The Evil Within: The Assignment ReviewMarch 23, 2015
When done correctly, DLC for a video game should enhance or expand the experience of the main title to justify its additional price tag. For completionists, it can give us more of what we want from a game we enjoyed. Alternatively, it can change the gameplay within the same world, giving us a new take on a familiar experience. The first DLC episode from The Evil Within, The Assignment takes the latter path – stripping all aspects of action-oriented gameplay and shifting to pure survival horror, providing a more intense experience than the main title achieved.
The Evil Within: The Assignment moves control from rugged, world weary cop Sebastian to the young, fresh faced female detective Kidman. In an effort to remain spoiler free, the events of The Assignment run parallel to EW’s main story. It attempts to explain Kidman’s motives as well as what happened to her when she disappeared throughout the game. I enjoyed what felt like a throwback to Resident Evil 2’s Game A and Game B, which survival horror vets may remember as a version of Game+ mode where the parallel story of what happened to your partner was revealed. More backstory about Dr. Marcelo Jimenez, Ruvik, and the shadowy organization behind the experiments that are the catalyst for the horrific events are brought to light. The more streamlined telling of the plot is a welcome addition after players dealt with the very secretive and confusing narrative of the main game, and the writers did a good job of pacing the story and leaving some details to be answered in the next episode. The 3-and-a-half hour play time may be short, but the pacing is brisk and at no time did any chapter of the experience feel like “filler”.
The highlight of The Assignment is the complete shift of gameplay from action-horror to pure survival horror. For the majority of the game you are weaponless, relying on stealth and environment kills to progress past the horrors within the game. Kidman has the ability to “shout” and distract enemies to a specific location, allowing her to either walk them into a trap or move them from an area and allow passage through. Her other ability is her flashlight which can be focused on certain areas of the environment to expose new passages and exits, recalling the forgotten 2010 horror gem Alan Wake. The Assignment moves into the realm of recent independent horror games like Outcast where hiding and running are your only options. It ratchets the intensity and fear up immensely, as navigating a small corridor filled with monsters and no weapons is quite a challenge, requiring patience and planning. However, The Evil Within players will no doubt recall how easily these same exact foes were dispatched when playing as Sebastian, and may even be annoyed by how weak and powerless Kidman is. I would encourage players to push past this, and give the experience a chance to draw you in and raise your pulse. Another plus is the old school Resident Evil type puzzles, where reading documents found in the level will give context clues on how to proceed past a locked door or area, rewarding players for attention to detail.
Visually, The Assignment expectedly looks exactly the same as The Evil Within, with many character models and environments recycled from the main game. This isn’t a negative, as the developers successfully created a visually striking world with foreboding atmosphere that is perfect for the horror and tension filled experience. Kidman herself feels more alive and human then the robotic Sebastian, as additional animations such as having her recoil in fear as an enemy approaches add depth to her as a character. She is vocally brought to life by Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, and her voice performance and dialogue are natural and believable.
I do, however, need to bring up an outstanding graphical issue that carries over from The Evil Within and another recent PS4 horror title The Order: 1886 – the cutoff “widescreen” presentation that is forced on the game. Even if you have a widescreen 16:9 display, black bars are forced onto the screen to make the game have a cinematic feel at all times. While somewhat annoying in the main game, it can become downright infuriating in The Assignment as you will spend most of your time in cover or in tight quarters. Whereas in a normal presentation you could use the 3rd person view to see slightly above you while in cover, you will now only see right up to the top of Kidman’s head. This causes issues as you will need to stand up and peek to see what you could have seen normally. It makes my 42-inch screen feel like a computer monitor and game developers really need to allow gamers an option to remove this. But while annoying, it is admittedly not game breaking.
The Assignment is an excellent addition to The Evil Within. Fans will enjoy the throwback to true survival horror as well as some big reveals of the mysterious plot. With more episodes on the way, The Evil Within’s season pass is looking like a very good deal if the level of quality continues.