Some of you may remember hearing of Velvet Assassin by its previous name, Sabotage. The original name was a direct reference to the real-life spy on which the main character was based: Violette Szabo, whose name served as the origin for the very word sabotage. In Velvet Assassin, you play Violette Summer, who was heavily inspired by Szabo, but whose name was changed, I would presume, to avoid legalities. I can only assume that the game's name, itself, was changed in order to get more "ass" in it, as it now features two, pressed tightly against each other.
Velvet Assassin is set during World War II, but our heroine, Violette Summer, is no longer in the fray; she's in a hospital bed, struggling to recover. The action in the game is actually taking place in Violette's mind, where she's trapped as she struggles to regain her health and her memory. This isn't merely a plot device, it actually heavily affects gameplay. For example, the graphic style is very surreal, as it is not supposed to be the actual event, but Violette's memory of the event. Also, stealth mechanics and enemy re-spawning mechanics don't reflect real-life as much as they reflect Violette's awareness; if Violette tries to progress while the area is on high alert, enemies will respawn, even in previously cleared areas. If she waits until the alert has died down, this won't happen. Additionally, when you get in a tight spot, you can use a morphine shot (she's really in a hospital bed, remember?) and the world around you freezes for a bit, allowing Violette to quickly run around to a better position, perhaps to take out an enemy from behind or to run out of the range of a gas cloud before it ignites. During this morphine-induced "bullet-time" effect, the colors become desaturated - almost white - much like a hospital, and Violette's clothing becomes that of her hospital gown. Mind you, these morphine injections are limited, so strategic and conservative use of them is advised; you don't want to use them until you really need them.
This is not your average third person shooter. Violette Summer is all business, and that business is a dark and gritty one. You'll be able to try out some creative stealth moves such as the "grenade kill," where she carefully pulls the pin from a grenade on an enemy's belt as he's walking by; seconds later, he and his friends get their final rude surprise. You'll have to infiltrate a Nazi camp in order to slip your own men cyanide so the Germans can't make them talk. Your kills can be as intimate as slitting an enemy's throat from behind or as impersonal as a single, well-placed shot to the head of a distant, unsuspecting enemy.
At EIEIO, a new twist to Velvet Assassin was revealed. There will be an actual monetary prize to be won by some resourceful and investigative player. As the developers explained, the spies in those days depended on relief packages that were left in secret locations for them or dropped out of airplanes. Supposedly, one of Szabo's was never recovered and its location, to this day, remains a mystery. To incorporate this part of the story into the game, the developers, Replay Studios, are putting actual gold bricks in an undisclosed location and the clues to discover the location of this treasure will be hidden in Violette Summer's fevered mind. Players can take a stab at trying to solve the mystery of where the treasure is located and can actually recover this treasure, if successful.
This new treasure-hunt aspect is an interesting twist, and may well be marketing genius afoot, but it seems to me that they're overselling the game. Additionally, Violette Summer's character models have been updated since the last showing, making her more revealing and more "sexy." It seemed to me that they had an excellent concept for a game that would be amazing if implemented in a very pure way, from concept to game; show us, as well as can be shown, the adventures of Violette Szabo, the original saboteur. Show us a side of WWII that isn't shown in other games, that is not well known. I don't know whether it's due to legal issues regarding likenesses or something else, but it seems that the changes that are being made to the game are moving away from Violette Szabo's likeness and are trying to appeal more to the mainstream "American" consumer. Hopefully the finished product will be better for the changes; only time will tell.