REVIEW | A Stealth 'Assignment'
The story in the main campaign of The Evil Within was confusing. It jumped around quite a bit and was, at times, hard to follow. Personally, I kind of get into that sort of thing, but I could easily see how it turned some people off. The first piece of DLC in the season pass, The Assignment, certainly doesn't stray from this formula, but it does offer some answers regarding some of the randomness found within the game's formula. It also changes up the gameplay in a meaningful way by taking the focus off of combat and placing it more on stealth. With each of these features, Tango Gameworks makes a reasonably strong argument to come back to last year's survival horror title for an extra scare.
The gunplay of the The Evil Within very strongly evoked Resident Evil 4, which makes a lot of sense considering RE veteran Shinji Mikami's involvement with the project. The Assignment, on the other hand, took a different approach towards exploring the creepy world. Featuring the Julie Kidman character from the main game, the focus this time was less about blowing heads off and more about being really sneaky.
After a brief cutscene where your gun is MIA after a car crash, you quickly find out just how vulnerable you can be without a weapon. It doesn't take much to take you out, so you have to use the various tricks laid out for you by the game. I'm not sure if this was just me underutilizing it, but the main thing the tutorials suggested was making noise from behind cover to lure enemies. While definitely a sound theory, this ended up getting me caught more often than not, so I rarely used it. Instead, they threw in options like calling a nearby phone to distract enemies or throwing an empty bottle The Last of Us style. The game actually feels, if nothing else, like a third-person version of Outlast. You can hide under beds and in lockers from enemies and if you get caught, the best idea is always to try and lose them rather than fighting back.
Through both the severe consequences of getting caught and the various methods of distraction, the game actually did quite well at putting me on edge. My heart would be constantly racing when attempting to open a door as I hoped the enemy I distracted wasn't on their way back to stab me in the back. One enemy in particular, which they have yet to address story-wise, can't be killed and eats you with its entire body if it catches you. It has a spotlight for a face which turns red as it sees you and while it isn't impossible to escape, it usually feels like it. I had a few moments with this enemy that borderline felt unfair at times, but when I finally got past it, the accomplishment made up for the frustration.
If you were to run from beginning to end in this game, it would be easy to be just as confused as you might have been during the main campaign. In this light, I would urge you to find and read the audio logs hidden throughout the game. While not explaining everything, there were several moments, some even from the original game, that made a lot more sense after listening to these. The rest of the story feels about the same as The Evil Within, but the shorter length makes it a bit easier to swallow. The game has two chapters, each running about an hour and a half for me, which felt like the right amount of time, but might be a bit short if you were looking for something to last a little longer. It also has various collectibles which involved a few admittedly tricky puzzles.
- Great amount of tension from stealth gameplay
- Some extra story bits to help make more sense of the main story
- Decent variety of gameplay sequences
- A little short for a $10 investment
- Instant death sequences can get frustrating
- Need more opportunities to save
The differences presented in The Assignment shake up the formula of the main game enough to make it feel fresh enough that it doesn't just feel like you're coming back for more. The adventures of Julie Kidman feel more like a different game set in the same universe in the end. That being said, if you hated the stealth in the main campaign this may not be the DLC for you. There is one very short sequence with a gun and that is it. On the other hand, if you like slower-paced horror games like Outlast or Amnesia: The Dark Descent it would be worth giving this a try as it feels a lot more like those games, except in the third person. Now, I just have to find a way to fall asleep having been eaten by a lantern-headed monster's toothy-torso. Wish me luck!