Is anybody else starting to get a little worn out from the glut of DLC being released these days? As a concept, post-release DLC should be a golden idea, adding hours to a base product for a fraction of the cost with side stories that can offer some insight on a game’s campaign. While The Evil Within hasn’t fared poorly with a handful of story-drive DLC chapters, the third and final release, The Executioner, is a bit of an odd duck.
Although not as story-driven as the first two DLC packs released for The Evil Within, The Executioner tries to offer a glimpse into the origins of the Keeper, the safe-headed monstrosity that hunted Sebastian Castellanos for much of his time in STEM. While the Keeper’s story falls completely flat while remaining obtuse, the switch from survival-horror gunplay to first-person melee arenas offers an interesting, if flawed, change of pace, one that’s worth checking out if you really can’t get enough of The Evil Within.
Similar to its predecessors, The Executioner works to expand the lore of The Evil Within by exploring the past of another side character. Seeing as the original plot was a convoluted mess, it was surprising to see The Assignment and The Consequence actually tell a simple tale that gave some depth to the story. Unfortunately, The Executioner muddles everything up again. Clocking in at less than two hours, it doesn’t take the time to expound on anything beyond offering extremely brief diary entries and lab reports.
The settings found throughout the abbreviated campaign are also retreads of areas visited in The Evil Within, although this time they’re less fresh, less spooky and a lot less open for exploration. Instead of offering another round of survival-horror action, The Executioner has you running through disconnected areas as The Keeper from a first-person perspective, breaking areas up into brief arenas. It’s a jarring change of gameplay, and although the simplistic controls make it easy to switch gears quickly, it feels strange to run through familiar areas wielding a spiked hammer when they were tackled at a tense crawl before.
Combat is extremely simplistic, with attacks being limited to a single button. Although swinging the Keeper’s trademark hammer through a group of baddies does feel satisfying, it doesn’t have any weight to it, and when mixed with the static animations, the combat doesn’t feel nearly as visceral as a game like Condemned: Criminal Origins. Downed enemies drop coins which are used to purchase new weapons and consumables while also upgrading life points, defense and any purchased weapons. This system is extremely simplistic, and within two runs through the campaign everything was fully upgraded.
Executions are available from the beginning, as are traps such as spiked walls and spinning blades, but the animations for these are also limited and lead to more problems than awesome moments. While performing an execution, it’s impossible to dodge incoming attacks, and since some attacks take a bit of time to perform, they leave you open for longer than you’d like. Although The Executioner is hardly difficult, it’s still obnoxious not having the chance to dodge at all times.
There are also only a handful of enemy types, while the boss battles that make up each arena are revisits of enemies seen in The Evil Within, with the exception of a fairly interesting final battle. As expected from Tango Gameworks, New Game+ is unlocked after beating the campaign, which unlocks a new weapon and an entertaining callback to the Keeper’s first encounter with Sebastian.
For all of the problems The Executioner has, though, it’s a commendable release for a few reasons. The reasonable price point of $4.99 makes it easy to forgive the dearth of content, especially for rabid fans of the inevitable series, and the New Game+ mode genuinely adds another hour or two of fun, as does a list of simple combat objectives that injects a bit of strategy to the arenas. The first-person gameplay is by no means deep or engaging, but it is functional and an interesting spinoff from the main series. It would have been easy for Tango to cobble together another few hours of same-y survival-horror tropes, but they took a risk that, while not mind-blowing, isn’t a complete disaster.
Although the low price point makes it accessible to everyone, only diehard fans will enjoy stepping back into STEM again from yet another perspective. While the new gameplay style isn’t one I would advise Tango to revisit any time soon, it served as an entertaining diversion for a few hours, giving us a glimpse into yet another side story that doesn’t really go anywhere. Obviously, fans will find something to love in The Executioner, and at a fair price, too. Just don’t expect anything on par with the original experience.
This review was based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game given to us for review purposes.
Although the new arena-based melee combat is an interesting and commendable sidestep from The Evil Within, The Executioner doesn't offer much in the way of a story or deep combat, making up for it with a low price and decent replayability.