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Velvet Assassin Review
publisher: Southpeak Interactive
developer: Replay Studios
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 28, 09 (released)
|» All About Velvet Assassin on ActionTrip|
Another stealth game comes our way. The virtual tale of the 'Velvet Assassin' is based on activities and endeavors of Violette Szabo, a highly decorated, incredibly valiant Allied secret agent, who underwent several daring missions during World War II. Although the game's plot is not related to Violette Szabo directly, she and her deeds served as the inspiration for the project.
Velvet Assassin puts you into the stealthy boots of Violette Summer, a talented agent recruited by MI6 to help Europe's struggle against relentless Nazi forces. Pulling off a number of dangerous missions successfully, she's overcome by the Germans and eventually winds up in a hospital bed (strange, because in real-life she gets captured, brutally tortured, raped and then thrown into a concentration camp where she was finally executed at the age of 23... but of course, that was a different story and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the game). The game depicts various points in her career as a spy, which are shown via numerous flashbacks. In other words, each mission is a flashback, taking us through a selection of undercover operations.
Nothing beats the thrill of controlling an audacious female spy. That said, we were curious to see how things would work out in terms of gameplay. The developers incorporated a very familiar system of taking down opponents stealthily - a system often spotted in other games. Obviously, this isn't a reason to dismiss VA right off the bat. Many regard this game as a mish-mash of Ubi's Splinter Cell and Monolith's No One Lives Forever. While there is some truth to that, Velvet Assassin is far more simplistic than both of the aforementioned games.
Violette's equipment and weaponry is limited, increasing the importance of tactical and secret approaches in her missions. Usually, this involves lurking in shadows and then strangling, knifing or stabbing unsuspecting opponents quietly and without arousing suspicion of nearby guards. Hence, the only way to enjoy this game is to sit patiently, carefully learning the movement patterns of enemy soldiers. Waiting for the right moment is vital and is the key to a successful mission. The AI isn't perfect, but it's not too bad either. Patiently, I progressed through each task and actually found myself enjoying the game quite a bit. The darkish ambience and Violette's deadly moves were fun. Although the visuals seem behind the times, there's a fine example of lighting and shadow effects in this game that made me appreciate the various indoor levels. It's a shame that similar effort hasn't been put into creating outdoor areas. As it stands, the game generally calls for more contemporary visual effects. On the plus side, sounds effects are acceptable and the voiceovers are pretty decent.
However, the major problem resides in badly placed checkpoints. It takes a lot of effort to complete entire sections without a hitch, until the game punishes you for one lousy mistake and that means you have to start over and go through the whole thing again, step by step. Tolerating such unbalanced gameplay takes a lot of time and energy. Two possibilities await you beyond this point - either you're gonna keep trying until you succeed or you'll just give up on the game entirely. From our experience, we feel most gamers are bound to opt for the latter. Ending each assignment leads to an unsatisfying cut-scene that announces the next mission. Beyond that players get to improve the main character's skills (Strength, Stealth and Morphine). You accumulate experience by picking up collectibles scattered throughout the area. Most of them are not easy to find, so you may not get to upgrade all three skills the way you want to. Upgrading 'Stealth' to the maximum was my style of play. The game says this skill is supposed to make the main character move faster while sneaking. The difference between various stages of 'Stealth' is negligible. It all feels the same no matter which level you've upgrade to. Also, Violette's assassin-like moves were still pretty much the same on all levels. This more or less goes for the other skills.
The use of Morphine isn't an especially interesting gameplay facet either. Consuming the drug triggers a dream-like mode that allows our heroine to move around freely and assault enemies directly (i.e. without hiding). All I can say is, I've finished the entire game without using this feature. It just didn't hold my interest and I saw it as the developer's failed attempt to make the stealth aspect of the game less dreary.
This brings us to the primary issue of Velvet Assassin. Limiting the experience to just a handful of forgettable features, Replay Studios failed to camouflage the game's uninteresting gameplay. This is a spy game and as such should be made to appeal the stealth game fans. Alas, the variety in that domain is poor. Contributing to our overall discontent is the game's frustrating last level and unrewarding end-scene, featuring lousy action sequences, putting players against a large number of foes that are too tough to kill.
The simple truth is that Velvet Assassin is a mediocre game that made its way onto the market earlier than it should have. Perhaps if Replay Studios invested more time into making the spy elements more interesting and varied, Velvet Assassin would've been something worth your attention. The main campaign needs to be lengthier. The sudden ending reeks of amateurism.
A dark tale that has its moments, treat this as a sneaker and you'll get some entertainment;
Gets dull when you've assassinated 40 enemies the same way, short, lousy shooting sequences, unrewarding missions and one of the most abrupt and generally disappointing endings of all time.
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