Velvet Assassin makes heavy use of darkness to bring to light the events of World War II. As an espionage agent fighting behind enemy lines, you slip in and out of shadows, silently stalking through dimly lit streets and grimy prisons as you attempt to sabotage the Nazi war effort. But the darkness in Velvet Assassin is more than just a cover for satisfying stealth play. The grim realities of war are also present, giving added weight to your objectives and a moral backbone to your killings. As you slink through burning Parisian villages and witness innocent civilians being executed for no reason, the chilling brutality of war becomes clear. The unsettling atmosphere drives you ever deeper into this ravaged land, but a few gameplay problems hinder the suspension of disbelief. Sluggish gunplay and nonexistent enemy intelligence make your actions feel artificial at times, lessening the impact of these atrocities. However, Velvet Assassin is largely able to rise above these issues and present a powerful, unnerving look at one of history's darkest periods.
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You assume the role of Violette Summer, a British assassin sent alone to slow down the German war machine. When the game begins, you see yourself from above, lying in a hospital bed after a mission gone terribly wrong. There are morphine syringes scattered across your bed, and the influx of drugs in your system creates a series of dreams that let you recount your past missions. As your efforts in the war play out, Violet begins to question the events around her, making her character empathetic and believable. Interspersed with these flashbacks are quick looks at the present, in which two Allied soldiers stand above your hospital bed, trying to decide your fate. The story is told in brief snippets, which makes it initially difficult to follow what's going on. But as the plot becomes clearer, the moral decision looming overhead becomes more powerful, casting all of your actions in a new light.
The 12 missions have you fighting single-handedly against the German forces, assassinating a war criminal, destroying a fuel depot, and other objectives typical for the setting. For the most part, you must rely on stealth to meet your goals. The levels are blanketed in darkness, providing ample cover for you to weave through the disturbing setting. Troops patrol all around you, and if you can silently sneak behind them, you trigger a brief execution scene. The absolute patience needed to stalk through these missions is tense and rewarding, mixing the fear of being spotted with the relief of creeping through a particularly dangerous situation unseen. The levels are often linear, providing only the odd alternate route that leads to a hidden supply of weapons or armor, but there is still plenty of creativity needed to achieve success. Figuring out how to reach your goal in the most efficient way is hugely satisfying because no two situations play out in the exact same way.
In addition to stealth attacks, there are a few other ways to kill your enemies. You can release toxic gas from a barrel to suffocate them, pull the pin off of the grenade of an oblivious soldier, and send a current of electricity surging through a puddle of water on the floor. These different attack abilities add a layer of depth and cunning to your adventure, which makes you carefully plan the best way to kill the German forces. The strangest way to dispatch your foes is by using morphine. You can use the drug to enter a dreamlike, invulnerable state in which you can easily take out one enemy before you snap back to reality. The amount of morphine available in a level is extremely limited, so you can't rely on this supermove as a crutch, but it still clashes with the ultrarealistic setting.
Guards hate when you turn off the radio.