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Velvet Assassin Review

It’s hard to get stealth games right. With games like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell doing it so differently, it’s hard to say which game does it the best. Velvet Assassin doesn’t try to re-invent the stealth genre, but it does go back to the old school ways that make it rather challenging, intense, and satisfying.

Velvet Assassin follows the story of Violette Summers who is based off of the real-life assassin – Violette Szabo. At the beginning of the game you’ll learn that Violette is unconscious on a hospital bed, and because of this, you’ll be reliving her missions as she remembers them. You’ll relive 12 missions, learn why Violette is in this condition, and get more history as to why Violette was on these missions.

As said before, this is a stealth game. The stealth is most similar to Splinter Cell, but a little simpler. When Violette is in a dark area her silhouette will be outlined by purple, so either she’s in stealth or not. The main part of the game revolves around Violette moving around in shadows quietly taking out soldiers in her way, collecting intel, or setting explosives. These parts are made better by the atmospheric sounds and intense music–even when Violette isn’t in an encounter with an enemy, the music makes everything much more tense and uneasy.

To help set the mood, levels will often remind you that Violette is in the middle of a war zone. You’ll often see military vehicles such as cars or tanks, dilapidated buildings, and civilians that were executed. The dialog shared between German soldiers is often really interesting to listen in on. The dialog isn’t far-fetched whatsoever as you’ll hear them talk about women, death, their families, drinking, war, etc. Letters can be found and read which contain personal messages from soldiers to their families. These are well worth the read since they add personal feelings to the soldiers you’re killing.

The game relies heavily on the player’s patience, and it requires a lot. Sitting around waiting for an enemy to turn his back or waiting and learning a soldier’s path is imperative as Violette will have very limited ammo. There are a few ways to get a soldiers attention so you can sneak around them like whistling, turning off a nearby radio, or breaking a fuse box.

Though Velvet Assassin sounds and looks wonderful, that’s not to say everything else is great. Unfortunately, the enemy AI is rather dumb and simple. Enemies can be easily tricked and it seems they either see really poorly in dark areas or surprisingly well depending if they’re on high alert. Enemy soldiers are also well equipped to take you out on sight. If Violette is caught she’ll more than likely die with a few gunshots as she’s rather fragile. It’s always helpful to have an escape route planned before going in for a kill just in case.

Stealth kills are what you’ll aim for most of the time. There are a number of different animations for these kills, depending on what weapon you have equipped. There are gas-filled rooms that will have soldiers in them, and sneaking up behind them and taking their gas-mask off is always great. Stabbing people in the face, ear, chest, or neck never gets old either. When Violette makes contact with an enemy, whether it’s with a knife or fist, it has a nice and believable thud to it. Soldiers sometimes have grenades attached to their belts allowing you to pull the pin and let him explode.

The stealth action is broken up by shooting sequences. While these can be optional, it is the easy way out of tricky or timed situations. Shooting sequences are easily identified when the game gives you a shotgun, or anything that isn’t a pistol really, with enough ammo to play Call of Duty. These sequences feel a bit out of place since the whole game is about stealth, but makes sense given the setting.

During certain levels you’ll be able to switch outfits. Having a disguise means you’ll look like you’re part of the SS and enemies won’t pay too much attention to you. When in a disguise, a meter will appear on screen. When you get closer to an enemy it will shrink. If the meter is completely gone, then an enemy knows you’re a fake and will start shooting. Switching into a disguise is great, but the meter isn’t all that great and feels tacked on.

As you progress through the game you’ll learn more about Violette. At times she gives narration during a mission explaining the situation she had to go through. At random points during a mission Violette will slip out of consciousness and she’ll overhear a conversation between the two men standing at her bedside. These conversations are usually the most interesting as you’ll learn more about Violette’s history and what’s going to happen to her body.

You’ll find morphine throughout levels, which basically giving you a free shot at an enemy. When you activate the morphine mode the area around Violette will turn white, flower pedals will float in the scene, and she’ll be invincible for a short period of time. This is mainly used to get out of sticky situations. When she goes into morphine mode, Violette will have a rather sexy nightdress on. This seems a little weird as Violette isn’t over-sexualized in any way during the game outside of this instance.

Finding collectibles nabs you experience. For every 1,000 experience points you can increase one aspect of Violette – strength, stealth, or morphine. You can increase every aspect 5 times and then it’s maxed out. Improving her stats didn’t do a whole lot, as she still died with very few shots and didn’t seem to improve anything too drastically in the end.

Velvet Assassin isn’t perfect by any stretch. Checkpoints are few and far between. Trial and error is a big part of figuring out how to take out certain enemies without getting caught. The games’ two difficulty modes might as well be the same since in normal difficulty you can easily die with two or three gun shots. Enemies will always be on a fixed path, making them way too predictable. These issues can really keep the game from being enjoyable, especially since the difficulty spikes randomly.

It’s easy to have a love/hate relationship with this game. Sneaking around and then silently killing enemies is satisfying, but it gets bogged down by uneven difficulty and unforgiving checkpoints. It’s also hard to recommend this game since it requires so much patience and falls too much on trial and error. It all comes down to personal taste. Do you like stealth? Do you like challenge? If you’re even slightly interested, it’s worth at least a rental.

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May 25, 2009 Posted by | Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Metal Gear Solid Touch Review

Metal Gear Solid Touch is an interesting take on Metal Gear Solid 4. MGS4 has remarkable storytelling that is one of the best we’ve seen in years. Take that story, sum it up, and then have shooting gallery-like gameplay with touch-screen controls and you’ll have Metal Gear Solid Touch.

MGS Touch is set up in a way where you’ll read a bit of text and then jump in to a mission. The missions consist of Old Snake hiding behind a piece of cover and then occasionally popping up to shoot enemies. You’ll do this by dragging your finger to move where you’re aiming and then tap the screen to shoot. Old Snake will always stay crouched behind cover, but only when you start shooting does he stand up and take the risk of being shot. If your health is dangerously low you can stay behind cover and your health will replenish.

If you’ve played MGS4 you’ll immediately recognize the setting. Perhaps the worst thing about MGS Touch is that you don’t move, at all. In each level you’ll stay stationary, essentially an Old Snake turret if you will. Old Snake will stay behind his piece of cover while enemies pop out from objects within the level. The levels look like they took a picture in MGS 4 and made a level out of it for MGS Touch. If you zoom in on the level at all it immediately becomes a blurry mess. If not zoomed in it does look rather good for an iPhone/iTouch game.

Since it is a mobile game it does have its limitations. I encountered many cases where the game will slow down drastically when a smoke effect appears, an explosion occurs, or when something big jumps on screen. Luckily these effects don’t last very long, but it’s still enough to break the action.

Since this is a shooting gallery type game, playing it is mighty simple. Enemies that are exposed will have a slowly filling circle around them. Once that circle is filled and blinking red they will attack and hide back behind their piece of cover. Aside from just seeing cover with enemies popping out behind them there will be goodies scattered around, such as idols that can be shot for extra health or new weapons. Exploding barrels can also be shot to easily take care of surrounding enemies.

MGS Touch is like a story book broken up by fighting sequences. While MGS Touch does have the story of MGS4 backing it up, it’s told in a way that doesn’t make you care. The story is told through text which is summed up in a shoddy way. The overall quality is straight up missing in the story and doesn’t play that big a roll in the game. MGS Touch tries to stand on its own, telling the story while giving as much background information as possible (see screenshot below).

At first when I was reading through the bunches of pages explaining the controls, I was overwhelmed. The long tutorial made the controls sound complicated, pinching in for this, pinching out for that, scrolling, tapping, whatever. Getting into the game wasn’t bad at all though. Your default weapon will be an M4 but if you pinch the screen you’ll zoom in, which means you’ve switched to your SVD sniper rifle. To zoom out you pinch outwards. That’s all there really is to it.

Since this is a Metal Gear Solid game, you’ll hear familiar music and sounds. When you beat a mission you’ll be rewarded with Drebin Points. With these points you can go into the shop and purchase various artwork. Other than that there really isn’t a point to replay MGS Touch. If you have played MGS4 then there really isn’t much point in playing MGS Touch, since the two vastly differ in quality. Ultimately, it’s a sub-par shooting gallery game that isn’t very Metal Gear Solid-like.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with the game is me. My hands are rather big so touch screen games have never been my forte. Using my finger to aim never works well for me since my finger will take up a huge chunk of the screen, causing me to guess where I’m aiming. Maybe I’m not the only one here?

Available in the iTunes app store for $7.99

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Review | Leave a comment