||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2012)|
|Publisher(s)||NA SouthPeak Games
|Designer(s)||Sascha Jungnickel, Marc Möhring|
|Release date(s)||NA April 28, 2009
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
Velvet Assassin is a stealth game for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360, released in North America on April 28, 2009. Velvet Assassin's working title was Sabotage. It was also released on the Mac app store in 2013.
Players take control of Violette Summer, a World War II-era British female spy operating deep behind enemy lines, attempting to help thwart the Nazi war effort. The game's story was inspired by a real life secret agent/saboteur Violette Szabo.
Born in Dorset, Violette Summer (voiced by Melinda Y. Cohen) grew up in a happy family and had a great and active childhood. Initially, she started her working life in a beauty salon before the outbreak of war inspired her to move to London and join the weapon industry. It didn’t take too long for her to be noticed by the secret services, as she was beautiful, athletic and had great attention to detail, and so she was soon recruited into Secret Intelligence Service during Britain’s darkest hours. Violette had lost an aunt during one of the first Luftwaffe bombing attacks and to further compound her heartache she later lost her RAF husband in battle. However, Summer was strong willed and used these painful experiences to inspire her to succeed as a spy for the SIS.
Summer managed to carry out several missions successfully before being gravely wounded by a sniper on a mission to kill Kamm, a Nazi military intelligence officer. Comatose in a hospital in France, Violette relives key moments in a series of flashbacks. Hence, the bulk of gameplay will take place during these flashbacks. The missions include blowing up a fuel depot on the Maginot Line, assassination of a colonel in a cathedral in Paris, stealing documents and marking a sub pen for bombers in Hamburg during Operation Gomorrah, and finding three secret agents in Warsaw. Moving through the city's sewer system, she finds one agent seriously wounded (and silences him) and another dead by cyanide poisoning, and a mission that involved moving through the Warsaw Ghetto, where the residents were either rounded up or executed, Violette makes her way through to the Gestapo's Pawiak prison to give cyanide to the third agent.
Through her memories, scenes from the hospital can be seen with two men arguing whether to keep Violette alive, give her up to the SS, or kill her to save her the torture if captured by the Nazis. Her location betrayed, Violette wakes from her coma to find the enemy troops entering the hospital. Escaping them, Violette finds the villagers being murdered or rounded up by a force from the Dirlewanger Brigade, a brutal SS unit of convicts, and taken to the church. Locking the villagers in, the soldiers set fire to the church. Violette is unsuccessful at trying to free the villagers, and due to emotional and physical exhaustion, collapses. The enemy leader is shown to be Kamm, whose face was burned by Violette's assassination attempt. In the end credits, Violette is shown in her hospital gown standing on a cliff overlooking a German plane.
When the game begins, Violette is seen from above, lying in a hospital bed. There are morphine syringes scattered across her bed, and the influx of drugs in her system creates a series of dreams that let her recount her past missions. Players have to hide in the shadows in order to avoid being detected. As a stealth-based game, lighting plays an important role. The HUD provides players with a silhouette of Violette which can be in one of three states. Purple means she is hidden in the shadows and invisible to enemies. White means she is exposed in light, but not yet detected. Red means she has been spotted and enemies are seeking out her position. If she is detected, she will either have to fight off the guard or escape.
The game employs a special lifeline if detected called "Morphine Mode." When triggered, Violette is shown in her hospital gown with blood drops appearing all over the screen. For a limited amount of time, Violette will be able to execute any alerted guards or escape. Players have a limited use of the morphine lifeline. The game also occasionally makes use of "Blend Stealth." If Violette acquires a female SS uniform, she can change her attire at predefined points in the game. When Violette wears the SS uniform, guards will not identify her as a threat unless she moves too close to them, or she performs a suspicious action, such as aiming a gun.
Violette's ability as an agent can be upgraded by finding a range of collectibles scattered throughout her environment. Once the player reaches 1,000 experience points, her skills can be upgraded in one of three ways: either Improved Stealth (sneaking), Morphine or Strength. The player can upgrade her skills based on individual gameplay style.
SouthPeak Games have teamed up with Peter Chung to produce a limited edition digital graphic novel based on the game. Chung is best known for his creation of the character of Æon Flux, as well as his work in The Animatrix. The novel was exclusively distributed to gamers who preordered the game from GameStop.
Violette's Dream was an interactive experience produced to promote Velvet Assassin. Created by Yomi Ayeni and produced by Expanding Universe, a UK-based production company, the ARG mobilised thousands of participants on a real-life adventure as they searched for hidden treasure and gold bars. Using websites, forums, blogs, video, audio, mobile and telephone messaging, as well as performance and real-life events, the immersive and interactive story engaged players as they interacted with a variety of characters and organisations. One gold bar was found in a lock-up in Fredericksburg, Texas, the other at London Victoria station.
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Velvet Assassin has received generally mixed reviews from the gaming press. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PC version 60.81% and 61/100 and the Xbox 360 version 58.04% and 56/100
IGN gave Velvet Assassin a 5/10, citing inconsistent stealth mechanics and a weak story. GameSpot review however disagreed (criticizing instead the game's poor AI and "lousy gunplay") and called it "a powerful, unnerving look at one of history's darkest periods", awarding it a score of 7.5/10. GameZone praised the style and story of the game but disliked the predictability of the enemies, rating the game 7.7/10.
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