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The Saboteur Review

January 10, 2010

Developer: Pandemic Studios (RIP)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform:  PlayStation 3 (Version Played), Xbox 360, PC
Genre:  Action-Adventure, Third Person Shooter
Players: 1
Release Date: 4th of December 2009 (EU)

There was once a time where every second game released was a World War II FPS. They were everywhere. Few of them were good and even fewer of them tried to do anything remotely different which led to people getting sick of them. Now there are less of them being made and they seem to be getting slightly more acceptable (Call of Duty: World at War being the most recent example). Unlike the World War II games of old that were all very similar, The Saboteur does it differently and uses the setting to enhance the experience as a whole.

You play as Sean Devlin, an Irish mechanic/race driver, who goes to Germany to take part in a race. Due to some unfortunate events with Kurt Dierker, Sean is forced to flee Germany and go to Paris with some companions. This leaves him trapped in Nazi occupied France fuelling for revenge. While doing what he does best (Drinking) Sean is confronted by Luc  Gaudin, a French author who is now a part of the Resistance against the Nazis. He wants Sean to help him and to join the Resistance. Sean accepts and thus, The Saboteur is born.

In a similar way to Grand Theft Auto, and most sandbox games, The Saboteur mixes in various amounts of gameplay elements to keep the missions fun and varied. This includes the typical stuff such as shooting, driving, fighting and so on but also contains things like climbing (That is becoming much more common though) and stealth.

The most solid aspect of the game is the shooting. Taking the form of a third person/over the shoulder camera, the games’ gunplay works well. Surprisingly, the fact that the shooting is looser than most games actually aids The Saboteur. It adds a faster pace to the game, making it more “run and gun” than “stay back in cover” which works to its advantage. Also, the limit of two weapons does add a little more depth to the game as you need to decide which weapons will work well for both the mission and your play style.

The weaponry consists of the usual World War II stuff such as machine guns and bolt actions rifles. Each has their own advantages and work well for the play style you are going for. If you want to stay back and take out enemies slowly use the sniper rifle, if you want to be stealthy take a silenced weapon but make sure you have something stronger (e.g. Machine Gun) in case the shit hits the fan. Of course, charging in with a rocket launcher/heavy machine gun combination also works well.

Now, the game wouldn’t be called The Saboteur if you weren’t able to sabotage. Sean is able to carry a hefty amount of explosives to unleash chaos upon the Nazis with. Pandemic’s Mercenaries games have had a bit of influence in this part but it isn’t as over the top in The Saboteur.

Hand to hand combat is relatively fun, though it isn’t the most useful method of attack. Punching and kicking Nazis never gets boring but when there are large groups of enemies it doesn’t work too well and you’ll end up resorting to guns instead. However, attacking from behind tends to be more effective.

The stealth is rarely forced upon you and allows the player to decide if they want to use it or not. I used it for some missions, others I didn’t; just whatever seemed to be the best option. If you are able to take out an enemy using your fists you can take their disguise and use it to sneak through restricted areas or move towards your objective and so on. Guards get suspicious when you get too close though which can be annoying at points. Taking this option is often fun, if a little slower.

Some missions require you to destroy a certain amount of Nazi equipment using explosives. If you nab a disguise you are sometimes able to blow up everything without being caught once which is down to the average A.I. When fighting it’s fine, it just has flaws when your disguised.

Vehicles play an important part of the game and act as your means of travel throughout the game. Despite the driving being quite stiff, the vehicles themselves are quite interesting since they come from a different period of time than most sandbox games. The handing could be a little better but it’s normally fun and atmospheric to drive around Paris.

Like the driving, the climbing could do with being a bit more polished. It’s fun to climb about structures and you aren’t limited in choice with what to climb (You can climb the Eiffel Tower!) but it’s isn’t as smooth as it should be. Especially when compared to the likes of inFamous and Assassin’s Creed. Running and jumping across rooftops is great fun though, regardless of the climbing flaws.

Paris itself is a well designed world that is enjoyable to roam. It obviously takes influence from the actual city and contains many of the famous landmarks that people love. It is mainly made up of the city but there is a large countryside area surrounding the city. The best thing about the world is undoubtedly the territory system. It doesn’t really consist of territories but as you progress through the missions (Mainly side missions) you will inspire people of certain sections and the Resistance will grow stronger in these areas.

What makes this so effective, though, is the visual design. The sections that the Nazis have a lot of control over appear in black and white with a few traces of colour (Notably red to highlight blood and the Nazis) while the areas you inspire appear in colour. So you are effectively restoring colour to Paris. The contrast between the two is huge and moving between them highlights the difference even more.

It adds a Noir feel to the game and gives it an oppressive atmosphere. You know in these areas the Nazis are stronger and they are in more control. The artistic design is actually really strong which was quite surprising.

The soundtrack also adds to the atmosphere and makes it feel like a WWII film. The soundtrack is great and the licensed music has been well chosen as it fits perfectly in with the game. At times the game can feel quite epic with that music and some of the larger set pieces.

On top of the campaign, there are a various amount of side missions which are given to you by the different characters of the game. All together it took me about 15 hours to do both the main and side missions but since I done them all at the same time I can’t tell you how long the main missions lasted.

The majority of the missions are enjoyable and range well enough so they don’t get boring. There is a lot of other side stuff to do as well, such as freeplay targets which are people/ equipment that need to be destroyed and if you want to do all of those be prepared to commit a lot of time to it. Unlocking all of the perks is really fun though. There are different areas for the perks such as brawling, climbing, driving and so on. Each area has tasks relating to them which unlock rewards.

Quite possibly the best thing about The Saboteur is the saboteur himself. Sean Devlin is an awesome character. He may follow the typical Irishman stereotype by being a heavy drinker and smoker but he is just a badass. He has some great one liners, which are both witty and cool and is leaps and bounds above the other characters (The other characters aren’t bad though).

An accurate comparison to The Saboteur is last year’s WET. Like WET, The Saboteur has various minor flaws but nothing game breaking, as well as boasting excellent presentation and a fantastic soundtrack. The Saboteur, however, is the superior game due to well designed world, varied gameplay, interesting plot and Sean Devlin, all of which flow well together and make for an extremely fun game which may just be Pandemic’s swansong.

+ Sean is a fantastic character
+ Paris is very well designed
+ Soundtrack is fantastic

Could do with a little more polish
A.I. can be annoying
The disguises could have had a little more work put into it

8/10

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