Velvet Assassin

Written by Joe Martin

May 8, 2009 | 09:54

Tags: #sneaker #spy #spy-game #stealth #world-war-2 #ww2 #wwii

Companies: #southpeak


Unfortunately for Velvet Assassin though, the deliberate focus and attempt to tell a story prevents the actual gameplay from capitalising on the things that stealth/assassin games traditionally do so well; exploration and experimentation.

Unlike in the examples cited earlier, Velvet Assassin doesn’t have large levels that you can explore at will, nor does it have multiple solutions to every problem or path through an area. Occasionally the game will offer you a chance to change tactics, but the decision is usually black and white one that doesn’t offer a wholly different outcome or experience.

Instead, the game has an utterly linear approach to level design and what side-passages do lead off of the main path will always end in dead-ends.

Compensating for this somewhat though is the introduction of collectibles and a RPG-lite system that allows you to upgrade the three core abilities as you play. Having only three abilities to tweak may sound a little limited (and it is), but that’s nicely offset by the pace of the actual upgrades. You can add a point to a score only once for every ten collectible items you find, which means you can usually do it just once a level – a fact which makes each upgrade feel critical to your continued success.

Velvet Assassin Velvet Assassin - Gameplay
Finding all the collectibles needed to fully upgrade Violette is no easy feat

Extending the ideas of collectibles further, each mission usually comes with a series of extra items that you can hunt down for bonuses or bizarre ‘secret objectives’ that Violette wants to take care of. The main collectibles are standard fare – German medals or pocket watches left laying around by the enemy troops – but the secret objectives are a tad more unusual and hard to find, like a vintage bottle of wine to celebrate success with.

There are letters that Violette can grab hold of too, which help provide extra info on the level and flesh out the enemy troops as more than just faceless knife fodder, as well as dozens of conversations for you to eavesdrop on as you scuttle stealthily through the level. These don’t really help you level up though, not unless they point to discarded collectibles that you might have missed.

When you’ve collected enough bits and bobs you can magically upgrade one of your core skills – Strength, Stealth and Morphine. Adding to strength changes how many hits you can take before you die, but it’s a somewhat useless skill as Violette can’t ever take more than two or three shots before she dies. Upgrading the stealth ability lets Violette creep and crawl a lot faster than usual – which makes it the most important skill in our opinion, especially if you love stealth-killing. The morphine skill ties into what is both the most unusual and deriviative element of Velvet Assassin, allowing Violette to stay in her ‘Morphine Mode’ for longer the higher the skill is levelled.

Velvet Assassin Velvet Assassin - Gameplay
Licensed to thrill?

Violette is a morphine addict, you see. Her dependency on the opiate is heavily woven into the game from the outset and features massively in the story, but it’s also part of the gameplay too. Violette carries a single shot of the stuff wherever she goes (which, along with only ever carrying a single ammo clip means she’s almost always underprepared) and by injecting herself she can slip down into ‘Morphine Mode’.

Morphine Mode is Violette’s only real power up in the game and, while it would be easy to just dismiss the feature as nothing more than WWII's bullet time, it’s actually not. For one thing bullet time slows the world, but Morphine Mode freezes it. Bullet time lets you perform amazing acrobatics, but Morphine Mode doesn’t let you do any more than walk around and quickly down a single enemy. It’s handy for getting out of single scrape, but it won’t let you tackle an army head-on.

What really sets Morphine Mode apart though is the way it’s presented. Telling Violette to slam the syringe in and push the plunger doesn’t let her focus like Max Payne, so the world won’t get super-crisp and full of bullet trails. Instead, it takes Violette deep in delusion and the world suddenly fogs over as petals fall from the sky and she imagines herself running through green grass in naught but her underwear.

See? Underwear. We told you it was better than bullet time.
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