by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Stealth genre... redefined?
Replay Studios is developing a new stealth action game, where the player gets to play the part of a spy set loose behind the enemy lines. Velvet Assassin is claimed to redefine the stealth action genre with its visuals, environment and atmosphere. Most importantly, it is promised that the game will reveal the revulsions of war that are often kept quiet about, such as murdering your captured countrymen before enemy interrogators have a chance to make them talk.
Twists of fate
Violette Summers, an ex-beautician, finds a new job in the British weapon industry when the second World War begins. Then in a turn of fate so unbelievable that it simply must be realistic, MI6 notices her beauty, athleticism and attention to detail and recruits her as a spy. Violette is also a very strong-willed ex-beautician and experiences some tragic losses during the early part of the war that further motivate her to become an effective spy at a young age.
The character of Violette Summers is actually based on a real WW2 spy, Violette Szabo, who was born in Paris and worked at a perfume counter at a department store. She married a French officer who died in the war never seeing their child. Affected by this tragedy, Violette offered her services to the Special Operations Executive and was captured by the enemy while only on her second outing. She was interrogated, tortured and executed at the age of 23 - only a short time before the war ended.
Unlike her real-life counterpart, Violette Summers will get more experience under her belt before the end of the game. Or rather, she has already had experiences from 12 missions and is lying on a hospital bed, in coma, when the game starts. It is the task of the player to play through the 12 missions as Violette revisits them in her coma-induced dreams. Whether she will die like the real Violette did, or if she will awaken from the coma at the end of the game remains to be seen.
Stealth over muscle
Velvet Assassin focusses the main attention of the gameplay on stealth, and shadows and lighting thus become the most important aspect of the game world. The missions include taking out fuel depots, sabotaging submarines as well as some darker missions. Much of the time, you will be moving across lightly armed, rather than carrying the local arms depot on your back. Thus, occasions where you need to sneak up to a German soldier armed with nothing but a knife will surely get your blood pumping even if the sniper missions do not. All in all, the developers advertise that there are at least 50 different stealth kill manoeuvres in the game, for various types of weapons that you may find. What an imaginative little spy we have here...
Unique art design
The one aspect of Velvet Assassin that really strikes me personally is the art design. Each of the 12 missions/levels – whatever you want to call them – has its own monochromatic colour palette, throwing you from vibrantly coloured outside scenes to dark and grey night and indoors scenes. And since lighting plays such an important part in the gameplay, the art and graphics play with lighting effects much more than in your ordinary action shooter. The developers speak of surreal visuals and the lighting mechanics used in the game are based on their own so-called real time solution which allows for dynamic lighting effects.
Redefining the genre or not?
Although I could immediately name a few other games that sound like close relatives of Velvet Assassin, it seems to me that Replay Studios may have a good game in their hands. Especially if they have managed to make the WW2 atmosphere and the missions as gloomy and dark as their marketing material promises, and not treat it as a tagged-on sentiment expressed with a few dead bodies here and there and a couple of tear-inducing journals to be found here and there on the game levels.
The visuals and the stealth aspect attract me to this game and are almost enough to sell the game to me. But, we'll know for sure only when we finally get the game into our hairy hands.