“ Manufacturer: South Peak / Genre: Action & Shooter / Release Date: 2009 „
This game only costs about £8 on amazon at the moment.
Velvet Assassin is a World War 2 stealth game in which you play as Violette Summer, a British secret agent operating behind the lines in occupied France (and later, Germany and Poland). You have various missions of the usual type - blow up a fuel dump, assassinate a general etc - and you sneak around picking off Nazi guards and occasionally engaging in full-blown gun battles. Bizarrely, the whole game (up until the last mission, anyway) is a flashback/dream Violette is having - she's in a coma for reasons you don't find out for a long time. And occasionally you have cut scenes which flash forward to you in bed being argued over by two Frenchmen. (To clarify, I mean you are in bed *in a coma*, and the Frenchmen are arguing about whether to turn you in to the Germans. It's not in the least erotic.)
It was a bit of a shock to find that the game based the main character on a real British agent, Violette Szabo. Her adventures were nowhere near as fun as the ones you have in the game, and she was eventually executed in Ravensbrück concentration camp, after previously having been tortured by the Gestapo. I'm not entirely comfortable with the morality of basing the game on a real person at all. Basing it on someone real who died under horrible circumstances is a lapse of taste on a par with basing a platform game around the adventures of Oskar Schindler or something. But if that makes you feel uneasy, just wait until you get to the missions!
At first it's all relatively innocuous - nothing you don't get in any other World War 2 game. However, the game's line in portentous voiceovers and flash forwards to what appear to be atrocities should give some hint of the bad taste missions to come. A submarine-related mission ends with the revelation that your actions there have caused the deaths of 30,000 civilians. Ouch! In another mission, you have to creep about the Warsaw ghetto as the Germans are evacuating it - and if you don't know where they were evacuating the population to, a quick google search should enlighten you. Although we don't see any civilian deaths, we stumble across plenty of bodies, and hear gunshots and screams. Other bad-taste spectaculars include sneaking into a Gestapo torture chamber (perhaps not unlike the one the real-life Szabo experienced) complete with gruesome hanging corpses; and a staggering final mission in which one of the Nazis' trademark atrocities is re-enacted for your gaming pleasure. I enjoy a Second World War game; I enjoy war films; I don't even mind Nazi-themed exploitation films. But this feels to me like it's pushing things a little further than they need to go.
And Violette is visually presented as a fairly typical 'sexy action babe' in the Lara Croft mode, further increasing the exploitative feel of the whole thing. She has very pert buttocks (her main stealth posture is to crouch, giving us a good, long look at her shapely rump). Sometimes she gets to dress up in a sexy SS uniform (she can't sneak around in that particular disguise; the boots are too noisy. This is a fetishist's dream). And most incredible of all, she plays out the final two tense, horrific missions wearing only a silk nightie - and a very short nightie at that! When a woman in a nightie is shooting at Nazis while listening to the screams of the dying, am I meant to be turned on or repulsed?
I'm shallow enough to admit that these lapses of taste probably wouldn't bother me if the game was better. But while not terrible, it's pretty weak on some of the fundamentals. The main problem is how unrealistic it is. If you remember Tenchu Stealth Assassins on the PS1, it's basically the same as that (and feasibly other stealth games made since - I don't usually have the patience for this genre, so haven't played many).
The German guards you stalk always walk to a rigidly set pattern, which is useful when allowing you to calculate how you can kill one without his pals noticing, but not so hot when it comes to imitating actual human behaviour. They mutter the same things under their breath (usually about schnapps) and all cough and clear their throats a lot, so you will know when they're nearby. They frequently fail to notice you even if you're right under their noses. And best of all, if you've killed a guard, his mates will get all agitated and shout and run around looking for you for about a minute and a half, after which they'll just go back to whatever they were doing before, forgetting even to clear away the corpse of their dead comrade. Surely two generations of console later, bad guys in stealth games should be smarter than those dumb ninjas in Tenchu.
The game also becomes repetitive after a while, which is perhaps why the last mission becomes an out-and-out third person shooter (sadly not a terribly good one). The only real novelty, if you can call it that, is 'morphine mode', in which taking morphine allows your character to run around while everything else is frozen in time, a useful if rather unlikely way for you to kill tricky guards. It's a pleasant enough visual effect, but not terribly realistic from a game which otherwise tries to be all too real. Violette is, for some reason, voiced by an American actress - her English accent isn't terrible, although she gives herself away by pronouncing 'route' to rhyme with 'sprout' instead of 'root'. But we do have actresses in Britain, most of whom could have done a slightly more convincing job.
The best thing about the game is that it is atmospheric, and occasionally kind of scary. You will feel tense creeping around trying not to be seen as you kill the latest poor sap, and the game does a nice line in ambient noise and spooky incidental music. I quite like some of the stealth kill animations, too, especially the (not particularly stealthy) one where Violette cuts the guy's throat and then stabs him about ten times in a hilarious frenzy. More annoying is the fact that you can't save your progress when you want to; the game saves at various designated points, which can be frustrating if you're having trouble clearing one bit. The graphics aren't terrible but aren't brilliant; there were a few very small glitches here and there, but nothing that caused major problems.
The game is fun enough to want to finish, and I'll probably hang onto it and have another go in a few months - it doesn't take too long to polish it off (arguably it should be a bit longer). It's just too po-faced and pretentious (sample dialogue: "Death dances on the ruins of my life and stills the hunger", which sounds like a bad piss-take of goth music). War games seem either to be too silly (as in The Saboteur, which also has a stealth element, but mainly concerns itself with a badly-acted Irishman jumping off buildings) or too damn solemn. There has to be a middle ground, which can feel like it's neither demeaning the player, nor being too disrespectful of the real people who fought and died in the war.
Reviews of this game were a bit harsher than it really warranted. Although the end of the game sets it up for a sequel, it didn't sell well enough to warrant it. While it might have been nice to get a few more missions, I can't help but worry a little about what they might have entailed (rescuing Anne Frank? Tracking down Adolf Eichmann?) The game tried to show something of the horrors of war, which could be seen as commendable, certainly compared to the routine action-hero approach taken by shooters like Call of Duty. But it comes across as deeply misconceived. Velvet Assassin is fun enough to make you feel guilty, but not quite good enough to get away with it.
You have to love the Unreal Engine. Since its inception, its given us some brilliant Third-Person Shooters, and started a run of successful franchises and replica Game Engines from other companies across all consoles and the PC. Velvet Assassin is one of them.
You take control of Violette Summer, a British Secret Agent sent to do her duties in the middle of World War II for the MI6. Dressed all in black, apart from a brown Air Pilot-type jacket, with jet black hair and black boots, Violette is a shadow-lurker, awaiting an enemy to smoothly and quietly sneak up on and knife in the back or across the throat, silencing the enemy.
Violette, during the story, is unconcious in what is believed to be a Hospital. And during the game, you are replaying everything she has experienced while she sleeps, dreaming of what you are controlling. As you continue, and come across obstacles such as Electric Fences and well-lit areas, she will assist you with a voice-over and subtitles at the bottom. She is narrating her own dream, of which you control. A unique idea from the quite Developers in question, Replay Studios.
You do get to fire guns. But if there is one gripe with the game, its just that. The Guns are good. The silenced ones are better, and head-shots are good. But the aiming is horrible, and not something you come to expect of a game released as late as April 2009.
I cant say I have completed the storymode, but it is enticing and keeps you interested, particularly if you like the World War settings and things of that era. Its enjoyable, and that makes a change from the games of today, which can be more aggrovating and addictive.
Thsi review was written 4 Months after release, and its safe to say that the game didnt do as well as Microsoft Game Studios, Replay and SouthPeak Interactive thought it would, and its a shame, because much less enjoyable games have been a better success.
Velvet Assassin is a stealth based third person game in the same vein as the old Thief games. You play the role of Violette Summer, whose role it is to go behind enemy lines and take out high up figures in the World War II Nazi regime.
The gameplay is very well thought out, and it's always reasonably straightforward to figure out what you need to do at a given stage in the game - there are rarely points where you'll be completely stuck. That's not to say the game's easy though - far from it. This isn't your usual run of the mill action game - you're not tough enough to take many shots, so it's vital to remain in the shadows as much as possible, and time your strikes perfectly. Any miscalculation and you'll be spotted and torn to ribbons in no time. You can upgrade your character to be tougher and quicker, but this is most definitely a stealth game through and through. Morphine jabs are reasonably prevalent, and are used to get yourself out of sticky situations - they throw up the often-used time-slow feature and allow you to tear apart enemies head on. You only get one shot, so it's important to use them wisely, but they're great for dealing with being spotted unexpectedly.
Although challenging at times, the game is never unfair, and checkpoints are placed at sensible intervals - you're never required to replay more than a few minutes worth of gameplay if you get something wrong along the line. There are also often a few ways around a given stumbling block, which is often quite interesting, but requires you to keep your eyes peeled. For example, sometimes you can pull a pin on an enemy grenade, so that when he moves back to his friends, they're all toast. Miss the chance, however, or mistime the pull, and you'll have to take each enemy out one at a time, and if a grenade goes off and leaves survivors, the enemy will be on to you. Things like this really add to the tension and it feels great when you know you've found the best way to deal with something like this.
All in all, I thought this was a fantastic game and was a welcome break from the usual run and gun meathead games. For anyone who fondly remembers Thief, this is certainly a must buy. I'd recommend everyone check it out; it's now one of those bargain bin treasures.
As World War II wages outside of a lonely hospital window, it also plays inside of the mind of Violette Summer. While in a coma, the British Intelligence agent relives both the hushed and heavy horrors that she experienced while sabotaging the Nazi regime.