The Saboteur brings a new edge to the WWII setting with its open-world tale of revenge in Paris, France. In Pandemic Studios last release, we will see what Sin City would look like if it was a resistance fighter in the middle of a Nazi infested city. The Saboteur clearly has the story; it certainly has the look, but what about the game?
Tragically, Pandemic Studios latest release, The Saboteur, will be their last entry in the gaming market, as Electronic Arts has shut the doors to the iconic studio. Sadly, The Saboteur isn't going to be remembered as their best work, as it is far from perfect. However, you can tell a lot of love went into this project, as it stands apart from every other WWII game we have seen. Pandemic has had a great career, providing hours of gaming pleasure over the years. As strongly as I believe in Pandemic, I know the talent group of people will continue to work in the industry, giving us many more memorable moments. As I climb down from my wooden platform, I will fondly remember the games, as we take a deeper look at The Saboteur.
A New Perspective
The core being of the Saboteur is a tale of revenge, love, and oppression. This instantly freshens things up from the normal WWII scenarios that are commonly used in other WWII games. The Saboteur shows us Europe before, and after the first bombs drop. In a split second you will abruptly gain and new perspective on the war, and how these events impacted the other side of the world. Right then, early on in the game you will start to feel a sense of purpose and pride, and much like the inhabitants during the real life events, you will want to fight back against the invaders.
This makes for a great introduction to The Saboteur, and even more interesting is how Pandemic carries out the momentous "first attack" mid-mission. This initial Nazi attack of France feels like the beginning of the Saboteur, but The Saboteur actually starts earlier in the future. Before you learn about Saboteur’s lead character you will engage in a short outing to destroy a Nazi target in France's first act of retribution. After the target has been destroyed, you will start from the "real" beginning, before the war started.
You Are, Sean Devlin
Restarting in the early months of 1940, you will head out as Sean Devlin, our fighting Irish hero. As your typical protagonist you also learn that he is a foul-mouthed brawler, who has a history of making trouble-- oh and lets not forget about the womanizing-- Yes, Sean also liked the ladies. It's too bad Nathan Drake already beat him to the punch.
Sean was a mechanic that shifted to the drivers seat of a family managed racing business, and is reffered to as a racer car driver. As this hot-shot macho man you head into Paris to race in an annual event. Paris at this time is occupied by a strong Nazi presence, and adding more fuel to the fire, they have they are extending their hand to racing as well. After a few distractions, you will find yourself racing through the track in hot pursuit of the number on position, rival driver, Kurt Dierker. Kurt Dierker isn't about to let the German flag down, so he sabotages the race by blowing out one of your tires. This sets the wheels of 'The Saboteur' in motion, and after Seans defeat, he makes a decision that changes the rest of his life.
In an act of revenge Sean, and his best friend Jules, seek out Dierker in a Nazi occupied manufacturing plant. Once inside they hatch a plan to drive the winners race-car over a cliff. Well, as you might have guessed, the prank goes horribly wrong, and they are apprehended. After a brutal interrogation by Dierker (who is more than simple race car driver), Jules is executed right before your eyes. Before the same fate befalls Sean, he makes a daring escape right at the exact moments when Nazi Germany bombing France! It is at this moment in that The Saboteur kicks off the adventure by giving you enough knowledge to fuel your passion to help France reclaim their city from the evil Nazi war machine.
Vive La Vengeance!
The Saboteur's architecture is an open-world title where you can explore the city, and countryside of Paris, France freely. The French forces have been driven into hiding, and are resorting to desperate measures to reclaim their land. Building up the French Resistance, the members seek out Sean to help them in their cause. Under the employment of the Resistance party, and later aligned with the British, you will work in devious ways to tilt the power of balance back in your favor.
Only being one man, Sean takes his mission of vengeance against the Nazi forces in a logical manner, by weaning the Nazi hold on the city. Each time Sean does an act of defiance it encourages the citizens to fight back against the German occupation, and as you progress through the story you will see this happening in real-time. Reclaimng the streets of Paris takes you on step closer to driving the Nazi army out of France, and avenging Jules. With each section liberated the colour will seep back into the land, and this is where the unique look to the Saboteur comes into play.
The Saboteur takes on the unique look of a black-and-white noire film with spots of colour splashing all over its grayscale palette. As you win back Nazi squatted areas on the map colour will be restored, leaving the world broke into two colour spectrums. This is more than a flashy trick because it also helps differentiate among hostile, and "friendly" territories, which in turn helps you find new mini-objectives, and heightens the sense of urgency when you are in a Nazi occupied zone.
This black and red look was made popular by the film Sin City (2005), is equally effective as it was on film. Having a black-and-white look also stands out against all the other titles to have come out this year. From an aesthetic viewpoint, The Saboteur is outstanding, and original. Unfortunately, aside from the artistic flair, The Saboteur is an average looking game that is only on par with Pandemic’s last endeavor, Mercenaries 2. The term "Looks can be deceiving" applies here.
The Saboteur, Sabotaged?
So far The Saboteur is impressive, and it is clear a lot of thought went into its multi-layered development. The plot is flushed out, and the game has a distinct style that sets it apart from its competition. This would lead you to believe that The Saboteur could be one of the biggest surprises of the year-- but then it happens--- you play the game.
Once you get into the finer details, the core mechanics of the game, The Saboteur quickly unravels from a solid action game to a mediocre affair. It's unfortunately, and I wish it wasn't true. However, no matter how many times I went back to Saboteur's world, I would encounter the same tormenting issues.
For starters, the controls are a too loose, unnaturally quick, imprecise, and glitchy. Aspects like climbing buildings feels a little dated, especially as The Saboteur is following the refined mechanics of Assassin’s Creed II. The precision of aiming, and the context that you engage in combat (melee, and long range) is overly simplified, and again, feels unnatural. Sean can easy kill a solider with one wildly placed haymaker while he absorbs a hailstorm of bullets, this is simply too unbelievable, and his Superman abilities ruin the base of realism they worked so hard to build. The Saboteur plays like an arcade shooter, and that is the last thing I think gamers wanted.
The stealth integration, which is billed as a big part of the game, also feels under-developed. Sneaking around is presented as a viable option, but it usually isn't needed because combat is easier. The frustration of climbing up buildings, and sneaking around installations isn’t worth the trouble when you can simply shoot up the enemy- unless it’s over a long stretch of area.
The other option to avoid combat in The Saboteur is to dress up as member of the Nazi regime. If you choose to Zartan your way through a mission, you will need to knock out an unsuspecting solider and take his uniform. Once you are dressed like a member of the Third Reich, you can walk amongst them as long as you don’t raise suspicion. Raising suspicion is done when you linger around enemy soldiers, act out of character, or get snuffed out by special officers who can detect your presence. Once you are found out, your costume will automatically strip off, and you will be on your own. It's magic!
Like the rest of the mechanics, dressing as the enemy also feels under-developed--- Actually, nothing about core mechanics feels 100% in The Saboteur, and it is this fact that hurts the game the most. It might not be fair to blame the game engine on all The Saboteur's problems. However, if The Saboteur was running under the power of a more smoothed out system, I'm sure the result would have been different.
When the Clock Strikes Tweleve
You might have heard about “The Midnight Show” DLC as it is generating a lot of buzz surrounding The Saboteur. This release-date-ready download is available for small fee, or for free, if you end up buying the game. What the show provides is topless women! Time to rejoice?! More than topless women, The Midnight Show unlocks new burlesque shows, new mini-games, and more topless clubs! This content will obviously appeal a lot more to a certain audience, as The Saboteur indisputably earns the “M” rating on the box. There is sex, yes, but you get that for free, and no, it doesn’t have nudity. So you don’t have to worry about any coffee being spilled. The debate, if the price is worth a few puppies is totally subjective. So when The Saboteur prompts you about the Midnight Show, at least you know a little more about this revealing DLC.
The Saboteur is an overly ambitious action game that can't seem to overcome its shortcomings, even when its shadowed in darkness. Pandemic's effort is commendable, but The Saboteur feels like it had a saboteur of its own lurking in the code. No matter how many times I came back to The Saboteur, or how badly I wanted to love the game, the unrefined gameplay became less, and less tolerable.
Timing is everything, and despite all the hard work Pandemic has put into The Saboteur, it is a little too late. A few more months in development could have made the difference. However, it is unfortunately that Pandemic didn’t have that luxury. Overall, The Saboteur has its moments, with a number of solid ideas that will likely keep you entertained for a while, just don’t expect the same level of polish that you can get out of some other sandbox action games. This time around the Saboteur couldn't ignite the fuse, and like its clever use of colour, this one fades to gray.
Gameplay:6.8, Graphics:7.5, Sound:7.5, Innovation:6.5, Mojo:7.0 Final: 7.0 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 12.16.09