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The Evil Within: The Assignment Review (PS4, 2015)

The Evil Within wasn’t a perfect game by any means; it had its fair share of hits and misses, but it was one of the better survivor horror games to come out in the past few years. One area I felt was particularly off-center was the story.  Not the interesting back story told through newspaper clippings and notes, but the story coating the game as a whole.

The story was all over the place and really didn’t come into focus until the final act.  Even then the game ended with more questions than answers.  And one of these lingering questions was why the sudden heel turn with Kidman?  Sebastian had very little contact with her during the game, so there was no amount of foreshadowing that could explain why she did what she did.  Well, at least that question is going to be answered.  As a post-script, two story-based DLC packs will be released showing her side of the story: The Assignment and The Consequence.

The Assignment is to The Evil Within what Assignment Ada is to Resident Evil 4.  Both add-ons follow women with ulterior motives as they occasionally cross paths with the main protagonist.  However, the gameplay of The Assignment emphasizes stealth above all else.  In The Assignment, Detective Kidman is shown to be under the supervision of a clandestine group called The Organization.  She has been tasked with entering STEM in order to find and bring back the still-very-annoying Leslie.  If you’ve already forgotten what STEM is, I don’t blame you – it’s almost been half a year since The Evil Within was released.  Just for a little context: STEM is a device that links multiple minds into a shared world.  In the Evil Within, that world was being controlled by Ruvik, and now, we get to see the horrors Kidman had to go through.

Ostensibly, Kidman is in a tough spot; she wants to complete her mission but doesn’t want to harm her colleagues in the process.  Her superior, a shadowy bureaucratic figure, deems them expendable.  The struggle with her competing loyalties is portrayed well, as her fears are manifested in several in-game conflicts, and you can clearly see the psychological effect it’s having on her.  Like Sebastian in the main game, she experiences hallucinations within hallucinations that lead to some trippy level transitions.

Unlike the main game, there are no skill upgrades for Kidman.  She has a life bar, a stamina bar (which is too low), and a weak melee attack.  Other than what was listed, she also has a flashlight.  She doesn’t quite have the arsenal that Sebastian had which leaves stealth as her only means of defense and offense.  The Assignment introduces a cover mechanic to the world of The Evil WIthin, and the game is very generous in regards to where you can take cover. When you do, you can peak around corners, lure enemies with the sound of your voice, and generally reduce your presence.  The only thing missing from the cover mechanic is the ability to strafe around corners.  Because you can’t, you have to leave cover, making it difficult to remain hidden when you lure enemies to your location.

Other than your voice, you can lure enemies using bottles, which can be used not only to escape from enemies but also to ensnare them in a trap (something you’ll probably fall victim to first).  While the object is to sneak past every enemy you see, being detected doesn’t mean an instant game over, at least as far as the regular enemies are concerned.  You can run from them, break line-of-sight, and find another place to hide, or you can try to time it so that traps activate when they’re in its vicinity.  Besides using traps to kill enemies, you can use the fireman’s axe from the main game, except you can’t use it as a melee attack, only for stealth kills.

Having recourse for being detected works sometimes, but that’s not always the case.  Along with the new play style and locations, The Assignment inserts a couple of new enemies into the fray.  One enemy, called a Cadaver, is a twisted quadruped that — if you arouse it — will grab you and self-destruct.  They roam the floors like fleshy Roombas filled explosive pus, and sometimes they can be found in the vents you’d normally use to bypass an enemy.  They’re unnerving in their own right, but the award for most Silent Hill-esque enemy goes to Spotlight – an armless monstrosity with the head of a Big Daddy and the legs of Bettie Page.

That combination might be a turn-on for some, but to me, it makes for the creepiest enemy in The Evil Within.  It pops up a number of times during the DLC, and it should be avoided at all costs, as getting caught by it leads to a graphic death animation.  Its effective design combined with the discordant way it calls out Leslie’s name makes it truly terrifying.  The conflict between you and it doesn’t get resolved in this DLC, but there is one brilliant sequence in which you have to hide from it in a confined space for an extended period of time.

In between the stealth, you witness some flashback sequences that further explain the inception of project STEM.  And as you avoid enemies and uncover new passageways with your flashing you constantly find yourself a step behind Sebastian and Oda, and Leslie.  The Assignment is a great side story that utilizes a pre-established world to accentuate the atmosphere that couldn’t be sustained during the main game’s final act.  The stealth mechanic — which was optional in the main game — is a necessity here, and other than the inability to gracefully negotiate corners, it works.  Moreover, The Assignment sheds some much needed light on plot points that many (including myself) thought were initially glossed over.  Definitely get this if you want to re-enter The Evil Within with a fresh perspective.

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