Separating itself from the flooded WWII gaming genre, Velvet Assassin relies solely on stealth gameplay mechanics. While the approach is a little more unique, is it really better?
Playing out like a game of Splinter Cell without night vision goggles, the player takes the role of Violette, a drug using female Nazi-killing machine. Reliving memories on her deathbed, Violette’s crazy fever dreams are basically the missions and events leading up to her time in the hospital. From the very first intro screen, the game definitely has stand-out presentation values and instead of being draped in typical WWII browns and tans, Velvet Assassin actually uses a surprising amount of color in the game’s visuals. The game is often coated darkness, but colors do pop when you are in lit areas.
Velvet Assassin is very one dimensional. Unlike games like Metal Gear Solid 4, where you have options to go in guns-a-blaze or sneak around unseen, the player can only play this title one specific way. Each level is extremely linear and absolutely requires the player to play stealthily. In fact, if a Nazi soldier sees you, it will be a safe bet that you will be seeing the Game Over screen. The game forces the player to use stealth, and only stealth, to complete each mission.
Because the emphasis is so strongly placed on sneaking around, the player must play the game in a repeated way throughout the entire campaign. Methodically stalking your prey, ducking in shadows or tall grass, and observing AI walking patterns are the only gameplay techniques the player will use. When Violette creeps up on an enemy soldier, the game zooms in with a red screen filter when a stealth kill is about to take place. Following the on screen button prompt, one of a number of killing animations will follow. Gruesomely, her knife will be used in creative ways like the ear stab, the junk poke, or the neck slice. The game puts such a strong emphasis on using the knife to take down enemies. So much so that the player usually only starts each mission with a simple pistol and seven bullets. I mean, if you were planning on sneaking into a German stronghold during the height of WWII, don’t you think you would bring more than seven bullets with you!?
Levels are very linear and offer no freedom whatsoever. It was like the developers knew this so they artificially tried to extend the game by including the optional side quest of finding hidden collectibles within each stage. When you collect a certain amount of these useless trinkets, you will unlock Achievements and can upgrade some of Violette’s stats, RPG style. However, this upgrade system is water down with weak sauce as there is no noticeable increase in the character’s performance.
Even if you do upgrade the “take more damage” category, it still won’t matter has Nazi guards will kill you with ease if they spot you. Just like in real life, one shot is enough to take you down, but what makes the enemy AI frustrating is the inconsistency. Sometime you can sneak right by an enemy while others will see you a mile away and through walls. Further, gun combat is incredibly wonky and inaccurate. The aiming and shooting of firearms is definitely one of the game’s weakest gameplay elements. Perhaps this is why that the developers put such a strong emphasis on sneaking-up-knife-combat. Another example of the ridiculous enemy AI happened when I stumbled upon two conversing guards. As they were talking with each other, I manage to pop on in the head with my pistol (which was a lucky shot considering how bad the hit detection is), causing the guard to fall dead right in from of his comrade. As if nothing happened, the other guard simply just walked away whistling. WTF!?
Topping off the wonkiness is the oddly included morphine system. Whenever Violette gets in a jam, the player can tap the “X” button to slow down time. During this frozen moment in time, the player is free to walk around. This drug induced high can be used to kill one enemy or as a chance to escape and find cover. But even though morphine can be found randomly throughout each stage, I rarely ever used it. Because you have to sneak up on every single enemy in the game, it really feels weird just running out in the middle of the open to stab someone from the front. Additionally, the player is limited to only one kill during the drug high. This means it can leave you in an even worse position since you more than likely will be out in the open when the high ends, resulting in the rest of the enemies to make quick work of you. The morphine system is broken, unnecessary, and was added into the game just because…and why does she run around in a night gown with falling rose petals everywhere? It’s just…strange.
Velvet Assassin is definitely a more unique take on WWII. Solely based around stealth is a much different approach than your typical gun-blazing FPS, but the repetition, clumsy AI, broken gun play, and lack of freedom/exploration really brings this title down. The game does feature some pretty cool lighting effects, but it is nothing that we have not seen in first generation Splinter Cell games. Clocking in around 5-10 hours, this game is a little more on the short side. If you are looking for an entertaining stealth game, you should probably look elsewhere.
· Some cool lighting/shadow effects
· Different approach to WWII
· Features one of the worse ways to die – the nut stab
· Wonky AI
· Broken gun play with worse hit detection
· Very linear
· Strange morphine drug system
· Lame RPG stat increasing system
Not As Good As: Metal Gear Solid 4
On Par With: Rogue Ops
Better Than: Being addicted to painkillers