The Evil Within- The Assignment is the first DLC pack released and is set around the same time the original game kicked off. It will contain spoilers however so playing the base game beforehand is advised. This time around we play as Detective Juli Kidman, a character that was mostly behind the scenes during the course of the original events but now we can see exactly what she was up to and what she seems to be hiding. One main difference to be aware of is the shift of focus from Action to Stealth. Kidman lacks any weapons, and you’ll be spending the entire DLC sticking to the shadows in an attempt to avoid getting mauled to death by both new and old monstrous foes.
Stealth has been refined with new abilities such as using cover and luring enemies toward your position by shouting at them. Melee is still in but should be used to momentarily stun your foes for a quick escape, not going toe to toe with them as that is a fight you will not win. If you do take damage from a plan gone awry all you have to do is stand still for a few seconds while it regenerates. The catch is that there are no difficulty settings and it starts in Survival, meaning that enemies inflict a ton of damage. Usually, one hit is enough to wound you that in turn loses you the ability to sprint, making escaping a foe quite tricky if you didn’t make a mental note of all the cracks and crevices scattered about which can be used to your advantage. Since stealth is the only focus, this allowed the level layouts to far better suit it and trumps anything found in the base game for stalking about.
There are no longer any traps to be found, and while I didn’t mind the bear-traps or wire-based ones of the original, the sound detecting trap will not be missed in the slightest. Not worrying about any of these, allows you to focus on the task at hand and allows you to navigate more freely instead of getting shrapnel to the face for merely walking near that accursed noise trap. It by no means suddenly becomes the best stealth title of the generation as the camera will at times work against you and detection is still a bit spotty at times, though it is greatly improved as well as having the added effect of making the game actually scary since you can’t just Jon Rambo your way out of a situation. It is far more focused, and you will not encounter those bizarre moments from the original where you must run from a monster that appears much less threatening than a giant you gunned down a few levels ago.
Unfortunately, the stamina system is back, and there is no way to upgrade it this time around. You can only run for two seconds before you slow into a jog and running an additional second will cause you to bend over to catch your breath which can turn out very badly. This is a very tedious design decision that will have your eyes glued to that meter instead of paying attention to the matter at hand. In the scenes where you are required to keep moving to avoid a foes line of sight, this does harm the overall experience. Not enough to ruin it mind you, some of these moments where the most intense and memorable moments I’ve experienced in quite some time, regardless of the artificial three second sprinting.
One can not stay hidden forever, at times we may have to take the initiative, and stealth kill those standing in our way. These work far differently than before since now you have to find an axe and those break after a single kill, forcing you to choose your moments wisely when against multiple foes. Having to hunt down an enemy that can easily kill you if discovered is quite exciting and successfully taking one down makes you feel like a badass. Something that I’ve always appreciated about The Evil Within is that they don’t give you visual cues as to an enemies position nor do they allow you to see through walls like so many other games. If you want to know where an enemy is going or if he is approaching, you have to pay close attention to the sound or risk peeking out from cover. It may be a problem for those that don’t like Stealth but the omission of this increasingly standard “feature” does wonders to keep the oppressive atmosphere intact.
All throughout the DLC, the only item we’ll always have at hand is the flashlight. Its primary use should be obvious though it also has an interesting effect of revealing that which is hidden, be they doors or previously invisible foes. With the lack of any form of upgrading, we now have different reasons to explore the environment in the way of unlockables. Character models, music tracks, and safes can be discovered by going off the beaten path and rummaging about. The safes, in particular, are fun to find since they require you to solve some form of puzzle to open and these are not always so simple. It is all entirely optional though, allowing those that just want to progress the story to go along on their merry way.
This story is actually comprehensible and follows a coherent train of thought, unlike the base game. We have a clear goal, learn more about the world and Kidman herself, and the campaign no longer feels like a string of set-pieces loosely stuck together. It has fixed essentially everything I disliked about the original, even the running sequences where the camera is now pointing towards where you are heading toward, instead of behind you. In my opinion, this is one of those rare dlcs that are actually better than the game they have been added to. The developers Tango Gameworks took quite a risk changing the gameplay to be pure stealth, and while I personally love this far more focused approach, it will alienate those that played The Evil Within in a different style. Whether this DLC is for you or not is solely up to the individual. With that being said, The Assignment is worth every penny for those looking to once again explore the evil within.