The game is inspired by the struggles of real-life secret agent Violette Szabo, a Frenchwoman who morphed from department store worker to trained Allied spy after the death of her husband during World War II. She helped coordinate the local French resistance during her lifetime, which was cut short with her execution in 1945 after she was captured, raped and tortured.
Velvet Assassin isn't going to be quite that heavy, but it still takes place in the backdrop of World War II. You step into the stealthy shoes of Violette Summer, a spy who made it behind enemy lines but finds herself in a hospital bed, attempting to piece together what happened to her. This is where you come in. Violette's missions are essentially flashbacks replaying in her mind, which helps explain some of the trippy visual effects.
The game takes the "violet" concept quite literally, washing the heroine in a purple haze (insert Hendrix or weed joke here) whenever she's concealed in the shadows. The demo I saw also featured a lot of the same stealth rules that had been established by other games, such as not stepping on glass or crouching whenever possible to cut down noise.
This is shaping up to be a die-hard stealth game, where you are armed with just enough to survive in case you get spotted. Any time I saw Violette get detected, she was dead within seconds. Violette's approach is more Sam Fisher than Solid Snake, though from what I saw, she's not going to be as agile (no ground-crawling, wall-shimmying or fancy triangle jumping).
What she does have is roughly 50 different close-quarter stealth kills, ranging from a simple stab under the ribs to a mortifying knife-to-the-groin then stab-in-the-neck combo. Watching it will give most red-blooded males chills. She also has the ability to creatively kill patrolling enemies, such as pulling the pin off a grenade someone is wearing. If you're really ambitious, you could trigger someone's grenade, whistle to attract other enemies to your location, and then move quickly to another spot just in time to watch them join their friend in an explosive death.
The game also maintains the "hospital" vibe by introducing the concept of morphine shots. While morphine is generally used to calm down people, it's a path to surreal powers in the scope of Violette's mind. Violet can grab morphine shots scattered around, and taking one leads to a Max Payne/Matrix-like bullet-time effect where Violette's the only one moving. This gives her the chance to run up to enemies and kill them instantly. Thankfully, there are only a limited number of slots for morphine shots; otherwise you'd be able to beat the game on your lunch break.
Perhaps the best part of the game's early build was its levels. It's almost like a history lesson, as Replay Studios essentially built areas like the Warsaw Ghetto from actual aerial shots and other research. Buildings, bridges and other urban areas are supposed to be historically spot-on, which adds an eerie realism to the atmosphere — especially when you see the corpses of executed people next to some of them.
After some inevitable polishing, Velvet Assassin has a chance to be a somber but solid title for those looking for a change of pace from the typical WWII kill-'em-all shooter. It's slated to be released before the end of the year.
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