I’ll open up this review with a summary; if The Evil Within was as atmospheric and tense as it’s first DLC drop then it would have been one hell of a ride. There hasn’t been a game for a while that genuinely creeped me out…and I mean really freaky shit. The Resident Evil HD Remaster was terrifying but, as I had played the game before on Gamecube, it lacked the element of surprise when Crimson Heads started deciding they weren’t dead after all, or when a certain moody female started wandering around the mansion gardens.
However it was still an incredible experience and one that no horror fan should ignore. So it is with great pleasure that I can say The Assignment is excellent. The Assignment is the first of a two part story, with The Consequence being the second and soon to be released, that follows Juli Kidman partner of The Evil Within main man Sebastian Castellanos and voiced by Dexter actress Jennifer Carpenter. It runs parallel to the events that unfold in the main game with a prologue to explain how Kidman got involved in all the brain scrambling mind games.
This prologue sets up The Assignment strong, explaining a few plot points from The Evil Within that weren’t even cleared up in the finale. I don’t want to delve too deep into the story side of things but I will say it does a very good job of filling plot holes and giving you a lot more insight into the mysterious company Mobius and their STEM program. The Assignment and The Consequence will clear everything up before you smash everything up in The Keeper DLC, that’s all I’ll say.
So, the gameplay. Kidman picks up a flashlight not long after starting, and that’s about all you get. No shotgun, no crossbow, no grenades. Just you and your flashlight. The Assignment isn’t about shooting the place up. It’s about stealth, planning and trying to not get eaten by rib cages. Kidman is needs a bit more TLC than her male colleague, and as such can’t take much of a beating. Whereas Sebastian could get slapped about by axes and escape in good shape, Kidman can rarely take even one hit without slumping to the floor.
This not only heightens tension but also makes you approach enemies you thought you knew how to handle in a completely different way. To aid this you can now take cover against objects to peek around corners and plan your next move. Taking cover can sometimes feel unresponsive, and a few times I didn’t enter cover as quickly as I wanted to and became putty on the floor. It’s a small thing but when the game forces you to avoid combat it can get annoying when you fail due to unresponsive button pressing.
The torch, being your only weapon, has a few uses. Obviously the main use is seeing where you’re going. The game is a lot darker than the main campaign, both in tone and environments. Sources of light quickly disappear, which is a good old cliche for “shit is about to go down”, so having a torch is handy. You can focus the light onto objects by holding the left trigger.
This not only makes hunting down goodies and investigating items easier, it is also used to open secret areas and reveal doors to continue the story. So light is literally your best friend, especially when avoiding enemies that seem to be blind to the fact you’re shining a beam of light in their face. Being spotted by an enemy is generally bad news, so you can hide in vents, lockers, under beds and even behind cover if you run quickly enough to escape.
At certain points in The Assignment you will pick up a bottle to throw as a distraction, but these areas are pretty much scripted so the majority of the time it’s just you and your stealth skill. You get a handgun too but that a very brief affair which I was happy about as I didn’t want the pacing of the game to suddenly slip into a more action based style.
One enemy in The Assignment is what makes it such a strong piece of DLC. I’m not quite sure if it has a name, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but if you imagine an enemy with Nemesis stalking tendencies with an insta-kill attack you will be on the right track. The reveal of this enemy is unexpected and terrifying, and from that moment it will pop up at specific parts to ruin your day. It even gets it’s own “boss fight” in a genius game of cat and mouse that has you avoiding it until an elevator regains power.
The clever thing about this section is that it effectively makes you ditch the flashlight and go against every instinct you’ve built up in the game so far because the enemy is easier to see in the dark, which you’ll understand when you see it. I died a fair few times in this section, but that was more down to my poor judgement and occasionally because of the aforementioned cover problems.
The only other unique enemy is a disturbing version of the ‘bloated exploding foe’ found in most horror games. The rest of the enemy cast is pulled straight from the main game, although they are still as horrible to come face to face with. Clocking in at about 3 hours long the pacing is perfect and does a great job of providing you with a different view of The Evil Within’s sometimes confusing story by giving more backstory.
I found Kidman to be quite annoying in the main game so I was pleasantly surprised by how likeable and fleshed out she was in The Assignment, showing us a much more fragile and layered character. It seems as well that the extra time the developers have had to play around with next-gen hardware has paid off. Lighting is used to great effect and the graphics in general look a lot more polished and detailed.
Anyone that played The Evil Within, and as long as you managed to keep hold of your copy for 5 months, should definitely look into getting this add on. It shows that Tango Gameworks and Bethesda do know how to create effective and tense horror, despite what The Evil Within’s sometimes action based gameplay might suggest.