SHE PUTS THE ‘ASS’ IN ASSASSIN
Left Some sections see you take on the guise of the enemy, enabling you to walk in the open as long as you keep your distance from patrolling soldiers. Annoyingly, you can no longer hide in the shadows, you’ll be seen nonetheless.
A At this year’s GDC, the ever-erudite Clint Hocking took to the stage to discuss some in-depth game theory, shedding light on the shadowy game play of 2005’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory in the process. He presented a video from his game, in which the player enticed an enemy to kick a door that Fisher had rigged with a mine, thus sending the unsuspecting foe plunging down an elevator shaft. The whole event was watched via cameras the player had laid, an outcome that, according to Hocking, required knowledge of at least nine game mechanics -Intentionality is a subset of strategy that is concerned with expression beyond the limited constraints of winning the game,” the progressive designer told a crowd just about managing to keep up. When you consider that such boundary-breaking stealth games, offering various permutations of action during play were available four years ago, it feels a giant step back to engage with a contemporary attempt that’s so unashamedly basic.
Velvet Assassin is all about monitoring patrol routes, paying careful consideration to your environment, and sticking to the shadows – gameplay elements all present in 2003’s Manhunt. Yet even Manhunt had the audacity to individualize its stealth with exclamation marks of extreme brutality.
Despite the dreamlike qua lity and soothing color palette of Velvet Assassin’s WWII setting – in which comatose protagonist Violette Summer recollects her past exploits – the game feels generic and fails to take advantage of the evocative setting.
Violette may have been trying to fill the Solid Snake-shaped hole left behind when the grizzled vet stalked off for more action-centric territory, but this approach to stealth was abandoned for a reason. Dragging bodies out of sight, whistling to distract guards, conserving ammo for when a carefully placed headshot is the only safe course of action – Velvet Assassin is too reliant on gameplay mechanics that have long since grown old.
It’s a trial-and-error affair, a perfunctory approach to the genre that sees you entering one area after the other and using the same simple tools of sneak, shadows and silent kills to proceed. The potential for experimentation is limited and each hurdle must be tackled as the developer saw fit. You can’t, for example, shoot out the lights, a designated switch is the only way to snuff out a predetermined light source.
Still, there is something to be said for the old-school styling’s on offer here. Being patient, thinking before you act, and playing into the developer’s hands can yield results. The thrill of traversing an area without raising the alarm remains a pulse-heightening thrill. Velvet Assassin accentuates the negatives of the genre more than it emphasizes the positives.