Despite what happened to Fallout 3, Velvet Assassin developer Replay Studios insists that the presence of morphine is an integral part of the game and that references to it won't be removed.
Back in July 2008, Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification refused to grant the long-awaited Fallout 3 a rating because, as it turned out, the game contained references to real-world drugs like morphine. Australian law strictly prohibits videogames that contain "drug use... related to incentives and rewards," and thus the game in its original state would not be available for purchase in Australia. Bethesda responded to the decision by changing not just the Australian version of the game but all versions, replacing the real-world drugs with fictional, but functionally identical, counterparts.
Morphine, by all reports the catalyst for the OFLC's decision on Fallout 3, also figures prominently in Velvet Assassin as a power-up that slows down the gameplay and allows the player to perform more devastating attacks while in "morphine mode." The game's website says morphine offers multiple in-game benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to decreasing hunger and reducing the cough reflex, but also warns of many negative aspects, suggesting that an addiction mechanic will be a part of the game. "Morphine's euphoric effects can be highly addictive," the site says. "Tolerance (the need for higher and higher doses to maintain the same effect) as well as physical and psychological dependence develop quickly."
In an email to MTV Multiplayer, Product Marketing Manager Aubrey Norris of Velvet Assassin publisher SouthPeak Games said that despite the risk of running into trouble in Australia and elsewhere, morphine was kept in order to maintain the game's "artistic integrity."
"One of Velvet Assassin's strongest features is the emphasis on retaining as much historical accuracy as possible," Norris explained. "It's a well known fact that morphine was widely used as a pain killer for wounded operatives and soldiers on all sides of the war. Not only does it fit the realism of the game, but it also plays an integral role in the actual gameplay experience. Use of morphine in the game is not meant to condone drug abuse, but to reflect the realistic nature of the game and true to life historical factors."
"It is incredibly important to us that the artistic integrity of the developer [Replay Studios] is upheld in every aspect," she continued. "Additionally, the spirit of the game centers on players experiencing the life of a British operative behind enemy lines through Violette's memories. In order to provide players with the most realistic and visceral experiences, Replay Studios has gone to great lengths to adhere to the facts history has provided. These reasons are why we decided to include and keep morphine in Velvet Assassin."
Claiming "realism" and "historical accuracy" in a game like Velvet Assassin may be a bit dodgy, but a commitment to artistic integrity is very commendable. But since the game has yet to be rated by the OFLC or anyone else, it remains to be seen how that commitment will hold up if faced with serious opposition. Velvet Assassin is currently in development for the Xbox 360 and PC, and is set for release in the first half of 2009.