Giant Bomb Review


Velvet Assassin Review

  • X360

Tedious, contrived, repetitive stealth mechanics make this a game you should try your best to hide from.

The decent premise is squandered on maddening stealth mechanics.
The decent premise is squandered on maddening stealth mechanics.
Velvet Assassin is a stealth game that feels like a relic from the time when stealth games were still new and interesting. I'm talking about the early, unforgiving days of the genre, when it was all about things like incessantly studying and memorizing enemy movement patterns; completely disabling your sense of disbelief as you "hid" in areas of vague shadow; and getting punished mercilessly every time you were detected. It's 2009; does that still sound like fun to you?

Even if you're in the minority of masochists who would answer "yes" to that question, I've got bad news: Velvet Assassin doesn't even execute those stale old mechanics, contrived as they are, with any degree of competency.

It's a shame the gameplay is such a mess, because Velvet Assassin at least finds a way to put a fairly original spin on the World War II setting. You're British secret operative Violette Summer, going behind German lines to sabotage the Nazi war effort by blowing up fuel depots, disabling U-boats, helping out other allied spies, and so forth. Summer is based on real-life WWII operative Violette Szabo, and I initially found her pretty appealing for her relatively realistic proportions and general lack of the hypersexualization that makes a lot of video game heroines hard to take seriously. (OK, she appears in her undergarments when you activate the game's dreamy version of bullet time, but otherwise, she's a heck of a lot more tasteful than Lara Croft.)

At any rate, whatever goodwill I had toward the game evaporated when I started playing it, since the stealth mechanics range from boring to ludicrous to maddeningly frustrating. Like most stealth games, this one considers you "visible" or "not visible" depending on factors like whether you're crouching, and whether you're in the light or in what passes for shadows. A better stealth game would at least let you use cover and shadow to intelligently conceal yourself and react dynamically to enemy movements to slink around and achieve your objectives without being detected.

But Velvet Assassin's stealth is poorly designed and inconsistent to the point of absurdity. Sometimes guards will walk right by you as you dump a body half in and half out of shadow, like nothing's going on. More often, they'll spot you from far away when it seems like you ought to be properly hidden in the shadows. Other stealth games set in modern times give you high-tech doohickeys like radar and night vision to help you get a leg up on the AI, but here you're just expected to develop a sixth sense about who can see you and where you can safely hide. With very little feedback from the interface, environment, and enemies, that's extremely hard to do.

Think you're safely hidden? Don't be so sure.
Think you're safely hidden? Don't be so sure.
It wouldn't be so bad if escape was easy or even possible, but the game's most damning issue is its utterly unforgiving stance on getting caught. The second any guard sees you, every enemy in the area opens fire on you, and seconds later you're dead, almost every single time. Since the checkpoints are spread pretty far apart and there are so many unpredictable ways to get caught, every mission degenerates into a repetitive series of retries as you try to learn exactly the right way to meticulously pick your way through every section of the level. It's a little like banging your head into a wall over and over till you finally bust through it; not my idea of fun.

There are plenty of other little issues that get in the way. It doesn't help that the game makes clumsy use of lighting and its color palette to communicate safe areas to the player. The only areas where you're truly hidden from the guards are literally almost pitch black on the screen, and since turning on your flashlight immediately draws attention and gets you killed, you often end up fumbling around blindly trying to sneak around or pull off a stealth kill without getting caught. And frankly, the number of completely pitch-black warehouses, offices, prisons, and depots in the Third Reich is sort of ridiculous from a believability standpoint. In this game's version of history, it seems like the Wehrmacht must have lost the war because it couldn't afford enough light bulbs.

Meanwhile, darkened areas that look like they would hide you in a normal stealth game might as well be broad daylight here, so there's nothing really intuitive about the stealth and hiding here. I also had some issues with collision detection, getting shot or spotted through walls and closed doors. Some guards would get hung up on level geometry in some places and then teleport halfway across a room a few seconds later. The list of flaws that make the game a chore to play is a mile long.

But it's not worth harping on all them. Velvet Assassin has a neat premise, but I knew before the second mission was over that I never wanted to play it again. It's just too repetitive, frustrating, and archaically designed to make it recommendable even to diehard stealth fans. The genre has evolved, and Velvet Assassin didn't keep up.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+
72 CommentsRefresh
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Avatar image for flappyhands
Posted by FlappyHands

Hahaha, damn. One star. I knew it was gonna be pretty bleak from hearing you guys talk about it but man... not touching this game with a shitty stick.

Avatar image for babble
Posted by Babble

Well at least we got to see Brad's one star picture out of this.

Avatar image for jimbo
Posted by Jimbo

Based on the Quick Look, one star seems pretty generous.

Avatar image for alexmarra
Posted by AlexMarra

Brad, your artist needs to re-Photoshop you and add a beard on.

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
Posted by ArbitraryWater

Wow. One star for Brad. That means we only need to make Vinny review a bad game and we will have seen all the icons on the site.

Avatar image for kombat
Posted by Kombat

This just sounds horrifyingly bad.  Do people that make these games ship them out honestly believing them to be good?  I'm really curious about that.  If I was plugging away on code for a game that I knew was just being half-assed, I think it'd be pretty damned difficult to be enthusiastic about my occupation.

Avatar image for toowalrus
Edited by TooWalrus

Wow Brad, nice review! Lots of adjectives and none of them positive, and I love that picture!

Avatar image for aska
Edited by Aska

Aww... I hate seeing depressed Brad begging for the madness to stop.  D:

Avoiding Velvet Assassin for sure now.

Avatar image for death_burnout
Edited by Death_Burnout

Wow great picture.

Im a little surprised to see other places give it 7's. It certainly looked like a poor mans Thief 3 that was too patterned...almost reminds me of Sneak King!

Avatar image for fuzzylemon
Posted by FuzzYLemoN


Avatar image for newjack
Posted by Newjack

So... I should buy this game right Brad?

Avatar image for under_influenz
Posted by Under_Influenz

haha, saw that 1 star coming from a mile away.

Avatar image for galerian
Posted by galerian

Oww...! I never knew it is going to be this bad!

Avatar image for bd_mr_bubbles
Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Well this review has made me want to pull this out of my GameFly GameQ, thanks for the heads up Brad.  Awesome new 1 star picture, all of the 1 star pictures should be made into shirts too, i'd buy those for sure.

Avatar image for athleticshark
Posted by AthleticShark

Wow for once I agree with a Gamestop review rather then a Giantbomb one. The Apocalypse?

Honestly, the game isn't that bad, it just really comes down to if you have patience and an open mind or do you just like to kill things.

Avatar image for tripmastermunky
Posted by TripMasterMunky

I thought Brad's 1 star picture used to be different? All the staff cartoon pics were displayed on someone's page way back...

Avatar image for gizmo
Posted by Gizmo

There's a freaking booger coming out of Brads nose, this game MUST be bad.

Avatar image for papercut
Posted by papercut

IT's ok Brad, you don't have to play this game anymore. Go home. Get some rest. Live your life.

Avatar image for travist
Posted by TravisT

Haha, One Star..  Sadly I played through this whole game.

Avatar image for toxicfruit
Posted by ToxicFruit

I played throuch the whole game... and i hated every moment. why the hell did i do it. i think i am going insane. 

I agree with every single word in this review !

Avatar image for yunvon
Posted by Yunvon

Holy wows, I knew you hated this game, but one star ouchy.  I must play the demo to see if I fair any better or just yell as I tend to do...

Avatar image for jaks
Posted by jaks

It's not that great, but it isn't a 1 star game. Come on now.

Avatar image for infamous91
Posted by InFamous91


Avatar image for warofart
Posted by artofwar420

At least we get to see Brad's sad face.

Avatar image for nicknorman
Edited by NickNorman

Ouch, one star! I knew it was bad from the quick look, but this bad? Sucks you actually played it this long. Great review nonetheless.

Avatar image for cerza
Posted by Cerza

Ouch! I knew from the QL that the review wouldn't be positive, but damn dude. One star?  Isn't that a bit harsh?

Avatar image for mastersplinter
Posted by MasterSplinter


Avatar image for lordandrew
Posted by LordAndrew
TripMasterMunky said:
I thought Brad's 1 star picture used to be different? All the staff cartoon pics were displayed on someone's page ... [more]
What you're looking at right now is what Brad's one-star image has always looked like.
Avatar image for ktm4444
Posted by KTM4444

Jeez 1 star seems harsh but I guess I'm just a sucker for stealth games in general even those that are stuck in the past. At least Velvet Assassin had decent controls and a solid camera.

Avatar image for rargy
Posted by rargy

Brad is just not a very convincing female assassin.

Avatar image for jjor64
Posted by JJOR64

Poor Brad.....  This game made him cry.

Avatar image for dquarters
Posted by dQuarters
I respect Brad's opinion on this one, although I don't think it's nearly one-star bad. It's certainly got a dated feel, and delivers a decently high level of annoyance at points. But honestly, we know Brad just sucks at certain games (definitely this one), and that sure didn't help this review score none.
Avatar image for davidsnakes
Posted by DavidSnakes
@dQuarters:  Yeah I have no idea why he finds GTA4 so hard.
Avatar image for seedofpower
Posted by Seedofpower

Ew, snot bubble.

Avatar image for kingbroly
Posted by KingBroly

That's the most awesome picture on the site.

Avatar image for theineffablebob
Posted by TheIneffableBob


Avatar image for bigandtasty
Posted by Bigandtasty

Woah, a one-star. Seems a bit harsh but then again I never liked stealth anyway.

Avatar image for aceofspades
Posted by AceOfSpades

Velvet Assassin made Brad cry...shame.

Avatar image for toma
Posted by TomA


Avatar image for brydello
Posted by Brydello

I'm with you on the one star.
I couldn't even force myself to finish this... and I rented it.

Avatar image for av_gamer
Edited by AV_Gamer

1 star? Nah. I see the game more as a WWII version of Splinter Cell, with a female lead. Three stars is more like it.

Avatar image for asurastrike
Posted by Asurastrike

She does have a nice ass though.

Avatar image for grim_fandango
Posted by Grim_Fandango

Its not terrible, but Brad got it right however, its insanely frustrating, I thought I was safe behind boxes of which obscured the view of the guards away from me, but there were times that they would grow x-ray vision and come charging at me... And the whole memorisation of the enemy movement didn't help at all...

But I liked it for its story, its atmosphere, and its lead character (beautiful, yet very respectable, I rank her up there with Ashley Williams from Mass Effect).

Avatar image for bybeach
Posted by bybeach

Seedofpower got it right,.. snot-bubble... but also a damned interesting, almost deep  visual for jus` one star. Least for some games, but thats me. It may be he may value all games. Sure like to see a no-stars!

So glad this site exists!

Avatar image for monkey_fluid
Posted by monkey_fluid

The best thing about this review is Brad's cartoon

Avatar image for drebin_893
Posted by Drebin_893

Really, really great review, Brad. 

And I love the one star face.
Avatar image for troyx
Posted by troyx

this game is fucking terrible ,i agree with you brad

Avatar image for sunjammer
Posted by Sunjammer

As shitty as this game is, this paragraph actually offends me

 "I'm talking about the early, unforgiving days of the genre, when it was all about things like incessantly studying and memorizing enemy movement patterns; completely disabling your sense of disbelief as you "hid" in areas of vague shadow; and getting punished mercilessly every time you were detected. It's 2009; does that still sound like fun to you?"

As someone who is MAD into stealth games, this looks completely backwards. Stealth games have only become more and more unforgiving and trial/error driven as years have gone by. The earliest true stealth games, the Thief series, have always nailed the balance between punishment and reward. If you want to rail on trial and error gameplay, perhaps you should go replay Splinter Cell Double Agent. Beyond that, i'm interested in which other modern stealth games you are comparing this to to confidently say the genre has evolved. It hasn't.

Avatar image for jackijinx
Posted by JackiJinx

Fumbling in the dark: the good old days edition.

Avatar image for hyungwoo0312
Posted by hyungwoo0312

brad's 1 star pic is funny lol

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