Velvet Assassin (Xbox 360)
Time Before Quit: approximately five hours
This week, we gave up on Southpeak's Velvet Assassin, a stealthy WWII game starring British secret agent Violette Summer, based on real-life agent Violette Szabo.
Things started out promisingly enough. The game looks good, and its presentation, which relates the game's levels as Violette's hospital bed recollections, is interesting enough.
Replay Studios' take on sneaking doesn't feel like anything we've played before -- let's call it "hardcore stealth." If you're discovered as you sneak to your clandestine objective, you're not going to shoot it out. You're almost always going to get killed by bullets. Fin. The one exception is if you have a dose of morphine, which you can use to warp Violette's memories (at least we think that's what's going on), slow down time and instantly kill a nearby enemy.
No, your best strategy is to hide unseen in the shadows, watching enemy patterns and waiting for the perfect moment to sneak up behind enemies and silently eliminate them. You're rarely ever rushed into a decision, as this is a game about plotting and waiting.
If you do well, your abilities (for example, the speed at which you sneak) can be upgraded with experience you gain for completing objectives and finding collectibles hidden throughout levels.
So, why'd we give up?
First off, the game's in desperate need of more checkpoints. Waiting and plotting is fine, but if you execute a strategy perfectly, you shouldn't have to continue to repeat that section. Far too often we'd artfully complete an area only to get offed and have to begin the sequence again. It takes the game from strategy and planning to rote memorization of actions and enemy paths. Negative fun.
Perhaps even more damning: it's hard to shake the feeling of deja vu as each level begins. You sneak up behind dudes, you off them, you repeat. There's little variety level-to-level and even less room for improvisation. After five hours it seemed from the Achievement list that we were only about halfway through the full game. Faced with five more hours of frustration, we bailed out.