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The Evil Within: The Assignment Review
The Evil Within is regarded by many to be the true return to the survival horror genre because it has resonated rather well with many horror fans and old school gamers alike. Currently sitting at 1.39 million units sold, Bethesda wanted to keep fans of the game intrigued with Shinji Mikami’s nightmare for good reason. The Assignment is the first edition of a two part story driven DLC involving Sebastian Castellanos’s partner of the Krimson City Police department, Juli Kidman. As Kidman, you drown in the nightmare of The Evil Within’s twisted STEM Project and Kidman’s past. The Assignment always seems to put you just a few steps behind your partner and salvation. The first few minutes of The Assignment will make you yearn for a weapon, after half an hour you realize that you’re just not getting one and it makes you want one that much more. However the remaining 3 hours made me glad to not have one as The Assignment’s gameplay is truly a unique horror filled experience for old school survival horror fans.
The Assignment divides the gameplay of The Evil Within down the middle and leaves out the big action and shooting sequences in favor of the minimalistic need of survival, which is a real treat for horror purists. Running from enemies that will overpower you in seconds is like having a centipede slowly crawl up your back as your hands are tied, and all you can do is work yourself free.
If the main campaign of The Evil Within was a mix of Resident Evil 4 and Silent Hill 2, The Assignment takes more after a Silent Hill experience as it focuses more on its slower horror elements rather than the action based concepts of Resident Evil. It’s what makes the pacing of The Assignment that much more twisted and sinister. The Assignment focuses almost completely on stealth gameplay with minor puzzle elements peppered here and there for added amusement. With no upgrades or skill sets to allow Kidman to get stronger, and with only a few melee weapons that you find scattered around whenever it’s appropriate, this all makes the add on story DLC one of the most tense horror experiences I have ever had in a game. The main objective of The Assignment is to rely on diverting enemies with bottles, and calling out to them while hiding behind desks and walls to outsmart your enemies. You can direct some enemies into rooms which you can lock them in, over broken boards that reveal pitfalls, and onto pressure released spike traps. These methods are mainly the only ways to dispatch enemies all the while navigating Kidman which is all done through the tank control scheme of The Evil Within.
Juli is very much the opposite of Sebastian, and although she controls the exact same, her demeanor matches the environment that she is living in. Juli feels much more like a realistic character when compared to Sebastian. Sebastian’s callousness prevented him from ever showing any signs of fear or anger, where Juli on the other hand breaths harder when enemies are nearby, she shutters when a noise crashes in the dark, and she groans in pain and responds to her wounds. The Assignment made me want an Evil Within sequel starring Kidman and I can’t wait to see how her story will unfold in the second part, The Consequence.
Many unanswered questions still remain at the end of the 3 and a half hour mission which was considered one of the main issues with the overarching plot of The Evil Within. The Assignment just offers more questions without answers as this parallel story opens up whole new ways to think about these characters and enemies. In saying that, after playing through The Assignment, you will still question Kidman’s motives, Joseph’s actions, and why the STEM Project is so important to the corporation in the first place.
The new enemies, as well as some of the returning ones, along with the emphasized stealth gameplay mechanic truly make The Assignment feel like a fresh yet familiar experience. I never really felt that The Assignment was a cash grab or an unneeded experience because it brings enjoyment to the table. For the first hour I felt hunted and outnumbered and all I could do was either take my chances on an exit or hope that an enemy would follow my cries along the path that I had yelled for them, rather than taking a short cut that would lead them into the path I had planned to take. After I started to get the hang of The Assignment and I realized that I didn’t have to kill any of the enemies since most of them are blind, I started to transform the way I thought about approaching certain room layouts and ways to use my environment to my advantage. Once you slip past an enemy or outrun them and make it to the next room, you gasp and remember that you forgot to breath.
The Assignment only offers players one difficulty mode called ‘survivor’ initially, and after you finish it, you will unlock Kurayami mode, which is descried as “STEM in complete darkness” and the only way to see at all is with the flashlight. This mode heightens the tension of The Assignment. It aims to limit your visual senses, and focuses on what the room sounds like instead. You will see an enemy in the distance scurry quickly in front of your flashlight then it suddenly disappears into the darkness however you know it’s still there because you hear it rustling through cans and other debris. Kurayami mode doesn’t really increase the difficulty of the enemy AI as most enemies will stick to their location and walk around until they hear something. But what makes Kurayami mode so difficult is the act of actually moving around because you can only see within a few feet in front of you. I would recommend playing through this mode at least once for any fan of survival horror out there as there really isn’t anything quite like it.
One of the biggest factors of The Assignment is actually being without a weapon. I thoroughly enjoyed blasting enemies in the main campaign as Sebastian, but this just isn’t an option in The Assignment. However, being unarmed for 95% of the game doesn’t mean that Kidman is entirely helpless. She is smaller, smarter, and a bit more agile than Sebastian, so hiding is much easier. Doing so under beds and in lockers will still get you murdered because the enemies seem to understand that these objects are only there for you to hide in. So if you call out to one near a locker, expect that they will check inside to find if what startled their attention lies within.
One of my biggest issues with The Assignment is that there is very little to interact with in the world besides doors and a few puzzles. Unlike the main campaign, there are no items hidden in crates or traps to dismantle for parts, and the only things that you will be hunting for are in game rewards like soundtracks and models that can be viewed in the main menus. Documents and cassette tapes that shed more light onto the history of Julie Kidman and The STEM Project are all that you will find while searching for supplies because there simply aren’t any supplies to find. No green gel or ammo is to be found and it makes The Assignment feel more like a hands off experience than what was experienced in the main campaign since you don’t have to check every corner for an item that you may have missed.
So, is The Assignment worth $10? If you’re an old school survival horror fan that appreciates an experience that makes you feel helpless at every turn (like I am) then by all means yes. I would recommend picking up the season pass for $20 as there will be two more DLC missions coming out in the next few months. However, if you are looking for more of the Resident Evil 4 experience that The Evil Within offered, the zombie bashing, the item collecting, and the skill and weapon upgrades then The Assignment may seem like a slow crawl.