Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox 360 (review platform), Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC
In the second of the two-part DLC, The Consequence follows up on The Assignment’s promising side-story with gameplay that is respected and admirably enjoyable more so. While the main game last year was an intriguing but flawed execution into subconscious horror, quite literally, The Consequence learns, to considerable extent, by way of its parent’s flaws. Stripping out the better aspects to Shinji Mikami & Tango Gameworks’ twisted hive-mind that is its setting, the result is a show of much more prudent progression and, more importantly, a better grip on survival horror as what it is, pure survival.
A characteristic jump from scene to scene aside, The Consequence picks up exactly where The Assignment ended pretty unexpectedly – [main game’s] secondary presence in Juli Kidman resuming her objective for the shady and mysterious Mobius group, the game’s complimentary ‘shadow organization’ to the main protagonist’s genuine, honest intent. Not quite Illuminati-level, but you get the gist. Throughout the course of your surreal warping between scenes you’re treated to snippets of back-story, both from a personal front – Kidman’s origin and motives peeled back slightly – as well as a professional one. Like the main game, players are treated to ‘holographic’-styled excerpts mid-play which offer insight into the motives and reasoning behind the main ‘big bad’ (a faceless, Slenderman-esque suit-and-tie) and characters one might consider antagonistic, while at the same time leaving plenty of room for players to deduce, rightly or wrongly, what this inevitably adds up to. The game never really delves further thereon, and for good reason, as it reflects well on the game’s beleaguered, bewildering sense of direction.
Some will perhaps find dissatisfaction in the lack of pay-off as to Kidman’s personal demeanor – torn between two conflicting loyalties – as much her overly-reminding troubled background, but in consolation the game makes sure never to sacrifice gameplay for sake of a better narrative. Like The Assignment, players are left rather cut short from what they might have been used to. Kidman, for most of the game, is defenseless – lying sorely on stealthy manoeuvres, clever distractions and, in some cases, calculating one’s steps well in advance. In one instance, you’re left to use chemical lights which can be thrown to offer small radii of visibility. But of course, enemies are always prevalent; like Dead Space before it, the game knows that to treat light is to treat it as a risk-reward gamble. It can be as much a punishment as it is a salvation. Darkness then becomes a greater influence than initially expected and on both an atmospheric as well as a player-strategic perspective, while these moments are brief, they’re definitely well delivered.
Another element that returns is the notoriously stress-ridden set-pieces in which Kidman finds herself outrunning the view (literally) of a towering boss with a searchlight for a head. In the first encounter players will – in classic Mikami fashion – run down the clock for a lift to arrive whilst avoiding the glaring streak of the boss’ searchlight. It’s here where the game’s enforcing of struggle shows itself again. Moments where I was a safe distance away and behind plentiful cover quickly degraded into a mad dash by way of the boss somehow reprogramming its movement so as to minimize my likelihood of survival. Game-breaking obligations such as this – to make the objective as challenging as possible yet come off far from natural as AI can be – are annoying. Especially when the boss catches sight of you – its beam changing from yellow to red – and you find you can’t run, only makes the resulting death (because by then, it’s not a case of if, but when) feel a little unfair and unjust. What’s worse is that in the second boss encounter, should you die, the checkpoint has you land back literally as the nightmarish creature is heading towards you – already putting you at a disadvantage. It’s not the first time the game has shown an erroneous philosophy on checkpoint placement, but sadly, the problem seems to have survived.
Thankfully these short-comings are limited and peter away – the game quickly resuming slow progression via careful consideration for the mood of the surroundings. You do get the occasional switch of scene, but these don’t tamper or even pull away from the gameplay which, in itself, remains palpable throughout. The way it revisits past environments [from the main game] and even finds a way to weave them into the context of the main story is a neat touch. Sure there are the odd rooms covered in blood or flesh or even made up entirely of some kind of organic component still, but the settings exhibited remain mainly synthetic and eery. And by the end boss – which, put bluntly, is countless times better than the main game’s end boss – the game feels as explicitly surreal as it initially started. Thus, The Consequence ends The Evil Within’s expansion on a rather more higher note than what we were treated to last year. Players won’t find any further hints to a sequel or unraveling of any characters’ finer details sadly, but for what it offers in gameplay, Tango have certainly shown pedigree in learning from past mistakes. For its price tag, it’s certainly one of the more justifiable add-on’s I’ve invested in in recent years. Swan song or not, Shinji Mikami can raise his head a little higher now.