Despite any problems The Evil Within had, I still have a fondness for the game and immediately jumped at the chance to play the new DLC. The Assignment is an extension that offers an experience both novel and familiar, allowing players to once again traverse the cerebral, gothic world inside STEM.
This time around players will take control of Julie Kidman, as the story attempts to shade some light on her mysterious agenda present throughout the background of The Evil Within. The DLC does answer some questions left lingering after the main game had concluded, but the plot is still very implicit and requires some digging around for bonus collectible files and tapes to even attempt to understand it. I’ve never liked games using miss-able and sometimes hard to find extras to relay key information about the story, and The Assignment unfortunately carries on this tradition. Nonetheless I am glad that it manages to actually answer these questions, as the main game left me a bit baffled by the end had me worried that the DLC would just continue to add questions.
The main concept that differentiates between The Assignment and its core game is the stronger emphasis on stealth. In stark contrast to the arsenal of weapons at Sebastian Castellanos’ disposal to keep enemies at bay, Kidman relies purely on stealth to complete her goals. If I had been told ahead of time that this extension would do away entirely with combat and I’d have to clumsily stealth my way through the game, I honestly might have foregone this content. The Evil Within’s shooting was imprecise and difficult, but I’d found its stealth even more unforgiving and impractical. Fortunately the stealth has been improved, with areas and set-pieces tuned more specifically for this method, and a few new mechanics to supplement your skillset. Kidman can shout or call phones to lure enemies around, engage traps, lock enemies in rooms, and some returning skills like throwing bottles or axe-wielding sneak attacks. There’s also a more sticky cover mechanic that allows her to hug the walls and peer over them, though I found myself opting out of utilizing this as it’s a bit finicky and can lead to Kidman moving too far off the wall into open danger when disengaging from cover. The regular sneaking works fine however, and I actually found this DLC to be easier than the main game, with some less punishing scenarios to overcome and a fortunately significant decrease of instant death traps and enemies.
This also means that the upgrade system has completely disappeared, an aspect I found fun and exciting as I could see my abilities slowly ramping up over the game, allowing myself to handle enemy encounters more aptly as The Evil Within progressed. While this system is missed, it also allows The Assignment to be a more streamlined horror experience. There are fewer breaks in the action for upgrading, and you’re left feeling powerless the entire time, allowing this DLC to have a more potent suspenseful atmosphere than the main game. It feels a bit stripped down, but able to better convey a sense of dread and forward momentum through the game. Creeping past enemies is much more nerve-racking knowing you can’t defend yourself if caught.
Perhaps the best inclusion is the larger versatility of the flashlight, now also a tool for solving puzzles and finding hidden routes. Kidman can use the flashlight to scan the walls for hidden codes to unlocking bonuses, flash it on symbols scrawled across the wall to unveil hidden doors, or solve light-based puzzles to progress. None of it is very difficult, but it’s a welcome addition to breaking up the enemy encounters with a fun mechanic that fits well with the strange mind-bending world. Not to mention it feels charmingly reminiscent of another similar horror game that I still hold out hope will continue, Alan Wake, which is a very good comparison in my books.
All of this would be moot however if the strange, surreal world of The Evil Within were not present in The Assignment. Regardless of all faults, I will always look back on these games fondly for their ability to keep you on your toes as scenarios and locations are constantly changing and flowing, always keeping up the moody, eerie sensation. The DLC doesn’t feel as original as the main game however, with many locations very reminiscent of areas you’ve already visited. Though the pace of location changes is still brisk as ever, with Kidman traversing twisted offices, sewers, and creepy villages and more in just around three hours’ time, none of these areas will feel very new or intriguing following the main campaign. There are no memorable moments like stumbling into the sunlight of a decayed and crumbled castle from the original game, and the DLC feels a bit more reserved in its weirdness. There are still some surreal elements present that made The Evil Within originally so special for me though, and the flashlight mechanics certainly help boost the weird factor.
Overall The Assignment is an interesting return to The Evil Within, one that worked better than I would have expected. It answers some questions, includes new gameplay twists, and will take you through some intriguing, yet familiar areas that players can come to expect from the game. It certainly won’t entice anyone who wasn’t invested in the full game, but fans should be pleased from what this new content has to offer.