PAX 2008: Velvet Assassin Preview
Written Thursday, September 11, 2008 By James Parkin
Velvet Assassin is an upcoming stealth-action shooter coming all the way from Germany’s Replay Studios. The game is based on the experiences of real-life World War II secret agent/saboteur Violette Szabo (known in the game as Violette Summer) as she infiltrates enemy lines trying to thwart the German war machine. However, the role you play is a bit different than most games. Instead of playing as Violette, you’re playing as Violet’s memory as the opening scenes from the game show Violette in a coma.
Sadly, Velvet Assassin wasn’t playable at PAX and we were only shown a brief demo, but from what I saw, early signs are indeed promising.
The preview started with the games pre-mission in-game briefing which was in fact very original. The on-screen displayed a handful of Polaroid’s (in the demo there were four) and while the background voice went over our mission, each of the four Polaroid stills turned into video clips that synced with the briefing, and gave us a visual of our objective. We were told in a nutshell that we had to find some bombs, traverse deep into a hidden bunker, and blow up a diesel fuel warehouse to slow down the enemy forces.
Since the game is primarily a stealth game it’s fundamental that you stay immersed in the shadows, think Splinter Cell with Nazis in WWII. Instead of going into a battle Rambo-style, it’s a lot more effective and probably necessary to hide in the shadows and wait until an unsuspecting enemy walks by so you can stab him in the back with your trusty knife. Replay Games stressed that we make use of the surrounding environment and keyholes in doors were part of this. Violet can easily see through them and it’s a great way to see if enemies are on the other side. Sadly, none of the doors that we were shown had enemies waiting for us, so we never got to see the benefit of finding an enemy prior to progressing through.
The combat system looks to be coming along nicely leaving the player with the ability to both hide in the shadows, or run in guns-a-blazin’, although the latter will result in quiet a few more deaths. One of the more interesting ways to kill your foes that was revealed, is to hide in the shadows near their walking path, and wait until they’re right by you. Once they’re near, you’re given a button prompt to trigger a grenade, by which you simply pull the pin one of their grenades The enemy simply walks off oblivious to the fact until they’re blown to bits and pieces.
Another great feature is the game is your morphine, in the modern day world it’s a highly potent analgesic drug, but since you’re a memory, whenever you use morphine, you stop time. It’s a fantastic way to get past an enemy that’s troubling you, simply stab yourself with your syringe, run up to an enemy and kill him, then run back to the shadows. Other enemies will be dumbfounded by what has just taken place.
Velvet Assassin also shows a few “platformer” characteristics as well, whereby you must move certain objects to get to the next area. There is no telling how prevalent these will be in the full game, but in the demo we saw at least one instance where you had to hide a body, then get a giant crate and move it under a broken ladder to get up onto a catwalk. I personally hope there’s more of this because it’s always fun to throw aspects like this in to the mix to break up the sneaking gameplay.
The game’s visuals play a big part in Violet Assassin’s general atmosphere. It was Violette herself that said “battles are fought on the frontlines, but wars are won in the shadows”. This pretty much sets the tone for the whole game. Having to move in the darkness of the night through dark, poorly lit rooms is a big part of its gameplay. However, even with the drab lighting against the backdrop of the night, you’d actually be surprised at how detailed the environments really are.
In the grand scheme of things, from what I saw at PAX, Velvet Assassin has all it needs to be a decent game. There’s a great plot, interesting gameplay, and well … a badass female character. The only thing now is to hope that the development team can emulate these great aspects and create a title that can live up to its potential.