Velvet Assassin is an ambitious experiment from beginning to end, but it just can't seem to rise above mediocrity
- Solid voice acting, impressive visuals, nice experience system
- Repetitive trial-and-error gameplay, frequent deaths are a hassle, gets old fast
The stealth action in Violet Assassin didn't win us over. How can you mess up killing Nazis, anyway?
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
An ambitious experiment from beginning to end, this innovative wartime stealth effort just can't seem to rise above the commonplace level of mediocrity found in a sea of cookie-cutter World War II titles.
Once upon a dream...
A beautiful woman lay in a tattered hospital bed, her white negligee stained with blood and stray drops of morphine. Lost in a coma, an empty syringe hangs from the woman's hand, her glazed-over eyes staring into oblivion. This is Violette Summer, British spy extraordinaire, now reduced to a bed-ridden shell of her former self. In these lost moments of sickness, the ailing spy remembers her first mission, and inevitably, the chain of events that left her locked up in a military hospital. Needless to say, Velvet Assassin starts off with quite an intriguing bang.
Through Violette's unwieldy subconscious, Velvet Assassin sets itself up as an interesting look into a war hero's frayed memory. Throw in the fact that the game's protagonist, Violette Summer is based off of real-life spy Violette Szabo, and you have a recipe for a fantastic deconstruction of the classic "war hero" story. Unfortunately, what sounds like a surefire recipe for success is marred by repetitive gameplay, incredibly dense AI, and altogether frustrating execution in a flawed, if entertaining adventure from SouthPeak Games.
When you take a look at Velvet Assassin's covert formula, gamers are bound to think of such classically sneaky titles such as the Splinter Cell, Thief and Metal Gear franchises. Similar to those games in many respects, Velvet Assassin consists of dropping its bare-essentials protagonist into a dangerous environment, and encouraging the player to use stealth tactics to their advantage in order to accomplish their mission. Taking to the shadows, players will see Violette through some of the most dangerous territory in World War II-era Europe. Stealth is undoubtedly the name of the game, as players are encouraged to stick to the shadows, only popping out on the occasion that they might stick a knife into a nearby patrolling Nazi. While this "hide-and-go-stab" formula is inventive and engaging enough at first, the formula grows stale far too quickly, marred by all-too-frequent deaths that turn the supposed stealth title into more of a memorization game of where to walk, when to sneak, and when to shoot (if the opportunity arises.)
Enemy AI is an incredibly mixed bag, ranging from baddies that will relentlessly hunt you down like bloodhounds to entirely oblivious soldiers who fail to notice the cat-suit donned vixen pointing a flare gun at their head from five feet away. The AI never felt natural during my duration with Velvet Assassin, ranging from guards that would regularly ignore the bodies of their fallen comrades to Nazi patrols with x-ray vision that could see through the crates I was hiding behind, and were so fast on the trigger that I couldn't take one step without turning into a fillet of bullets. Spread this AI across about five or six different Nazi character models that inevitably makes up the entire Third Reich, and Velvet Assassin suddenly returns to the mold of generic WWII shooters it so desperately tries to distance itself from.
I know I've been pretty rough on Velvet Assassin so far, but the game isn't without its redeeming qualities. The visuals are, for the most part, rather impressive - specifically the character models, lighting effects and textures. Velvet also has a few innovative ideas that sets it apart from other titles in the stealth genre, such as the ability to inject yourself with morphine when you have a syringe handy. Once Violette sticks herself, time slows to a halt in the bullet time-esque "Morphine Mode", where a hallucinatory version of Violette can use this drug-addled slip in time to escape when outnumbered, or simply charge straight ahead into the nearest foe for a sure-fire kill. Violette is even given the option to slip into SS clothing in order to trick Nazi patrols in the vein of the Hitman series, but the execution of the entire disguise system just feels relatively sloppy, with Violette's new duds just moreso confusing the already fragile minds of your computer-controlled adversaries.
Even with its flaws - and believe me, there are plenty - Velvet Assassin still comes across as a relatively solid stealth title. While it's not a game I'd actively recommend to fans of the genre, it's still sure to pique the interest of plenty of undercover enthusiasts or fans of the World War II genre. When it all comes down to it, though, there's a myriad of better stealth games out there, and even with a few innovative tricks up its sleeve, Velvet Assassin just can't pass itself off as an entirely original or remarkably fun experience.
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