When Tango Gameworks and Bethesda Softworks released their Shinji Mikami-helmed survival-horror title, The Evil Within
, in October of last year, the most pressing question was whether or not the game would be a solid representative of the genre. As it turned out, the game was a success, garnering a 4/5 from our very own Lexley Ford
in his review
of the game, and a 4.2/5 rating from the community at large. Just under six months have passed since the release of the title, and a brand new content expansion, The Assignment
, has made its debut. As always, the typical questions that arise with a DLC release are present. Was this content just snipped from the original game that we're now expected to pay for? Is it worth the price? Does the DLC actually bring anything new to the table?
"The Assignment" takes place alongside the events of the core story of The Evil Within
. Instead of playing as Sebastian, however, the DLC stars one of his partners, Juli Kidman. Without getting too spoilery, while the events of The Evil Within
focus on Sebastian, and to a lesser extent his partner Joseph, Kidman is present in the story, but questions are raised as to whether or not her motives are the same as those of her partners. "The Assignment" aims to untangle Kidman's role in the events that occur after the trio's visit to Beacon Hospital and shed some light on the circumstances surrounding her involvement.
As the DLC stars Kidman, this means players do not have the ability to carry over skills they upgraded to the new content. This also means that there's no gel to be collected to further upgrade your skills either, and this is one of the design choices that truly makes the expansion actually feel like a piece of stand alone content. As it's established early on that Kidman lacks a weapon in addition to lacking upgradeable skills, she has to rely on stealth to survive. What this means is that a whole new mechanic is introduced to the game. Players can press B to get Kidman to go into cover and then move along the walls and peak out as needed, just as one would in a cover based shooter. It's important to note that pressing X will cause Kidman to call out to the enemies, so they can be drawn to one location while she dashes off to another. Paying attention to the environment is key as well. While the concept of throwing bottles to attract enemies was introduced in the core game, it is vital to success in "The Assignment". There are also items such as phones that can be made to ring, which also takes the attention of bad guys away from the content's protagonist, and watchful gamers can even take the time to trap these creatures in rooms so that they can explore the game's environments largely unbothered.
Kidman may not have a weapon, but she does have a flashlight. This is important as focusing light on locations marked with an icon that is pointed out during gameplay is key to being able to move on. Sometimes these spots will reveal doors, other times, they'll reveal collectibles that grant the player music tracks or additional models to view, and still other times, the light will provide hints to solve puzzles. Light can also be used to spot certain enemies who would otherwise be invisible. Kidman will eventually be able to use some items - such as an axe - but these are tied to specific events and once those are over, you're done with the weapon. While these sections do provide a sometimes necessary break from slowly peeking around every corner, they take a little readjustment too, which can be aggravating. Just keep in mind that you have to play the game differently, a little patience goes a long way, and any tricky sections will fall in no time.
As noted above, in addition to focusing on stealth, the DLC is also more puzzle-heavy than the core game. The puzzles largely come by way of safes that contain one of the DLC's collectibles - pieces of a torn letter. Just as in the core game, there are also case files to collect, and they serve the purpose of better filling in the story for those who take the time to find them.
Obviously, the gameplay is important, and is mostly central to the success of content, but the sounds and music in the DLC are also top-notch. As Kidman does not directly engage enemies, it is important to listen for sound cues to know if it's safe to progress. When Kidman is spotted, her heart, and possibly the player's, will start to race and how much her heart is drumming is an indicator of whether or not the enemy is still giving chase or if it's safe to step out of the locker she's sought refuge in. The crackle of static also serves as a hint that there's a location to shine some light on in order to find a door or some other item. While it's not necessary, playing with a headset makes it clear the level of detail put into the sound design for the DLC, and will definitely lead to a more intense and visceral experience.
Achievements-wise, "The Assignment" has a list that is similar to the rest of the game. There are achievements for finishing each of the expansion's two chapters, as well as achievements for completing certain tasks within each chapter such as luring an enemy into a room and closing the door
in chapter one or getting one enemy type to kill the other
in chapter two. There are three collectible achievements, one for Research Documents
, another for Personnel Files
, and the last for finding all the torn letter pages to complete the hidden letter
. There's even a difficulty based achievement for clearing the game on KURAYAMI difficulty
, which becomes available after completing the DLC the first time and is largely more difficult because it greatly diminishes the lighting in the game. Collectibles don't need to be earned on a single playthrough, but make sure to select New Game+ when starting over so that collectibles carry over.
At roughly four hours in length, the DLC represents a pretty hefty package. Not only does it shed light (literally and figuratively) on what happened to Kidman while the main storyline was playing out, but its use of a different mechanic and focus on a different gameplay style makes The Evil Within
's "The Assigment" feel like what DLC is supposed to feel like - an actual expansion to the game. The material doesn't feel like it was cut from the main game simply to extend how much money can be made from the title, nor does it feel like it was hastily put together as a cash grab. While there will be the occasional frustration with figuring out how to best navigate around some of the enemies, nothing is so bad that it becomes a major turnoff. There is, understandably, hesitation about grabbing any DLC, let alone that DLC that will set you back $9.99 or regional equivalent (or $19.99 as part of the Season Pass), but don't let that price stop you. If you enjoyed The Evil Within
, "The Assignment" offers plenty of bang for your buck and definitely leaves you anticipating what more is to come in the second expansion, which will also focus on Kidman, "The Consequence".
The reviewer spent approximately four hours working her way through the puzzles and reminding herself that stealth was key to success and earned 3 of the DLC's 10 achievements along the way. This review is based on the Xbox One DLC code that was supplied by the publisher.