If There's One thing that's definitely missing from shadowy stealth games, it's the ability to inject yourself with morphine, slow down time and cavort in a sexy nightdress. Fret no further though because Velvet Assassin lets you do just that, as well as stab, shoot and garrotte your way through the '40s in the most bizarre period piece since 'Allo 'Allo.
You see, injured secret agent Violet Summer has been left comatose in a hospital after a mission gone awry, and is reliving her past adventures in a series of dreams. With me so far? These dream missions - based on the life of Violette Szabo (see History Lessons) - span Violet's career as a secret agent, from assassinating Nazi commanders to helping other agents escape the Third Reich's clutches. Grimmer still, at one point she even has to deliver a cyanide capsule to an agent to save British secrets.
The stealth action itself is very much Metal Gear Solid meets Splinter Cell, with an indicator showing you how well-concealed you are depending on the light and sound you're making. You can either go for the classic secretive slit-of-the-throat, or, as your arsenal improves, a more direct, bullet-ridden approach, with the caveat being that you'll soon garner the attention of Hitler's finest Stealth-wise, developers Replay Studios have created an intricate system: your shadow casting itself across a soldier's view, or the crackle of glass underfoot might cause a nearby enemy to investigate. This, if you're canny, might lure him into a dark alleyway and into the loving embrace of your knife.
You can also expect a dash of action though. Another section sees Violet playing cat-and-mouse with a sniper in the Warsaw Ghetto, dodging bullets and trying to find enough cover to fight back as shots ricochet off parked cars and street furniture. This may be a dream, but it's still life or death.
You're not up against a faceless menace either, the boys at Replay are dead set on fleshing out the lives of the individual soldiers
that Violet eventually kills. Thief: Deadly Shadows touched on this mechanic, allowing you listen in on one poor soul's rash that got worse as the game went on. In Violet Assassin this attempt to add depth to your opponents is bom from the belief that WWII games are usually based on the activities of larger-scale armies, rather than soldiers' day-to-day work. This is shown through a series of letters that you can pick up, based on real-life missives home from soldiers; intended to give shape to those who are usually just moving targets with a penchant for machine-gun emplacements.
As mentioned, you have the ability to shoot up with morphine. Essentially, as Violet lies on her hospital bed, doctors watch her for signs of distress and pump her full of the opiate when she needs it.
At these points Violet can pick up syringes of morphine that can then be used to activate bullet-time - a bullet-time that turns Violet's tight catsuit into a skimpy nightdress. I was shown this minutes after being assured Violet wasn't going to be objectified. The noise made was a puzzled "hmmm''.
While I can see how Max Payne's slow-mo mechanics make sense in an action game, whenever Violet slows things down she has to run over and stab someone in the same way she's already done five times before - only a bit slower. And although Replay say morphine will be rare, there's a concern that this negligee-time could prove a detraction from some otherwise very serious subject matter.
There's another concern that the stealth element could become rather repetitive. Then again, some of the ideas going into the game show a degree of cleverness that may well spread into the rest of the game. You can pull the pin from a soldier's grenade without him realising, for example, turning him into a walking time bomb.
Also having you take the role of a female secret agent makes for one of the most original premises in WWII games yet The world needs another Cate Archer, and up till now there hasn't been much hope for one.
While your Calls of Duty and Medals of Honor have played WWII out as a homogenous mush of rushing soldiers and constant gunfire, Velvet Assassin takes it on a much more personal and individual scale. The potential to create a really interesting war yarn is here, even if this probably isn't a genre-defying masterpiece in the making.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode