In chess they call it zugzwang. it’s a german word describing a situation whereby any move a player makes will worsen their position; however, the rules compel them to do so, even though they’d rather pass.

The Assignment is a story that runs concurrently to the main plot, though this has a few more gaps to fill. it also happens to be one of the finest exponents of zugzwang we’ve ever encountered. there’s such a potent atmosphere of dread that you’re reluctant to push forward, yet you know you must. in the main story, the slow-build tension was followed by the cathartic release of a gore-splattered headshot or six. here, as the duplicitous Juli Kidman, you spend 95% of the game completely unarmed.


So the focus is on stealth, and enforced stealth at that. the occasional set-piece will let you pick up an axe, but otherwise you’re cowering behind cover, throwing bottles or calling out to attract the attention of patrolling nasties before hightailing it out of there. one problem: Kidman moves slowly when crouched, so making it to a safe place requires pinpoint timing. get it wrong, and you’re at most two hits from death. and when it comes to two of the new enemy types a blind, bulbous beast that explodes on contact, and a stiletto-wearing beanpole with a searchlight for a head we’re in one-hit-kill territory.

Expect frustration, then, but also a clutch of sublime moments, too. the climax is jarringly abrupt (this is the first of a two-part story and it shows) but this daringly different episode leaves us eagerly awaiting the final piece of mikami’s macabre puzzle.