Velvet Assassin Review
|Release Date:||May 8th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
World War 2 is a setting which has been done to death. With a market full of rent-a-clone WW2 shooters, it is no surprise many gamers are beginning to turn to more modern times for their shooter fair, with games such as Call of Duty 4 only too happy to help.
However; Velvet Assassin is an altogether different type of World War 2 game, and as such is a breath of fresh air. The game centres around the life and times of Violette Summer, a British spy and deep cover operative sent behind enemy lines to sabotage the German war effort, with tools of the trade include shadows, climbing, silenced weapons, a nifty knife and explosives- sound familiar yet?
Yes, basically the game is Splinter Cell- In 1942.
Not to say this is a bad thing. It's refreshing to play a WW2 game which doesn't centre entirely around mowing down Nazi soldiers with a heavy machine gun, it's just a shame the game is shot through with quite a few faults, a dodgy camera and poor AI to name but two.
Starting off, the game zooms down to Violette's hospital bed- it seems a mission has gone wrong and she's now in a military hospital recovering. Her bed is strewn with morphine syringes and she is being towered over by a pair of military intelligence officers muttering about her 'future'. Pretty soon though Violette drifts off, and the game gets underway in earnest- because it's set almost entirely in her dreams.
This is not an unusual step for a game such as this, but it allows for some unusually freaky sections when the game seems to be striving for the brutal reality of war to be shining through. And boy, does the brutality shine through- Violette is a killer, she tells you so herself, and it's her job to kill the killers.
Unlike games such as Call of Duty: World at War, this game isn't about limbs being blown off, this is all about the dark and dirty world of espionage, all sharp blades and ribcages, and Violette has no problem sliding her knife into a German's back.
She also can take up a variety of weapons and tools and can make use of the environment to off the enemy, such as pushing a Bosch into a river or setting a pool of petrol on fire.
What the game does different however is the humanity it injects into the enemy- during her adventures Violette comes across guards singing, talking about their girlfriends, complaining about how they wanted to work on a farm or writing letters home, some of which reveal the human side of the rent-a-Nazis who stalk in the shadows, making it feel a little more evil to kill them, especially when they just spent 5 minutes moaning about how they were being made to guard an empty room as punishment for falling asleep from overwork on the last shift.
This feeling of guilt is especially strong when the examination of his corpse turns up a handwritten letter from a loved one, which Violette then takes, as collecting a certain number of artefacts unlocks abilities and achievements.
But, despite the human factor the game relishes in, it is let down by a few major flaws. First off, the controls are a bit clunky and Violette's sneaking style is far removed from the smooth movement of Sam Fisher or Solid Snake, seeming more akin to a PS2 third person shooter.
The aiming mechanics are similarly flawed. A small, inaccurate cross-hair makes headshotting soldiers difficult, and the limited ammo dotted about the level often left me scrambling for my knife when what I really needed was a machine gun.
Also, the developers seem to have ignored some historical precedent when placing the weaponry, as Violette can't pick up soldier's dropped weapon and keeps finding Allied weapons and equipment in Nazi lockers- a silenced Colt 45 in a Kreigsmarine locker for example- which takes away from the reality of war the game attempts to display.
The enemies' AI is also a little wonky. While they will spot you if you stray into the light, they are not so bothered by the appearance of dead bodies and often won't follow Violette into other areas of the map, seeming to give up the chase before it has begun.
They are, however, really good shots, and Violette will end up as red British paste within moments if she doesn't escape. Another factor which makes the game less believable is Violette's 'morphine moment': When Violette comes across a vial of morphine in game, she can use it to stop time and move to a new position, such as moving behind an enemy for an easy kill.
The game explains this by stating that the 'morphine moment' occurs when real-world Violette's dreams get a little too intense and a nurse administers a dose- explaining why the dream-world Violette's 'morphine moment' transforms the dank environment into a beautiful field of flowers and dresses Violette in the bloodstained nightie she is wearing in the hospital bed- weird.
Graphically the game is pretty sharp- Violette's morphine-addled dreams painting the world in a stark set of colours ranging from the bright orange of a setting sun to the deep green of a gas-filled warehouse.
The shadowy patches are also well implemented, and there are several standout moments, such as when Violette sneaks behind a pair of gossiping guards by hiding in the slowly-turning shadows cast by a broken extractor fan.
But, despite the game's 12 levels, a few clever moments and half-decent story, the game is flawed by a set of dodgy controls, poor AI and a few game-breaking conventions, such as the 'morphine mode', which shatter the serious tone the game is attempting to adopt. If the game had spent a little longer in development it could have been something truly special, as it is, it's a decent, if slightly underwhelming, stealth shooter.
- Mysterious, engaging storyline
- Varied locations and missions
Not so good stuff
- Dodgy controls backed up with poor AI
- 'Morphine moments' are just weird