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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

Soulcalibur Review (XBLA)

“Welcome back to the stage of history.” Soulcalibur has come to the Xbox Live Arcade and it’s oh so sweet. Even now, the original Soulcalibur still manages to be one of the best fighting games around. It first came around on arcades in 1998 and on the Dreamcast in 1999. The XBLA version is very similar to the Dreamcast version, but it lacks Battle mode and online play, which is a big disappointment.

If you’ve played Soulcalibur before, you’ll notice right away that there isn’t anything new to see in this XBLA version. All characters are unlocked, everything in the museum is available; the only thing to do is fight. As weird as this is, everything is unlocked from the start. It seems like they would want to have some locked characters or even some unlockable art to keep you coming back.

The gameplay is exactly how you remember it — spectacular. The characters still move fluidly and the animations flow nicely from one to the other. The actual presentation of the game on an HDTV is a bit disappointing, since there’s no widescreen support, but even then it still looks great for being 10 years old.

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The gameplay options are what you’d expect from a fighting game. Aracde mode, survival, team battle, etc. The most interesting mode is Extra Survival mode. It’s the same concept as regular survival mode, but every round is sudden death. They are all fun to play, but the complete lack of online play seems crazy. While the game itself is amazing, not having any online play brings it down with today’s standards. However, there are online leaderboards so you can see how you stack up against other players.

With a total of 19 characters to choose from, it should take a while to get bored with the different fighting styles. Obviously you have the fast and slow characters, but it’s their weapons that make them unique. From regular swords to big battle axes, knives, and staves, the variety will keep you coming back to see what the other styles are like.

With this version of Soulcalibur on XBLA only costing 800 points ($10) it’s well worth it. With few flaws present, the lack of online play and Battle mode makes this version not as great as its Dreamcast counterpart, but it’s still a great game for a great price.

8/10

Originally posted on Endsights, July 13, 2008

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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March 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment