World War II has been the subject of many video games over the years, but this April, South Peak Games and Replay Studios are planning to show gamers a perspective on the war they've never seen before. "Velvet Assassin" is a stealth action game that puts players in the role of British spy Violette Summer, who is operating behind enemy lines to take the Nazis down from the inside.
CBR News spoke with Inga Mittendorf, PR Manager for Replay Studios, about the inspiration for "Velvet Assassin," and what makes the game unique.
CBR: The story in "Velvet Assassin" is inspired by real life spy Violette Szabo. What makes her story something you wanted to adapt to a game?
Inga Mittendorf: Well, it is true. In creating a character, we were inspired by a real person named Violette Szabo and referenced some parts of her life for our outline of the game, although this does not mean that in the game you are playing through the complete life of the real Violette. Most of our missions are inspired by Szabo's missions but are fictional. Our "Velvet Assassin," Violette Summer, is a beautiful woman who has suffered from the years of war; sometimes you can see the fatigue of the incidents of war on her face, then, at the next minute, she looks tough and angry as though she wants to prove that there is enough rage in her to fulfill those dangerous and frightening missions as an MI6 agent. And with these character traits and her personal background, she is the perfect heroine to add an interesting background story to the gameplay.
From a development standpoint, did the idea for story or the core gameplay come first?
First, what we wanted was to make a game about WWII that does not fit into all the cliches already existing. We wanted to approach the genre from a new perspective and quickly came up with so many ideas on how to make the game that it is hard to remember in which order the flow of creativity happened.
How will you be mixing the past and the present to tell Violette's story?
You are playing the whole game from a retro perspective and so you are reliving Violette's past missions while she is already injured in the hospital. As she is in a coma there are three levels of storytelling: through the present (her in the hospital bed), through the past (her experienced missions) and the fantasia aspect (her dreaming and fantasizing and misremembering what took place).
You've sort of put your own twist on the idea of "slow down" or "bullet time" through Violette's use of morphine in the game. Can you explain how the system works?
The feature of using morphine in difficult situations and unexpected danger is an important part of the game. Whenever Violette begins to panic from the recall of the missions she has experienced she starts shaking in her hospital bed and so a nurse gives her an injection of morphine that makes Violette mix up her past, her fears and dreams. But Violette is not aware that she is being given morphine in the hospital and connects it with her mission experiences. For you as a gamer this means that when you get into a difficult situation during the game you can use one of your morphine syringes you have collected in the environment and time will freeze for your enemies. You then have the opportunity to take out one of your enemies until the effect of the morphine wears off.
Gameplay has a heavy emphasis on stealth, particularly when it comes to combat. Can you talk about the many different ways Violette will be able to quietly dispatch her enemies?
The stealth kills are one of the most important tactics in the game and for that reason we developed more than 40 different variations to keep the so-called "Silent Kills" interesting. The type of "Silent Kill" animation you will experience depends on the mission you currently are in and the weapons that you have. Some of the kills are really brutal so that you can have an uneasy sense of all the anger and chaos our heroine feels inside. The use of "Silent Kills" are incredibly important because you have almost no chance to survive if you play the game in FPS style: you have a maximum of two guns at a time, the amount of ammo you find is also rare and the many Nazis you will encounter in the missions are mercilessly brutal. Though you can shoot in appropriate situations, stealth kills are mostly the better choice in this hardcore stealth game.
What locations will we see Violette infiltrating over the course of the game?
The missions in "Velvet Assassin" are designed to showcase what an individual is able to do against an omnipresent overpowering system. For example, Violette's mission in Warsaw is to find three allied agents and deliver them cyanide to prevent the Nazis from interrogating them. In another mission, she tries to prevent a massacre on civilians.
There are also classical sabotage missions where she has to blow up a fuel and ammo storage or takeout a Nazi VIP. The biggest explosions will be seen in the harbor of Hamburg, where Violette marks the targets for British bombers.
The different situations that Violette will find herself in will require a variety of outfits, tools and weapons. Can you give us an idea of what to expect?
All the weapons and outfits within the game are historically accurate and really were used during WWII. Besides your knife you can take two more guns with you at the same time: one rifle type and one pistol type. So, if you get detected by one of your enemies you can choose to use a Luger, a silencer-gun, a shotgun, a sniper-rifle or even a flame-thrower - or one of the others...
In terms of outfits there are four different types she can wear: her pilot suit which she wears most of the time, the leather suit which provides her with better sneaking abilities, the SS-uniform which she can find within some missions and use to be disguised among her enemies and the nightdress - which provides her with extreme cuteness but can only be worn during her morphine mode sequences...
Will the game feature unlockables?
There are no unlockables, but there are secret objectives to certain missions that will give you extra experience.
How about multiplayer or additional modes?
We have designed "Velvet Assassin" from a single player point of view. It is a stealth action game about a spy working behind enemy lines by herself. We want to ensure that we get that gameplay mechanic well rounded and do that by ensuring that we are focused on the single player experience. Perhaps in the future we might look at multiplayer, but for "Velvet Assassin" we are only creating a single player experience.
You've also recently announced that Peter Chung ("Aeon Flux") is creating a digital comic for the game. How did he get involved and what can you tell us about the comic?
Peter Chung is a real icon in his genre and so we decided to ask him to work with us for this project. And he agreed to do a comic on "Velvet Assassin," which was a big pleasure for us to hear. Now, that I have seen the comic I can say that he did a really good job because the way he designed it perfectly fits the style of the game and really contributes to the story. I am sure the reader will love it! But it will only come in a limited quantity at Gamestop - so hurry to get your Chung-comic!
"Velvet Assassin" is currently slated for release on April 14, 2009 for the Xbox 360 and PC. For more information on the game, head over to www.velvetassassin.com.