The Saboteur Review
A fun title that presents an engaging setting but is a bit unpolished in terms of gameplay
The Saboteur is a third person sandbox action game set during World War II, and is the last project by the recently closed Pandemic Studios. This fact in itself is disappointing, since this is quite probably the best game from the developer in recent years. On the bright side, Saboteur does not feel rushed or otherwise not ready for retail so feel free to give this game a try. It’s an open world action game, and this warrants a lot of comparisons to the current leader of the genre – GTA4. In alot of aspects, The Saboteur is not as deep, polished or well presented as Grand Theft Auto’s latest. However, the game is very fun in its own way due to the setting, characters and some gameplay changes that may not overhaul the genre but certainly open new possibilities for games down the road.
Players take on the role of the Saboteur, better known as an Irish man Sean Devlin. Sean is a mechanic and a race car driver who enjoys drinking and cracking jokes at the right time with his funny accent. One day though, Sean loses a big race to a Nazi named Kurt Dierker who sabotages Sean’s car during the race. To get revenge, Sean decides to trash Dierker’s car so that it cannot be displayed on the winners’ podium. This plan leaves his best friend dead and Sean desperately escaping a Nazi compound. A few years pass and Sean never fully recovers from the guilt he feels for his friend’s death, so when a French resistance fighter offers him a few random jobs killing the Nazis, our hero accepts the offer. But, Sean is quite different from your usual “one man army” shooter heroes. The reason for the various explosions and killings he does during the course of the game is a personal one – he knows that he is helping to free the people of France, but at the same time he is primarily concerned with finding Dierker so that he may exact his revenge for killing his friend. Sean plays a great anti-hero, taking no sides other than preserving his friends and personal beliefs. There are alot of characters Sean meets along the way, all needing his help with one task or another, but he never loses the sight of his ultimate goal and this makes him a very strong persona. Through the game, as Sean continues to wreck havoc to the Nazi installations around France, higher Nazi commanders begin taking note of his reputation and so does Dierker who becomes more and more worried to face Sean. Everything eventually goes down the tubes and Nazis begin an offensive against Sean and the resistance, and there is no choice to run anymore. With a somewhat anticlimactic finale, Saboteur is a lengthy game depending on the number of side missions you wish to undertake. The story is more than interesting enough to see it through to the end, though some of the support cast aren’t very good fits for their roles.
2009 has seen quite a few sandbox-style games, so why should Saboteur be different? Well, it is not as different as some may have hoped, but that doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all before. You have the whole city of Paris to roam around in, including a large adjacent countryside area. Apart from the missions, Sean can also locate and destroy the hundreds of German war installations throughout the city. Destroying these earns you “contraband”, the game’s currency. Though it may sound like a chore, each actually acts as a minigame; Sean can simply kill the guards and blow up the installation, or he can sneak up from an angle where the guards do not see him and plant his charges. There were many times just driving around the city that I found myself stopping at an enemy installation, figuring a way to get close to plant the charge, and then speed away and watch the explosion behind me. But of course, this is just a small part of the gameplay. The core story missions are admittedly cliché for an open-world title – you are usually tasked with making a delivery, taking someone out, or helping resistance fighters take control of an area. The missions are usually not very long, and have a checkpoint system so that you do not have to start from scratch if you happen to die mid-way through. The general mechanics of shooting and driving feel a bit stiff but they work fine after the player gets used to them. There is nothing technically wrong with any of the gameplay elements found here.
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