Velvet Assassin Review

Review: Velvet Assassin
Release: April 28, 2009
Genre: Stealth Action
Developer: Replay Studios
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Players: 1
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: Mature
Website: Velvet Assassin

Velvet Assassin follows real-life World War 2 spy Violette Szabo–renamed a much more American-sounding Violette Summer–as she recounts her missions from a hospital bed.

Following in the footsteps of hard-hitting games like the Metal Gear Solid series, Velvet Assassin places you in the much more feminine boots of Ms. Summer as she slinks through the shadows to destroy Nazi resources or assassinate Nazi leaders. To do so, you must kill any grunts who should happen to be in your way. Making use of the real-time lighting system, Violette can take cover in the shadows until a clueless guard strolls past, only to pop out behind him and slide cold steel between his ribs or across his throat. Lacking shadows, you can change into Nazi garb to wander in plain sight of your enemies, so long as you remember to keep your distance.
There are a number of ways to dispatch the Nazi’s, all of them pretty violent. Besides the standard knife kills, velvetassassin_screenshot-nightViolette is able to lure her enemies into pools of oil which she can then ignite with a round from her pistol; or she can yank off a soldier’s gas mask as he strolls through a toxic gas-filled warehouse; or she can shoot an explosive barrel while the guards hold a conversation about how disgusting the food is. The options are numerous, and, for me, a good chunk of the fun came from witnessing what clever news ways I could, ah, “contribute to the war”.
Still, as far as games go, this has all been pretty par for the course. So, in an attempt to mix up what could have turned into a generic stealth game, the designers added what I like to refer to as a “drug-induced bullet-time mechanic”. Using syringes of morphine scattered throughout the twelve levels, Violette is able to transform into a super-human killing machine. With the push of a button, Violette instantly sheds her leather jacket and tight pants and is capable of charging right up to a gun-wielding enemy to deliver insta-kills wearing nothing more than lingerie. The catch is, you’re given only one does per syringe, and the syringes aren’t very abundant, so it goes without saying the you need to make it count.
Velvet Assassin is a competent stealth-action game. The real-time lighting adds an amazing sense of atmosphere, as do the various environments; everything looks believable, real. The various kill animations are interesting, and the depth of development is, at times, astounding. For instance, while waiting patiently for two guards to separate, you can overhear their conversations, spoken in German (with English subtitles). You will also stumble across random letters, written by the Nazis, in which they tell their girlfriends and wives how much they’re missed. Details like this make you realize that many of the Nazi soldiers, outside of the war, were not all that different from American or British soldiers.

While the game looks beautiful and is, at times, deeply engaging, it does have its drawbacks. The gunplay is absolutely horrible. Yes, this is meant to be a game of sneak attacks, but there are times when you can’t help getting into an open confrontation. When up against machine-guns, wielding only a silenced pistol that requires headshots for one-hit kills isn’t all that effective. Also, the checkpoint system is flawed. As is common with stealth games, trial and error is unavoidable, and a respectable checkpoint system should come standard. Sadly, Velvet Assassin drops the ball this time. You may spend 10 or 20 minutes figuring out how to manage your way through an area. Upon finally achieving your goal, you may make your way to the next area and get killed, only to have to do it all over again. If a stealth game is going to be broken up into smaller segments like this, then each one should activate a checkpoint upon completion. This could very well be the breaking point for a lot of gamers, especially those not native to the stealth genre.

Velvet Assassin suffers from some atrocious gunplay and annoying trial and error segments, but if you can push past them, you’ll see that it is a beautifully realized game. The stealth is standard, but fans of the genre will probably enjoy it, regardless. Although I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone while it stil carries the $60 price tag, I don’t think a rental is out of the question, even for gamers new to the stealth field.

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  • WVO

    Good review, although a few things,

    Firstly, your use of the term “Nazi” is a bit off. Nazi is a term used to represent members of the Nazi party when they were in power. A majority of German soldiers were not Nazi’s, infact there was much dislike for Nazi party members in the Wehrmacht. Unless they were fighting on the front line you wouldn’t find very many Germans who liked Nazi’s. Hitler and his party were only tolerated by the masses because he was rebuilding Germany. Of course this was happening at a time when a majority of Germans had no idea of the treatment of Jews and others by the Nazi party thanks to propaganda, but that’s a different story.

    Less than 10% of Germans were actually Nazi’s during the life span of the Nazi Party. A majority of those 10% had joined solely to further their careers since Nazi party members were prioritized over regular Germans at the time. In some areas of high Nazi official concentration party member ship was required to continue running a business legally, kind of like a union. Because of this in many parts of Germany the unionization system was banned in the 70s/80s.

    Other than that great review, I for one liked Velvet Assassin. I didn’t mind killing the asshole Germans; the compassionate ones you mentioned in your review were hard.

  • Mike Hudec

    Hey, thanks for the kind words. As for the Nazi thing, good eye. I just thought that calling the enemy, as a collective, Nazis would be easier to follow; an all-encompassing term, if you will. Perhaps, in retrospect, the clarification would have been the better option.

    Either way, I’m glad you enjoyed the game and the review. Again, thanks for the compliments.

  • WVO

    Right, no problem since your definitely not the only reviewer to be using the term.

    Although if we really want to educate people about the differences we should be differentiating between the two. At least that along with many other things is our goal.

    Thanks for being so understanding, again great review!

  • Great job on the review Mike, I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Mike Hudec

    Thanks Steve, much appreciated. I’m pretty proud of it.

    This review definitely came at a price, though; that trial and error stuff really started to wear on me.