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I adored The Evil Within when it was released last October. I gave it a glowing review, it narrowly missed out on my game of the year and is still my favorite PS4 game to date. six months later the first DLC is released, entitled The Assignment. It is with great sadness to say that this DLC doesn’t capture any of what made the game so great and is one of the worst add-ons I have ever had the misfortune of playing.
The Assignment jumps straight into the action as the story plays out following Julie Kidman as we learn her motivations and what she was up to during the main game. Luckily I thought it would be wise to read up the entire plot from the main game beforehand because having not played it for six months (and it being convoluted and confusing at the best of times), it would have been super confusing otherwise.
The story is fine as it does fill in a few holes from the main story but isn’t a side of the story I was losing sleep over not knowing anyway. It’s nowhere near as interesting as learning about Sebastian and Ruvik for the first time and still left many questions unanswered. Just when things got good, the DLC ends and plays a teaser for the next one, entitled The Consequence.
By far the worst thing about this DLC is the combat, or lack thereof. The entire campaign is stealth based, where you will mostly be unarmed and have to either distract enemies or hide from them. Just like the opening of the main game (which was the only part I didn’t like), it plays like a 3rd person Outlast but ultimately fails in it’s execution of this mechanic.
It’s just not fun to play at all when your only options when encountering enemies is hide or run. Taking control away from the player doesn’t make it more scary but just lame. The best strategy seems to be just run from the room and hoping you hit a checkpoint before an enemy sees you and instantly kills you. It’s boring and not what makes the main game great at all.
The Evil Within’s best moments were it’s giant open areas that had multiple ways to get through. You had to use your weapons wisely, search for ammo, chose the right upgrades. It had strategy, enemy encounters were tense and you knew every shot counted. This DLC has absolutely none of this and strips the layered combat down to something you would find in a PC indie game. Not the AAA title that preceded it.
While I have a fundamental problem with the choice of combat in this DLC, even if it were executed well it wouldn’t be so bad. But it isn’t. It’s bad stealth. Like really bad. At one point you have to enter a room, call a phone in another room so the enemy hears it ringing, runs into the room and you go and lock it inside. It’s a stupid as it sounds and did nothing except unintentionally bring back memories of Winston the butler in Tomb Raider 2. And you have to do it multiple times.
Another section, I come to what seems like a dead end and was stuck as to what I should do next. Eventually I randomly get inside a locker and that triggers an enemy to walk past and open the door I needed to go through. This just sums up the bad design that this DLC is riddled with and seems so out of place compared to the main game. Also hiding in lockers was dumb and boring in Outlast and it still is here.
The only interesting new mechanic is that of a flashlight that is used to create doorways and other areas within the world you are trapped in. This is actually cool and the symbol you spot to know when you use it is intuitive without being intrusive. Though it does feel weird that the one positive from this DLC is something Alan Wake did better five years ago.
While the main game had a great ‘hub’ that you revisited many times to save your game and buy upgrades, this DLC opts for a random red sofa that appears out of nowhere in the environment for you to save your game. But you don’t just sit down to save, you have to wait for a black cat to sit on your lap and then you can. It’s a small complaint but yet another example of this DLC changing something that worked originally into something that doesn’t here.
I do have to mention the world and setting because they are just absolutely top notch once again. It’s a shame it’s so frustrating to play because at times it is just beautiful to look at. The imagery and environment is fantastic and just nails the horror aesthetic they’re going for. Really, really great stuff.
The puzzles are pretty decent for the most part but are kinda ruined by the fact that if you die just after doing one you will have to do it again. Instant checkpoints after every puzzle would have easily solved this problem but this DLC didn’t seem to wanna do things the right way. The one time you do have a gun is during a scripted sequence where you have infinite ammo which feels jarring after not using one at any other time. After you beat the section, your character finally runs out if ammo, throwing the gun away and you go back to throwing bottles once again.
After playing The Assignment I find it really hard to believe this was made by the same people that made The Evil Within. It changes all the best parts into something that is much worse and doesn’t even execute it’s bad ideas well. It took around two and a half hours to beat and even that felt like it dragged. This made me not want to play any future DLC but having already bought the season pass I feel obliged to do so.
I find it really hard to recommend this to anyone, even if you crave more of The Evil Within because, quite frankly, this doesn’t deserve to be attached to something so great. Just play the main game again and avoid this strange and incredibly disappointing offering.