn't get behind his character. To us, he was just a typical badass detective who didn't really say much. Juli's characterization, while not stellar, is pretty good IMO, since most of her background is presented throughout her own audio interviews. Plus, the game itself takes us to a few places familiar to Juli, which would have, or could have helped improve Sebastian as a protagonist, but oh well.
And last but not least, I'm happy with some of the creative designs. Some familiar faces make a comeback, but I'm glad that Juli is given her own antagonist and set of few new characters. I was worried for a while that the same monsters would have been recycled, which wouldn't have been bad, since, as I mentioned above, the approach to how you deal with your foes is different from the previous iteration. Regardless, I'm glad that we get some more creative and interesting designs.
All in all, I'd say the Assignment is definitely worth it's price. It's a great game that not only expands and sheds more the Evil Within universe, but also manages to craft a unique experience without alienating some of the people who enjoyed the previous style by maintaining familiar gameplay elements and atmosphere.