The stealth action genre is still an untapped gaming genre, with so few titles releasing on consoles. Many of them relying heavily on a griping story or by following the compelling exploites of the character that’s under your command. Velvet Assassin from developers Replay Studios comes to the Xbox 360 this coming May with an aim to tick both of these boxes. Today we catch up with Inga Mittendorf, PR and Marketing Manager of Replay Studios, and ask her some monster questions on their upcoming title. Sio knifes and daggers at the ready – enjoy.
First of all, how are you? How is life at Replay Studios?
Thanks a lot, of course I’m fine and knowing that our game is so close to release is even more exciting. Generally being at Replay is a nice experience because the whole team gets along very well. We have fun together, develop creative ideas and all enjoy the work we’re doing. And it’s just got better because we’ve just moved to Hamburg harbor and can enjoy the fantastic atmosphere.
You gotta to love the sea air! So, for those people that have not heard about the game, tell us briefly what gamers can expect in Velvet Assassin?
Velvet Assassin is a World War II game in which the gamer becomes a female agent named Violette Summer. She is driven by rage because her husband was killed during the war and she decides to take out her anger on the Germans. This is why she joins the secret service to take part in sabotage and assassination missions against the Nazis.
She sounds like a tough lass. So how much did you go into researching the real-life WW2 secret agent, Velvet Szabo, and what aspects of her life have you brought into the game?
We tried to remain historically accurate by recreating as many locations and buildings from old photographs/designs. We remodeled houses, harbours and many other important smaller things from the period, using aerial photos and maps. One of the only areas that we weren’t allowed to accurately recreate was any Nazi imagery – such as swastikas – because they are prohibited by German law.
Violette Summer is very loosely based on the real-life Violette Szabo and the missions you play through in the game are not based on actual missions. Our assassin is a beautiful woman who has suffered from years of war, which means you can often see a certain fatigue on her face. Alongside this, there’s a certain anger that propels her to execute some extremely dangerous missions.
We think that Violette is unlike any other female protagonist. Although she is attractive, she’s not equipped with incredible powers, instead she must stick to the shadows and use her intelligence and cunning. She couldn’t fight a man in a normal fight and also she can only carry two guns at once (any more would be too heavy and restrict her movements), so there’s a sense of realism there. We feel that Violette is a very authentic character and that’s important in making Velvet Assassin more than just another shooter based in WWII.
History aside, has there been any past game or movies that have influenced the development of the game?
We were definitely influenced by film noir and you can see this in the style of game, particularly the atmosphere and lighting. Overall though our game has a very artistic approach and we looked for culturally important films – like Schindler’s List – for inspiration. We wanted to demonstrate that you can make a WWII game but still have an artistic ideal and critical view of the issue. The things that happened during that time were incredibly cruel and many games don’t touch of this element of WWII. War isn’t fun – and this topic must be dealt with carefully to avoid bad taste.
So what innovations will there be in the game, and what will ensure it stands out amongst other successful titles, such as Hitman and Assassin’s Creed?
One of the innovations is ensuring a ‘back-to-basics’ approach for the gameplay, to help the player concentrate on the tactics and strategy; instead of having two billions different features that all need a tutorial. Another element is that Velvet Assassin is very striking visually, so this alongside the locations and atmosphere, help it stand out from other stealth games.
Were there any particular features that didn’t make it into the final game?
Of course! When you’re creating a game everybody constantly comes up with new ideas. There were little things, like peaking round a corner, getting attacked by dogs, throwing stones to distract enemies, threatening enemies to make them help Violette and some different weapons. But in the end we decided we had enough cool features to create some interesting gameplay.
Is the game restricted in the sense that you can only kill targets to progress or are you able to explore and kill when and who ever you want?
Your killing needs are not limited. You can definitely try to kill either as many or as few enemies as possible. That depends on your style of playing such a game, although it will be impossible to finish the game without killing at least one person.
For the average gamer, roughly, how long does the Story/Campaign take to complete?
It will take you between 13 and 18 hours, depending on the style you play it. The more stealthy-style you play it, the longer it will take.
How about once the game is complete – Is there much replayability in the game to keep us coming back for more?
There are, let’s say, four reasons for replaying the game:
1. Check out alternative approaches how to get through the game, which can mean playing it more action-oriented or vice versa.
2. Upgrading Violette’s abilities in a different way, which can mean upgrading the morphine instead of the stealth or something like that.
3. Unlock the missing achievements or fight for a better mission rating within the single missions.
4. Master the ‘Agent’ difficulty setting.
Can we expect any online features such as multiplayer? Online and offline modes? Any Co-op?
No, we never planned that because it does not fit into our concept of Violette being a lone fighter.
There is quite a range of weapons in the game; do you have a particular favorite?
I love the sniper rifle and the silencer gun because that both work perfectly with the concept of stealth. One perfect and precise shot with the rifle and your enemy is a goner or a quick head shot with the silencer. Both of these ensure you won’t get spotted by an enemy. I also like the action-style killings, where you trigger an enemy’s grenade on their belt and then watch as they explode – completely unaware that they’re in danger.
The morphine bullet-time mode looks a little odd to us, was this mode a planned feature or was it added during its development to overcome a specific hurdle or to help with gameplay?
This mode was always a part of the game. And though you may think it’s a little odd, it’s integral and very useful when playing Velvet Assassin. The game isn’t very forgiving the clever use of the morphine mode can mean the difference between life and death for Violette.
…and why is Violette wearing her “birthday suit” during this sequence?
Well, it’s nothing to do with her birthday – more to do with the fact she’s in hospital. The game is actually based on her recollections of the war, while she’s lying very ill in a hostile hospital.
Velvet Assassin is played from a retro perspective: while Violette is lying comatose in her hospital bed she recalls all her passed missions and you as a gamer play through those experiences. Whenever Violette is remembering life-threatening situations her body in hospital shakes from fear and anxiety. To calm her down a nurse injects her with morphine. Violette, in her paralysed state of mind cannot differentiate between reality, dream or memory and integrates the effects of the medication into her memories, using it as a method to re-correct them and prevent herself from an early end because she is aware that she did not die in that particular situation.
From time to time, when she passes certain places she suddenly gets flashbacks of special situations and feelings which help the gamer to understand more of the background of the story.
We love achievements, could you tell us what kind of challenges us gamers will face in the game?
My favorite Achievement is definitely the ‘Blast ‘em’ one – which sees you trying to trigger the grenades of five enemy soldiers without being spotted. But there are plenty of other interesting Achievements, like making sure you go through a level without being detected once. There’s definitely a lot for gamerscore junkies to get their teeth into.
Are you a GamerScore/Trophie junkie yourself?
That depends on the game. If it does not really catch my interest or my ambition, I don’t care about Gamer Scores…
Will we see Violette on the PlayStation 3?
No, she will not be on PS3 and the reason for this is that we are only a small team. The development for Xbox 360 and PC is quite similar so the development is manageable. If we had developed for PS3, too, we would have needed a much bigger team and furthermore couldn’t have used our own engine, like we did now – and that’s what we definitely wanted to.
From a developers point of view – Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3?
Ermmmmmmm- I can’t decide: both good for sure – by now, the Xbox360 is easier for us to develop because it is so close to the PC – and we are pretty experienced in PC games development. But any of our future projects will definitely be for PS3 too.
…and from a personal point of view, which is your favorite console at the moment out of the two?
I’ve got both at home and I love them both.
Good answer, besides Velvet Assassin, what else are you playing at the moment?
Right now Resident Evil 5.
Are you looking forward to playing any other particular games in the coming months?
I am definitely waiting for Bioshock 2 and the new Call of Duty.
Thank you so much for your time Inga, we wish you all the best on the game’s release this coming May on the Xbox 360