You shouldn't feel bad if Violette and her stealthy World War II title caught your eye. Those screens sure look cool. The concept of a female secret agent taking out Nazis has some promise. Plus, she's got that sexy spy thing going for her, right? First looks can be deceiving. Velvet Assassin is a mess from beginning to end, filled with frustrating objectives, archaic gameplay conventions, and a story that is, well, not a story at all.
Stealth/action gamers will be familiar with most of the gameplay ideas present in Velvet Assassin, mostly because they all come from titles that released 10 years ago. Violette sneaks through one disconnected mission after another, each one filled with ever more frustratingly long checkpoints. Laughably bad AI soldiers march to their doom again and again; I once saw three soldiers walk one after another into an electrified pool of water and die. At other times, the baddies show an uncanny sense of detection, spotting you behind walls dozens of feet away. If you are sighted, it's often best to just take your medicine and wait for the checkpoint reload – Violette is a far too fragile heroine to survive in any real throwdown.
At one point, you must sneak out of a fortified compound. You need a firearm to assure her escape. Alas, Violette can't take any of the dozens of machine guns she finds on the bodies of men she stabs. Instead, she sneaks past the actual exit from the compound (It's right there, stupid!) and back into harm's way, only to retrieve from a locker a weapon identical to the ones she's been shunning on dead bodies. Then she has to shoot her way back to the exit. Brilliant.
As Velvet Assassin's story unfolds, a realization begins to dawn. Events have nothing to tie them together. No overarching plot shapes your gameplay experience. Instead, these are vignettes devoid of character or emotional resonance. Violette is wandering through a world without context or meaning, horrified by what she finds in her journeys, but marshalling on for reasons even she cannot explain. In this, at least, the game succeeds at making the player share the fate and feelings of its protagonist.