Developers: Tango Gameworks
Publishers: Bethesda Softworks
Plot: Julie Kidman is given the task of joining Castellano and Joseph on their mission with the secret motive of bringing back Leslie to a corporation she works for.
One of the main problems with The Evil Within, for me, was the fact it decided to be the kind of game that only explains half of its story. It turns out that the game plan is for the developers to give us the rest of the bigger picture via several DLCs, creating an almost series-like sensation to uncovering the conspiracy behind Ruvik and his machine. I am not a massive fan of this idea, because I still feel a little conned out of buying a full price game and it ending up being half of a product, something I still need to shell out money for to get the full experience. However, let’s chalk that up to yet another problem with the original game and review the DLC in its own right.
And that leads me to the conclusion that the Assignment is a much better game. The story resets, but this time, we are told events through the eyes of Julie Kidman, the female detective who seemed to know a little more about what was going on than anyone else. This is a good move, because Kidman, played by Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, was one of the more interesting characters in the plot last time around. It turns out that, as we guessed, she was working for someone else, which meant that her and Castellano had conflicting interests. It is constantly hammered home that Kidman needs to get Leslie out, but as far as her two partners go, they are expendable and not to have any effort spent on rescuing them. After this quick intro, Kidman is thrown into the story just after the ambulance crash. The DLC plays out in the same order as the actual game, only we see what Kidman was getting up to. Cue several ‘ah, that explains that’ moments and eerie scenes where you walk through an area that you know Castellano is going to have problems with in a few moment’s time.
Abandoning story for the moment, the best thing about The Evil Within is that it is actually scary. The main game was a massive disappointment when it came to the horror factor, especially as it bigged itself up far too much. It evolved into a shooter with zombies, something we have done far too many times before. The DLC learns from the criticisms of its main product and the first thing it does is take away Kidman’s gun. Suddenly, we are in this creepy and unpredictable world without a means to fight back. The rote zombie thugs are much scarier when you know that, the moment you are spotted, it could quickly become game over for you. Yes, the controls have been done much better before with games like Outlast and Alien: Isolation, but it is still a massive improvement from what we expected. It creates some brilliant ‘heart-in-your-mouth’ gameplay. Some of the new monsters are excellent, especially with the added benefit that the story doesn’t undercut their fear factor by having you figure out how to kill them a few moments after encountering them. The first major baddie is almost impossible to describe. Its introduction is great, as you find yourself hiding from a zombie, already pretty creeped out, only for a bigger, badder monster to burst into the room, kill the zombie and resume hunting you. It is a well-written moment and the exact point in the DLC when you realise that perhaps The Evil Within has something new to offer. Later on, we get a finale showdown with a figure from Kidman’s past that really racks up the ‘holy shit’ feeling. Coming across as a mix between Agent Smith from the Matrix and the Slenderman, it is an amazing way to send off the DLC. Finally, we get the scary game we wanted to play from the start.
Sadly, the Evil Within is still a pretty clumsy game. The adjacent storyline is a great set-up, but it doesn’t quite work. The main problem with this is the fact that this DLC is obviously so much shorter than the real game. It works best, when it runs parallel, but in order to cover all the points it wants to, it needs to jump massive sections to achieve this. You are progressing through the early chapters, but then you jump right to the ending of the game, cutting out most of the middle of the game. It does kind of work, in the sense, that The Evil Within is a psychologically complex game. Ruvik could easily cut a lot of Kidman’s journey out to get her where he wants her. However, it does get a little disorientating and means that it doesn’t really end up as intelligent as you want it to be. On top of that, the idea that you are not sure what is real or not dilutes some of the shocks. There are a couple of times you are unsure if you have witnessed a major twist or this is just a mind game played on Kidman. Once again, you leave The Evil Within not quite sure what you just went through. A few things are resolved, yes, but not enough to make us any more of a fan of the puzzling narrative. You end up spending so much time trying to keep up with the story that the set-pieces you were looking forward to aren’t really done justice. A few old faces are given cameos when really we wanted another tense showdown with them. The Assignment boasts some great ideas and is a step in the right direction, but it still doesn’t deliver on the punch we were originally promised.
Final Verdict: Points for explaining a few things and actually being scary, but The Assignment is still far from the game we want.