If you're expecting The Evil Within's first story-based DLC, The Assignment, to play anything like the main game, you may want to sit down and read this first. While the original gave players a chance to fight back the horrors with plenty of weapons and gadgets, The Assignment throws all of that away for a more methodical, intense, and surprisingly smart mini adventure. If you're willing to accept all of that, then you're in for a really spooky treat.
The Evil Within's story has a cool, Inception-like premise, but the plotting was mediocre at best. The Assignment manages to patch up some of the holes in the story by placing the focus on Juli Kidman and her mission to track and rescue the mysterious Leslie Withers. The four-hour campaign runs concurrently with the events in the main game and does a great job on explaining Kidman's strange absences, as well as her motivations. But of course, everything isn't tied up as nicely as it may sound. There are plenty of new questions to ponder as we get a closer look at the shady organization known as Mobius, its leader, and the STEM machine.
With its shorter run time, The Assignment is significantly more focused and better paced than The Evil Within. It also helps that Kidman makes for a much more interesting lead character than Sebastian ever was. She already has some knowledge of the events from the beginning, and her reactions to many of the horrors in The Assignment seem far more believable, too. These aren't the only differences between Kidman and Sebastian. Kidman has an entirely new set of skills, which makes playing The Assignment feel so much different than the main game. The main difference being that — except for a brief scripted sequence — there is absolutely no gunplay in The Assignment. Instead, Kidman must rely on good old stealth tactics.
When taking cover, she can make noises to lure enemies towards her location and sneak past them unnoticed. She can also use bottles and bricks to distract or attack them. Kidman can self-heal as long as she's standing still, so no more collecting random (and probably unsanitary) syringes this time around. Sometimes she can even interact with her environment to slip by enemies, like causing a phone to ring in an adjacent room to catch the attention of nearby lurkers. Stealth wasn't really The Evil Within's strong suit, but it actually works quite well here. A few clunky moments aside, we found the change welcoming and applaud the developers for challenging themselves instead of resorting to the same old genre tricks.
With the emphasis placed firmly on stealth and no weapons to defend yourself, the tension can rack up really quickly. Simple enemies that normally would have been taken down easily with a shotgun blast become serious threats in The Assignment. Staying out of sight and sneaking around undetected is heart-pounding, and nothing gets your adrenaline going more than when an enemy has spotted you. You'll often find yourself making a quick getaway, searching frantically for a room to escape to or locker to hide in. We couldn't help but make certain connections to Outlast, another survival horror game that relied on hiding rather than attacking. This style may not be for everyone, but it definitely makes for a thrilling experience.
Even when there aren't any bad guys in sight, The Assignment still manages to creep you out in moments of exploration. This is due to some truly excellent lighting and sound design. Environments are crazy detailed, and we found ourselves stepping away from the main path collecting notes, audio logs, and to just simply take in the gruesome sights. You'll also grow to fear the sounds of a particular new enemy in The Assignment, whose presence is downright chilling. We don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but the monster's frequent whispers and distinct footsteps won't easily be forgotten.
While this particular monster is a stand out, we do wish there was a little more variety in the enemy types. Much of the same ones from the original game pop up in The Assignment too — and narratively, this makes sense — but we would have liked to have seen some original enemy designs. Mikami and his team have already shown they can come up with some wicked creatures, so here's hoping we get treated to more of that brilliance in the second part, The Consequence, when it releases.
Tango Gameworks could've taken the easy route and had The Assignment cover similar ground to The Evil Within. Thankfully, the decision to move the focus from action to stealth has proven to be a smart one. With a more interesting lead character, tighter pacing, and better scares, The Assignment is that rare story add-on that may even be better than the main game.