Title: Velvet Assassin
Players: 1 player
Platform: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Replay Studios
Publisher: Gamecock Media Group
Release Date: April 2009
Velvet Assassin has the core gameplay of popular stealth games like Splinter Cell or Thief. However, it remains to be seen whether Assassin has the same depth and variety of gameplay that those classics demonstrate.
With Splinter Cell: Conviction stuck in limbo, fans of stealth gaming don't have much else to play these days. It's the perfect opportunity for a new game to step in and fill that void. Sure enough, here comes Velvet Assassin, a World War II stealth-action game from Replay Studios.
Velvet Assassin stars Violette Summer, a British spy who operates behind enemy lines in and around Nazi Germany. The character is based loosely on Violette Szabo, a French spy from World War II. At New York Comic Con, Blend Games was able to try out the first mission in the game in which Violette is sabotaging a German fuel depot. Violette begins the mission in the forest outside of the depot and is searching for a back way in. Within seconds she comes across a drunk Nazi and is able to perform her first stealth kill. Most of the stealth kills we saw in the demo were standard knife stabs into the chest or back but according to the SouthPeak Interactive rep we spoke with, there's dozens of different kill animations across several weapons.
The core gameplay is pretty straightforward if you've played any stealth games before. You have to crouch and stick to the shadows to creep up on your opponent. Your silhouette has a faint blue outline when you're hidden in shadows. If you need to draw an enemy closer to your hiding spot, you can whistle. Once you get behind your unsuspecting enemy, a simple press of a button will take them down. Once they're dead, you can pick up their body and drag it to a hiding spot so the other guards won't find it.
Violette can also fight enemies head-on but this is a very low percentage move and will usually end in her death. She begins the first mission with only a knife and even in later levels when she acquires powerful weapons, she'll have very limited ammo. Once we had slipped into the fuel depot in our play-through, a guard spotted us and we were forced into a stand-up fight. Fortunately we had one thing to help us even the score: morphine.
In Velvet Assassin, morphine allows you to stop time and get a free attack in on your enemy. The logic behind morphine causing one to have time-distorting abilities isn't completely clear but it's your "free kill" card and you'll be happy to have it. The fact that Violette is suddenly wearing a nightie while under the effects of the morphine is, again, not the most logical thing but we appreciate the visual nonetheless.
Replay Studios has made some interesting choices with the game's visuals. The autumn forest of the first mission is heavy on brown and black colors, with a washed out quality that's supposed to signify that this mission is a flashback. It almost looked like an old timey sepia photo - which is cool but we're glad that this visual style is limited to one level. When Violette is under the effects of morphine, everything is bathed in a white glow. The game also employs real-time shadows, which ends up helping you quite a bit with tracking enemy movements (no portable radars back then, after all).
To reiterate, this was the first level so it's unclear how the gameplay evolves over the course of the game and what sort of new tactics or tricks you'll employ to sneak past or assassinate opponents. Still, even though it doesn't deviate much from the standard conventions of the stealth action genre, stealth fans will probably be perfectly content with it.