December 13, 2009

Review – Velvet Assassin

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 11:35 am

Review Velvet Assassin
Inspired by the real life events of Violette Szabo during the Second World War, Velvet Assassin places players in the boots of Violette Summer, tasked with the disruption of the Nazi war machine far behind the front lines of the escalating conflict. And though that summary is sufficient for some, the game has also tasked me with writing one of the most important reviews of my short career, because Velvet Assassin is fighting a war on two fronts. The 1s and 0s pressed onto this disc are relentless in the attempt to bring humanity to a videogame with a style made distinct through both the action and inaction available to the player. And where the game functions within the stealth genre, it manages to upset the status quo of my expectations every bit as much as Metal Gear did so many years ago.

It’s already evident that my opinion is the minority view, others having already dismissed the title as another mediocre entry within the crowded arena of World War II games. But this viewpoint is problematic due largely to my tendency to play a game to completion, which in this case proved to me that Velvet Assassin is one of the most challenging titles gamers have ever been offered. And while I don’t expect reviewers and critics to always agree, this negative opinion of the title is troublesome when considering that a review ideally attempts to convey reactions, feelings, and emotional responses to a media product – because if this is the case, than I’m confident that a play-through of Velvet Assassin would lead us all to believe that these reviewers are as hardened and emotionally detached as the men Violette hunts. The ease with which others have already passed this title over oozes with the same spirit of inept complacency that plunged us into the current economic crisis.

If I had to preface a sense of the game for this review – and I do – I’d probably reference the sub-plot from the Tim Robbins film The Player. It involves a director who adamantly wants to create a film that resists the bland and typical habits of American cinema, offering a more solemn and thereby human depiction of life. However by the end of the film proper the director has created a typical Hollywood blockbuster and is content with the success. With this in mind, we should be grateful that Velvet Assassin has emerged like a foreign media, resistant to the marketing pressure that would normally prevent this type of gaming experience – instead delivering the repetitious experience others want you to believe this to be. At times it dips into melodrama, at its best when such moments are contrasted with the stark reality of the scenes players witness when moving Violette through the environments. And while Velvet Assassin is a sorrowful experience, that isn’t what makes the title compelling. Rather it is the reality the game offers that has left me exhausted, and euphorically disorientated, earnestly engaged by a true artistic accomplishment. And if you’re willing to read on, I think we can reach an understanding about why this is, and perhaps why I’ll assuredly be drinking alone at gaming industry events.


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