Stealthy meets sexy in Velvet Assassin, Replay Studios' World War II stealth action title based on the true story of female Allied secret agent Violette Szabo.
As she lay dying in a military hospital, British MI6 agent Violette Summer lives out a series of espionage missions through a series of flashbacks. Using stealth and disguise she infiltrates deep behind enemy lines, taking out enemy soldiers with a wide variety of killer moves as she strives to cripple Hitler's war machine and extract revenge for the death of her husband by enemy hands. The game features a rather interesting morphine mechanic, in which shots administered by a nurse in the hospital trigger a bullet-time effect within Violette's subconscious.
It's an intriguing concept, but we've seen plenty of World War II games and stealth titles come and go. Does Velvet Assassin rise above the rest, or is it lost in the crowd?
Xbox 360 Magazine
It's that time of the year when a cloud of faint disappointment hangs in the air, people. A time of year during which all the neat gaming ideas that haven't received enough fertiliser spring up, before withering away thanks to some unavoidable fatal flaw. With Eat Lead it was repetition that would rival the rail network. With this it's poor enemy behaviour that makes good level design pointless.
As she lies in a coma, (Violette) remembers many of her previous missions, where she would be dispatched to destroy key installations or assassinate German officers. For the most part, the story sequences are threadbare – briefings for her missions are displayed via a few photographs which animate as she explains what she needs to do. But these are extremely short, lasting around thirty seconds each. There are very few details on why she's in the hospital or why she feels the need to explain or recount her adventures. It's only within the last mission do you get filled in on certain elements of the backstory, but this is too little too late. As a result, the story doesn't really make any sense...
In order to memorize the best tactics, trial-and-error is usually the only way. Violette Summers is completely at home in the shadows, blending into the background, and emitting a calming purple glow when invisible. This, however, isn't a guarantee she won't be seen, and enemies in close proximity can still stumble upon Summers. The problem is the exact distance doesn't seem consistent, and enemies will oftentimes spot the hidden assassin when experience would dictate that she should, by all means, be invisible. This is an ongoing issue in the game, and takes away from the stealth mechanics immeasurably. Further, since Summer isn't a fighter, it can take several tries before a working strategy is discovered. This mixes poorly with the game's sparsely placed save points...
The whole game always skirts the edge of too much frustration to bother continuing. With forced checkpoints that are sometimes far apart and a need to sit and watch enemy patrol routes for a while - it's usually better to just revert to your last checkpoint if you get caught, because Violette can only take one or two hits before she dies - the whole game becomes an exercise in trial-and-error stealth that, unlike what we've seen with the best of the genre, winds up being something that has to be endured rather than enjoyed. It's not like other stealth games aren't like this, but the story and settings here are only barely compelling enough to keep the most patient of gamers going
The desolate atmosphere and empathetic look at your enemies make Velvet Assassin a powerful war game. It's bleak and grim, making the horrors of war come to life in disturbing fashion. The lousy gunplay and moronic AI dilute some of the intense realism on display here, but the game is able to stand out despite these problems. Creeping slowly through the shadows is tense and believable, and pulling off these seemingly impossible objectives is deeply satisfying. Velvet Assassin offers a brutal depiction of war, creating an experience that is horrific but still rewarding.
No Nazis were harmed in the creation of this Frankenreview.