As much as I loved Shinji Mikami’s last entry in his venerable series of horror games, The Evil Within left me wanting more closure from its convoluted and gap-filled story. Any plot details that were given weren’t terribly straightforward, the ending was left way too open and just about nothing was explained in regards to how Juli Kidman, Sebastian’s partner, knew as much as she did about what was going on. Thankfully, the first episode of DLC, The Assignment, remedies this by offering a story-driven look into Kidman’s role in the proceedings.
Stepping into Kidman’s shoes this time around, The Assignment follows the shady double agent as she tries to track down Leslie, the psycho-savant who could get her out of the STEM’s nightmare world. Working for Mobius, she is told that she will be given a way into the system that will make her largely invisible to Ruvik and that any deviation from her mission will result in terrible consequences. Since the upcoming second part of the season pass is titled The Consequence, it’s easy to guess how things will turn out for the rookie.
Much of her story takes place alongside Sebastian and Joseph’s, who she is told are expendable if they ever get in her way, leading to a few interesting moments repeated from the original game that feel more eerie after learning more about her character. Although Kidman rarely interacts with her partners, she often sees them moving ahead of her, making it all the more clever to see how she gets in a few of the positions she ends up in during The Evil Within‘s campaign. We get to see how she ended up locked in a glass box filling with water, and it’s finally revealed how she’s unaffected by the pulses that drove others insane.
Although The Assignment moves along at a steady pace, keeping the plot moving with just enough action and horror to keep you on the edge of your seat, it ends abruptly with a thrilling chase that blue balls you out of nowhere. Amazingly, unlike most DLC, nothing ever feels rushed, and the story unfolds at a natural pace comparable to the original game, even if it only clocks in at around four hours for cautious players. Similar to The Evil Within, a new enemy constantly reappears throughout Kidman’s campaign, and although I won’t spoil the design, it is a frightening creation that struck me with fear every time it arrived on the scene.
So The Assignment plays like another four hours in the shoes of Sebastian, right? Actually, Tango made the surprising decision to craft this DLC with a stealth focus, leaving Kidman alone and unable to protect herself for a majority of the game. Aside from one short, scripted sequence, no guns are fired, stealth attacks are extremely limited, and cunning is necessary to keep Kidman in one piece.
Since Kidman didn’t have the foresight to bring a knife to a Mikami game, she doesn’t have any stealth attacks outside of one-use axes that present themselves at optimal times. Rather than kill every enemy she encounters, she must distract them with noises, hide in lockers or lock them in rooms to keep them from quickly killing her. It’s amazing that Tango actually utilized their lacking stealth system that didn’t really work too well in The Evil Within here, but it’s even more shocking that it makes The Assignment that much better for it.
The stealth isn’t incredibly deep, as enemies won’t notice Kidman’s flashlight beam and appear completely oblivious at times they should have obviously seen you, but the lack of stealth attacks make each encounter more thrilling than usual. Using nothing but a glass bottle to get three enemies impaled on spikes or a cell phone to lock two baddies in a closet is much more satisfying than snapping their necks.
Boss battles this time around are also completely reworked from The Evil Within, playing more like intense games of hide-and-seek rather than a battle of wits. The battle with the recurring monster that takes place early on is horrifying in its simplicity, and a more complex encounter later on opens up the arena a bit and is a tense blast to play through.
There isn’t much in the way of collectibles here, with a few audio files, puzzle boxes and key items lying around, but after completion a New Game+ mode is unlocked, allowing for a replayability factor on par with The Evil Within. A new feature also finds Kidman using her flashlight to focus on markings on the wall to make doors and other objects appear, many of which are the key to finding all of the secrets The Assignment has to find.
While the stealth-based approach may turn off the shallower fans of The Evil Within, the major addition to its storyline makes The Assignment more than worth its asking price. Although not a terribly deep experience, it was an intense burst of fear that retroactively makes The Evil Within a more complete experience while also standing on its own as an exciting step in a different direction for the series. If The Consequence manages to wrap up the story and be half as satisfying as The Assignment, then Mikami’s latest project could be among his best yet.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the season pass, given to us for review purposes.
Shedding some major light on The Evil Within's lacking story by putting players in Kidman's shoes, The Assignment is the perfect complementary DLC, full of more scares and intense moments.