Velvet Assassin Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted May 05, 2009

Some stealth killing and a spot of tea guv'nah? Slip into the world of British spies and crumpets while inhabiting the persona of Violette Summer, a British spy gone rogue, crawling through her memories to figure out how she ended up incapacitated and in the hospital. Here's the X-Play review of Velvet Assassin for the Xbox 360 and PC.

The Pros
  • Great atmosphere, lighting, and audio
  • Solid stealth mechanics
  • Likeable heroine
  • Tense, engaging gameplay
The Cons
  • Often too puzzle-focused
  • Not very innovative
  • Can't pick up enemy guns or destroy lighting
  • Clunky non-stealth combat

It’s hard to find something new to do with the World War 2 setting, but Velvet Assassin does so by taking a familiar gameplay style, stealth, along with a couple of Nazis. Even for gamers sick of WW2, the combination is pretty successful. While none of the gameplay elements here are particularly new or original, Velvet Assassin works with its well-trod ground quite effectively.

Violette Tendencies

Velvet AssassinIn Velvet Assassin, you slip into the incredible tight jeans of Violet Summers, a British spy whose expertise is sneaking through the cracks in enemy lines, silently killing, and retrieving heavily-guarded secrets. The game starts with Violet lying in a hospital bed, and the story plays out through flashbacks. Although the whole flashback method is been beaten to death by now, Violet is a likeable, if moody heroine and the intense real-world locations and scenarios add a great deal to the overall atmosphere. The game wisely focuses on urban settings like Paris and Warsaw for the most part, and skulking through the Nazi-occupied streets of Europe is amazingly engaging.

Through the course of the twelve missions, the gameplay is relatively consistent. This is a true stealth game, with clear influences from Splintercell and Metal Gear Solid. Violet’s main weapon is her knife, though firearms do come into play throughout. The difficulty level, map designs, and even the health system all focus on stealth action. Killing silently from the shadows is the surest way to stay alive, and stealth kills result in health boosts.

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It’s Quiet Time

velvet assassinViolet carries a silenced pistol, but it only has seven rounds and finding extra ammo is rare. At times, she’ll find other guns like a shotgun or German pistol, but areas that require gunplay are few. Consequently, if you’re a run and gun-style gamer, who avoids the methodical nature of stealth, Velvet Assassin isn’t the game for you. 

Stealth lovers will be in their happy place though. None of the gameplay elements in Velvet Assassin are new. The level design is still puzzle-like in nature, and while there is usually more than one way to solve each room, the best results come from slowly and carefully watching enemy patterns, hiding in the shadows, and striking quickly at just the right moment. 

The lighting throughout is gorgeously done, and the game is full of flickering lights, fuse boxes to disrupt, and shadows to hide in. One new element is the ability to hide in high grass, which is very important in outdoor levels. Since the pace is much slower than traditional action games, the large levels can easily take close to an hour or so if you scour the grounds looking for all the hidden items and Nazis to kill.

Nostalgic Ambience

Velvet Assassin isn’t visually ground breaking, but the levels and character models certainly look nice enough. While the baseline graphics aren’t cutting edge, the focus on beautiful, mood-affecting lighting gives the maps a classic, almost nostalgic effect as if you’re watching an old black and white movie. The game takes place in the past obviously, and the keen use of subtle effects makes it feel like it’s from a different era.

The audio is terrific as well. Aside from Violet’s smooth and sexy British tones, the Germans all speak German (with English subtitles), the music is great, and the ambient effects perfectly enhance the mood of the setting. Another nice element is the use of experience points earned from finding collectable items. Earn enough, and you can enhance Violet’s core abilities. Yet another cool, if strange element is the use of morphine. The drug puts Violet into an almost hallucinatory state where time slows, she appears in her night gown and the level is a hazy mix of the hospital and the battleground. For a limited time, she can rush an enemy and perform a one-hit kill even from a direct attack.

Puzzling Flaws

Velvet AssassinIt’s not all guns and roses for Violet though. If there’s one central flaw with the game, it’s the dogged determination to stick to the formula so set in stone by past stealth games. You’ll know exactly what to do here if you’ve skulked your way through the Splintercell games or other similar titles. The game usually demands stealth for most situations, which isn’t necessary a flaw. Yet, sometimes it actually feels too forced thanks to remarkably non-interactive environments and the inability to steal guns from fallen enemies.

Violet can really only acquire new guns in weapon lockers, which seem like a remarkable lapse in game logic, since everyone you kill is armed. Also, attacking using non-stealth methods is remarkably unresponsive. The other big issue is that lights are invulnerable. The levels will have you shoving crates in the way of flood lights to make a path of darkness and timing your runs to match the off cycle of a flickering lamp. Yet, simply busting a light bulb is impossible, which often makes the levels feel too much like a puzzle instead of a fluid, intense situation.

Smooth… Like Velvet

Although certainly flawed, Velvet Assassin is a well-executed stealth game. It makes fantastic use of the over-used WW2 setting, has an appealing protagonist, and challenging stealthy gameplay that will definitely enthrall fans of the genre. Gamers looking for something new will probably just want to take their tight jeans somewhere else.

Article Written By Jason D’Aprile