Velvet Assassin
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-09-15 Xbox 360 Action M (Mature) SouthPeak Games / Replay Studios

An interesting approach to WWII, Velvet Assassin puts you in the shoes of secret agent Violette Summer. I haven't played a stealth game since Tenchu Z though (which I still need to finish and work on some more achievements), so I started out pretty rusty. But after a couple of missions and dying in the same place over and over (and over... and over...) everything finally seemed to click in and from there on, it was smooth sailing through the armies of Nazi soldiers. Well, ok, mostly smooth. There were still occasions that required shooting.

Violette lays in a hospital bed, in a coma, while her past missions as a spy keep playing in her mind. You play as Violette as she attempts to thwart the Germans' plans, sneaking her way through fields, bunkers and tunnels, silently assassinating those who get in her way.

The HUD is a simple as can be. All you have to guide yourself is your currently equipped weapon on the top left corner, while on the bottom left a silhouette indicates Violette's health and stealth status. Morphine shots are also indicated here, if you have any.

As in any stealth game, the goal is obviously to use the environment to your advantage. Sneaking around in the shadows or hiding in bushes will make the little silhouette and Violette herself glow purple. This means that even if you are staring at an enemy soldier, they won't be able to spot you because you are, in fact, hidden.

Sneaking around is a ton of fun, but it also requires patience, since there is a lot of watching and waiting involved. You can hide around corners and wait for an enemy to turn around, and use that opportunity to slash his neck. Or rip out a kidney. Yes, I took a lot of satisfaction out of the execution scenes (maybe too much), although they do repeat a bit. But on occasion you are able to set up some different environmental kills, such as electrocution, explosions, pulling the pins on the grenades of unsuspecting soldiers or using gas.

Morphine is mostly used in sticky situations where you need that extra coverage to take someone down who would otherwise see you. When using a shot of morphine, Violette enters a dreamlike state where time basically slows down, making it easier for her to kill the target without him ever knowing what's coming. Although, why the nightie and the rose petals (or are they red blood cells?), I'm not sure. I'm thinking Violette is definitely into these morphine shots for kicks, but either way, it's a very cool effect and a useful feature.

The enemy A.I. is not too bright. Well, sometimes they seem to be intelligent, but a bit too often they will make you go "what the hell" due to their behavior. For example, when whistling to get their attention, they will go straight to the spot where you were when you whistled. Of course, this makes some of the distractions and killings pretty redundant and easy, but for the most part, the game is fun and challenging.

There are collectibles throughout the missions, which are basically the way to level up. Each collectible awards you with experience, and once you have enough, you can earn a star in one of the three available attributes: Stealth (move faster while sneaking), Morphine (Morphine Mode will last longer) and Strength (take a few more hits before you die).

The overall experience while sneaking around listening to random conversations between soldiers about what goes on during these times of war make Violette react and comment on what goes on around her, which in turn gets the player more involved in the story.

Graphically, the game is rendered nicely. There is a good amount of detail in the textures, even if you're mostly in the darkness - though you can adjust the brightness to make things a little easier to see. Light and dark play a most important role in the game, as you would expect, and all lighting and shadow effects are ver realistic, indoors and outdoors.

Aside from the fact of dying repeatedly due to my own lack of timing or silly mistakes, there is nothing for me to complain about in Velvet Assassin. There is enough challenge to encourage gameplay in the collectibles, secret goals and achievements, but the tension, the story and character development, as far as Violette's thoughts go, are very much worth experiencing.