It might not have been the most inspired big-budget horror game we’ve seen, but The Evil Within was still, despite its familiar ideas, a thoroughly unforgettable game that proved Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami knows what fans of the genre want. If the base game was “a terrifying patchwork of nightmares,” then its first DLC is more of that, with moderately better execution.
I went into The Assignment with a cautious optimism that the talented folks at developer Tango Gameworks would be able to pick up the numerous unfinished narrative threads left by The Evil Within and construct something around it that’s worth playing.
That’s exactly what they did, and I couldn’t be happier to return to this twisted world.
This DLC is the first half of a two-part story that follows detective Juli “Kid” Kidman — Sebastian’s woefully underdeveloped partner — that, aside from offering more scares, aims to answer some of the many lingering questions about her, and specifically her connections to the shady Mobius organization and where the hell she went off to for a substantial chunk of The Evil Within.
I was disappointed when I realized how little screen time was dedicated to Juli, who’s voiced by the consistently wonderful Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”, Quarantine). Her character is finally given the time to shine, and shine she does. She’s far more intriguing to me than Sebastian or his goofy sidekick, Joseph Oda.
The Assignment does a wonderful job of answering some questions that needed answering while at the same time bringing up a few more that I can’t wait to see answered in the follow-up DLC, The Consequence.
Mikami has called The Evil Within an answer to the more action-oriented direction the Resident Evil series has taken since Resident Evil 4, which he also happened to direct. That remains true in this DLC, which continues to put an emphasis on its stealth mechanics. Running in guns blazing was never an option in the main story, and it’s even less of an option here.
As an agent of Mobius, a mysterious organization that’s responsible for the horrific events in The Evil Within, Juli was supposed to infiltrate Sebastian’s team in an effort to find Leslie, whose mind has everything they need to complete the STEM system, within which all of this takes place. Think of STEM as a hellish version of The Matrix, or like Inception, if DiCaprio’s adventures had been limited exclusively to nightmares.
Mobius would fit in nicely as the evil organization in basically any Saturday morning cartoon. They’re not all that intimidating, mostly because we’ve seen groups like them done better so many times before in other video games, movies and television. This doesn’t change, but I stopped caring when Juli starts fighting back.
This also happens to be exactly when The Assignment really gets interesting.
From take-off to landing, it’s about 3 1/2 hours. During that time, we’re treated to a veritable sampler platter of scary things, some of which will be familiar to those of you who played The Evil Within, while others will be completely new.
The biggest difference here is Kidman herself. She spends most of the game unarmed, and the upgrade system has been removed. This forces players to embrace those polarizing stealth mechanics. In addition to the tried and true bottle throwing mechanic, Kidman can call out to enemies from cover and she eventually gets a stealth attack, which I found pairs nicely with the lure.
And when the situation calls for it, she can also run considerably longer than Sebastian. It’s a good thing, too, because there’s a lot of cardio involved in this DLC.
Without Sebastian’s physical prowess or his array of weapons and gadgets to defend against enemies, playing as Kidman can be tough. I died a lot, and the source of that frustration usually came from the game’s purposefully wonky, old school controls.
I thought the added challenge would be frustrating, but there’s an element of nostalgia to this that reminds me of the golden age of survival horror games, where being underpowered and outnumbered was expected. The Assignment offers more of a challenge than the game whose story it’s trying to expand upon, and I loved (almost) every second of it.
I’ve lamented the lack of quality DLC for horror games, but The Assignment gives me hope that The Evil Within will buck that trend and give fans a reason — or three — to return to this fantastic horror game. The Consequence cannot come soon enough.
The Final Word: The Assignment takes the best aspects of The Evil Within — namely the stealth, unsettling enemies and the strategy that’s required in combat — and successfully builds a bite-sized adventure around it that never outstays its welcome.
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