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Game Review

When the game-designing guys and gals behind Velvet Assassin hit on the idea for their new title, they surely must have slapped each other on the back with collective enthusiasm. I mean, a Lara Croft-type heroine (complete with crisp English accent and form-fitting outfits) sneaking through the shadows in an attempt to bring down Hitler's Third Reich has to be a winner. Right? The idea practically drips with heroic, secret agent potential. And basing the story on the tragic real-life tale of British spy Violette Szabo must have felt like the perfect emotional wringer to run all the action through.

But sometimes, even WWII heroes can get lost in the shadows.

Dim and Dimmer
Gamers assume the role of Violette Summer, a dark-haired athletic beauty recruited by the Brits after her husband was killed by German agents. She's been trained to slip in and out of the dark with superhuman skill and ultimately toss a monkey wrench (along with other more deadly implements) into the gears of the Nazi killing machine.

When we first meet Violette it's after a botched mission that has left her wounded and bedridden. Kept hidden in a local hospital by the French underground, she's trapped in a heavily drugged, glaze-eyed state (a needle full of morphine and a silenced pistol are both at hand by her bedside). In her mind, though, a dream is playing out, and you're responsible for how it goes as you replay her past missions deep behind enemy lines.

Those missions are ostensibly about silently infiltrating such enemy installations as fuel depots or a submarine pier and planting explosive charges, placing beacons for a bombing raid or assassinating a key Nazi bad guy. But when you peel back the game's stealthy veneer you find that there's more than just inky shadows to Velvet Assassin's darkness.

This is a game that sneaks up and points to the chilling atrocities of war. How? By having you crawl through corpse-littered back alleys and walk, unnoticed, by the executions of innocent civilians. Before it's over, you've witnessed everything from burning Parisians to dank torture chamber torment.

Violent Violette
That unsettling atmosphere could, of course, be seen as an ugly lesson about war—except for the fact that Violette herself is an instrument of the same brutality. Early on she describes herself and others like her as "Inhuman beings ... creatures without souls." And there's no way to play her otherwise. In fact, the majority of the game is focused on the dozens of ways she can slip out of the black and silently slaughter every possible German soul.

She slinks up behind her target, the screen takes on an ominous red hue, and when players press the "kill" button she proceeds to knife her victim repeatedly in the spine, or slit his throat, or stab him in the neck, or thrust the deadly blade into his crotch, or shoot a bullet into his brain—the list of painful-looking death blows goes on and on. And even when you can covertly make your way past an enemy, the game usually forces you to kill anyway in order to find a hidden key or some other essential item in one of the many guards' pockets.

On top of that, the title offers up a drug-induced super slo-mo mode that allows Violette to become invulnerable. All the action is taking place in the female agent's dreams, remember, so when she injects herself with morphine time temporarily slows down—and while suddenly dressed in her wispy, barely-there nightgown she can run up in slow motion and kill an opponent before he has a chance to react.

Add in various profanities (in both English and translated German), soldier conversations that reference everything from alcoholic binges to giving twisted sexual favors to officers, and enough blood spray and gore to thoroughly soil anyone's favorite black leather spy suit, and you've got a game that quickly loses all the heroic charm that it seemed to offer at first glance.

In its place is something much more bleak, grim and desolate. Yes, it does seem to fairly represent someone's tormented, drug-laced fever dreams. But that's not really a place any of us should want to crawl around in for long.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

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Record Label


PC, Xbox 360


SouthPeak Games,SouthPeak Games


On Video

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Bob Hoose Stephen Strong

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