It’s a game that nails the mid-war vibe, and totally immerses you in a very chilling world of espionage and secrecy. It’s just a shame that the game didn’t fully develop its stealth mechanics to their full potential.
In Velvet Assassin, you play as English spy, Violette Summers (inspired by a real spy from the time period, Violette Szabo) sent to sabotage and spy on the German enemy in World War 2. You do this by sneaking around enemy camps, tombs and gardens, silently assassinating guards and reaching and completing the objective.
Velvet Assassin does take some rather unique approaches to some of its stealth mechanics. Walking over shattered glass will alert enemies of your presence, you can hide in bathrooms and closets, watching the patrol wander straight past through a peep-hole. If you decide the bullet is worth it, you can set fire to spilt oil on the ground, incinerating anyone standing near it. You can even set off huge gas leaks, just be sure to have your gas mask at the ready.
Velvet Assassin Gameplay
These rather simple stealth mechanics are made more impactful by the chilling suspense and tone the game creates. The sound design in Velvet Assassin is absolutely superb, making even the simplest of encounters heart-clenchingly tense. Get seen and the alarming, fast-paced instrumental roars into life as you either run or fight for your life. Voice acting is also above-par. Even when listening your German foes, the same underlying emotions are still expertly conveyed, even if you’re reading off the translated annotations. This is only complemented by the game’s gloomy visual style. Character models move naturally, the environments are beautifully detailed in all areas, and an expert use of shadows and lighting are used to create stark contrasts, adding to the atmosphere.
In Velvet Assassin, you can’t really afford to be seen. This is because ammo is very scarce, so running and gunning isn’t necessarily an option. The gunplay isn’t perfect, but thankfully you won’t need to use it a lot of the time. If you do get caught, or find yourself cornered, a good a dose of morphine can be used to freeze time and make Summers invincible for a few seconds, allowing her to dodge around enemies and make her getaway.
Being a game striving for authenticity, it’s a shame then that the game’s AI can sometimes leave you wondering whether you can count the enemy’s brain cells on one hand. The classic problem is that soldiers don’t react to missing personnel, nor to huge shadows cast by the Velvet Assassin on a clearly visible wall. However, there are more glaring issues with the game’s stealth mechanics. Soldiers can’t go through doors, so if you’re seen then one of your best options is to just run out of the room and wait for them to calm down. Similarly, hiding from an enemy, even if they just previously saw one of their comrades shot in cold blood and the Velvet Assassin running away from the crime scene, causes them to forget you were ever there in the first place and carry on like it was nothing. This is where the game starts to show its age, and it’s a shame such a well-made game can fall at such a simple yet vital hurdle.
Some of the stealth mechanics also don’t seem to reflect the game’s gritty, realistic approach. You can change your uniform in designated wardrobes around each level. This can turn you into a smartly dressed officer, allowing you to stroll past enemies without being suspected. Getting to close to an enemy can get your noticed and caught. However, this leads to some rather unrealistic scenarios where you are having to dodge around hidden enemy perimeters, running and stopping for the soldiers to move without them even reacting to your presence. It almost feels like enemies are programmed robots than real people.
Rather frustratingly, the game doesn’t emphasise its best ideas either. At one point in the game, you have the opportunity to sneak behind a guard, silently pull the pin off his grenade, and scarper as your ticking time bomb walks straight into a group of soldiers. It’s a great idea, but only ever used in that one specific scene, which is a real let down.
I absolutely love Velvet Assassin for its atmosphere, executed so perfectly due to the game’s stunning sound design and visual style. But this certainly doesn’t absolve it of many technical stealth-related problems that don’t ruin the game, but prevent it meeting its full potential. Velvet Assassin is moody, gory and even frightening at times, and offers a fresh, new perspective on the WW2 era we have become so familiar with. It’s just not the best stealth game you’ll ever play.
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Genre: WW2 Stealth Third-Person Shooter
Pros: Generates an effectively moody and unnerving atmosphere from its sound design, voice acting and visual style, some intense moments, very reasonably priced.
Cons: Feels like very outdated AI (artificial intelligence) which lets down the stealth aspect of the game.