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Velvet Assassin

Smooth criminal.

There can't be many games where the lead character is lying unconscious in bed, drugged up to the eyeballs. As idyllic as this scenario sounds, there is more to it than sheer indolence: it's World War II, it's a hospital bed, and you are Violette Summer, a British spy loosely inspired by the tragic real-life story of special operative Violette Szabo.

Providing the inspiration for a stealth-action game was possibly the furthest thing from Szabo's mind when she was skulking behind enemy lines during her all-too-short life, and we can only speculate as to her reaction to the game being unveiled in a monolithic wartime bunker in Hamburg. Publisher Gamecock is adamant that the female character hasn't been employed for titillation purposes - a claim that is somewhat undermined when they flash up artwork of her in both a leather catsuit and a skimpy night-dress.

It's all apparently in context though, as the nightie is representative of her hospital attire, as she lies injured, enduring fevered flashbacks of her wartime missions. This is where the player takes over, as you are essentially playing through Violette's memories, a concept that gives developer Replay Studios a certain amount of leeway in terms of authenticity.

As creative director Sascha Jungnickel explains, "We took this method of storytelling in order to be able to bend the scenarios a little bit more, because it takes you away from the realism approach. It doesn't need to be totally realistic. A game that's fun normally isn't realistic. It's easier to have a strange story that takes it away from the realism without any excuses afterwards.

"When you play Call Of Duty of course it looks realistic but it's not at all. The people, how they run, they're coming the same way always. In the end the game looks realistic but it is not realistic. I think when you don't claim to be realistic, then you cannot be judged for not being. It also gives you more of a chance to work artistically, especially in terms of lighting and so on."

They won't know what's hit them. Or at least that's the idea.

That lighting provides a key gameplay element, as when the on-screen Violette is shrouded in a violet (geddit?) hue, she is effectively invisible to nearby enemies, free to continue her skulking in the shadows in the manner of a fairly conventional stealth game, or as the Germans charmingly refer to it, a 'sneaking' game.

That sneaking takes place in the traditional World War II settings of France, Germany and Poland, and our brief demo finds young Violette knee-deep in the sewer network of Warsaw. Charged with the task of finding three British agents who have important information, she has to lead them to safety, or, somewhat brutally, provide them with a cyanide pill to ensure that the information goes no further.

Emerging blinking into the daylight, evidence of the Nazi purge is everywhere, with the streets strewn with furniture ala Schindler's List, and the flash of gunfire from the windows indicating a systematic extermination of the local populace. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, Violette has a few tricks up her leather sleeve, including around 15 different close kills, a sniper rifle, and, in a showcase move, pulling the pin out of a soldier's waist-mounted grenade with such timing that when he walks past his mate it blows them both up.

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Velvet Assassin

Xbox 360, PC

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About the Author

Steve Hill