The Saboteur Review

The Saboteur Review

Following the news that Pandemic Studios was recently closed as part of EA’s streamlining program, the developer’s final title, The Saboteur, takes on even more significance. Not simply another open world action title, the game is now officially the last farewell to Pandemic. And the good, or bad, news (depending on how you look at it) is that The Saboteur is a fitting swan song to the developer and is up there with the best games it has made.

That’s not to say there was a huge amount of excitement when the game was announced. A new World War Two action title doesn’t tend to attract too much interest, but what The Saboteur is offering is something a little different – an open world set in World War Two Paris. And kudos to Pandemic for pursuing the idea because the combination actually works very well. Moreover, the developer has also managed to identify the most compelling aspects of open world gaming – a decent central story, an atmospheric game world, vertical movement and solid combat – and built The Saboteur around them. The result is a game bristling with atmosphere and good ideas, but hampered by a few technical issues.The Saboteur tells the story of Sean Devlin (based very loosely on real life race driver and SOE operative William

The result is a game bristling with atmosphere and good ideas, but hampered by a few technical issues.The Saboteur tells the story of Sean Devlin (based very loosely on real life race driver and SOE operative William Grover Williams), an Irish racing driver who, following the death of his friend Jules at the hands of Devlin’s racing driver (and, as it happens, high ranking Nazi) nemesis, demands retribution. What begins as a pure revenge tale soon takes on a greater significance as Sean becomes drawn further into the Resistance partly out of his displeasure for the Nazis and partly due to the debt he feels he owes Jules’ family.

The central story in The Saboteur is, for the most part done well and, while it’s pretty predictable in places, it does throw up the occasional surprise and some interesting characters. We’re particularly fond of posho turbo-slut British Agent Skylar St Claire, if only because she’s got the best porn name since Gusty McFlaps.What the story of The Saboteur manages to achieve is atmosphere and this is reflected in the game’s impressive world design and art style. Despite the presence of thousands of Nazi scumbags, hell bent on world domination, The Saboteur’s Paris is actually a pretty nice place to live. Not only does the game feature many of the famous Parisian landmarks you’d expect to see, it also extends beyond the city showing off some lovely Champagne-

The central story in The Saboteur is, for the most part done well and, while it’s pretty predictable in places, it does throw up the occasional surprise and some interesting characters. We’re particularly fond of posho turbo-slut British Agent Skylar St Claire, if only because she’s got the best porn name since Gusty McFlaps.What the story of The Saboteur manages to achieve is atmosphere and this is reflected in the game’s impressive world design and art style. Despite the presence of thousands of Nazi scumbags, hell bent on world domination, The Saboteur’s Paris is actually a pretty nice place to live. Not only does the game feature many of the famous Parisian landmarks you’d expect to see, it also extends beyond the city showing off some lovely Champagne-

Despite the presence of thousands of Nazi scumbags, hell bent on world domination, The Saboteur’s Paris is actually a pretty nice place to live. Not only does the game feature many of the famous Parisian landmarks you’d expect to see, it also extends beyond the city showing off some lovely Champagne-esque countryside sections. What’s most impressive about the game world in The Saboteur, however, is just how hostile it is. Nazis are everywhere and this is where the game’s art style and the much-vaunted Will to Fight Mechanic comes in.

In sections of the city with a heavy Nazi presence, the game world becomes a stark monochrome vision, decorated with the bold red of Nazi symbols. Oh and their blood, too, because these are the areas in which Sean will need to wreak some havoc in order to persuade the locals to rise up. Once an area has been liberated, it will fill with colour, indicating that Sean will have local support should he have another run in with the Nazis.

This art style lends a heavy dose of atmosphere to the game as do the well-judged jazz soundtrack and the frequently dark tone of the storyline. Without giving anything away, the very final section of the game’s storyline, for instance, drips with style as Sean heads towards the final showdown amid incredibly macabre scenes, brilliantly soundtracked by Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” It’s a real standout moment, a fitting end to the narrative and proof that Pandemic had some serious game.

Related:  The Saboteur 2 was in development according to ex-Pandemic creative director

The way the game plays also adds to the impressive atmosphere in The Saboteur. Not content to create a simple GTA-in-WW2 affair, Pandemic has taken inspiration from other third person titles to add depth to the gameplay. As such, you’ll detect elements of the Hitman and Assassin’s Creed’s games in The Saboteur.Starting with Hitman, there is a good deal of stealth on offer in the game.

Living in an occupied city is no easy task and so Sean will have to be smart when it comes to moving around and causing mischief in the game. The Nazis aren’t stupid (well, at least not totally – more on that later) and certain actions – like walking around with an exposed weapon (wahey!) – will attract some unwanted attention. Initially, you’ll see the yellow suspicion meter rise, giving you a small window in which to sort your shit out, but leave it too long and you’ll find yourself in the middle of an alert. Like in GTA IV, each alert level comes with an escape radius, meaning if you make it outside the perimeter of the alert, you’ll be fine. The best way to stay out of sight of the Nazis is to take to the rooftops and this is where the Assassin’s Creed comparison comes in. Sean, resourceful fella that he is, is also quite the climber and can quickly scale buildings, which can offer some respite from street-level Nazi attacks.

The rooftop gameplay also feeds into the stealth aspect of the game and you soon realize that Pandemic puts a fair degree of freedom into the hands of the player. Even though the game features stealth elements, none of the missions are dependent on remaining undiscovered, so should you balls it up and alert the entire Parisian division of the SS, you can still go ahead and complete the mission. This means you can choose how to approach most missions. For instance, in one mission you’re tasked with taking out a seedy German officer who frequently trawls the red light district. Do you take to the rooftops and snipe him from a distance, or perhaps you charge him all guns blazing, taking on his bodyguards in the process. Or maybe you stealth-kill a nearby Nazi, steal his uniform and get close enough to the Officer in question to put a silenced pistol bullet in his head while the guards aren’t looking and escape unnoticed.

It’s this element of choice and the concept of hit-and-run guerrilla warfare that make the game worth a purchase.  In some open world games, once the main story and side missions are over, you find yourself without purpose. Sure you can hunt down grannies with a sniper rifle but for how long? Because The Saboteur’s Paris is so heavily populated with enemies, you always have a target even when the main missions are over. There are hundreds of freeplay objectives spread all across the game map and the story really only serves as a precursor to your life as a saboteur. In order to liberate the whole city, you’ll need to take out all of the Nazi targets which range from APCs and armour to searchlights and security towers.

After finishing the story I went to my local friendly Resistance arms dealer, bought a silenced pistol, a sniper rifle and some dynamite and embarked upon an immensely enjoyable reign of terror.However, while the core gameplay at the heart of The Saboteur is well-realised, there are a few issues and annoyances that conspire to make the game less enjoyable than it ought to be. The driving mechanic feels a little simplistic when compared to some other open world games and the handbrake function basically becomes a “get around a corner for free” button. However, you will occasionally be grateful for the accessible driving model when the crippling framerate dives start to kick in.

While certainly not frequent, on a few occasions in our time with The Saboteur, the framerate dropped to levels which made gameplay virtually impossible, especially when driving. At times the game feels very rough around the edges and while it threatens to dampen the overall experience, there’s still a lot of fun to be had with the game. It’s hard to be disappointed by The Saboteur as a complete package.

While it’s not exactly technically impressive, it’s undeniably stylish and the variety of gameplay options and the fact that there’s an awful lot to do add considerable replay value. There is also a nice progression system at work, unlocking interesting abilities as you progress through the game meaning there’s plenty of impetus to revisit the game once the single player campaign is done. It’s all testament to the hard work of Pandemic and The Saboteur is a fitting swan song to the developer.

Review by Andy Alderson.

 

While it’s not exactly technically impressive, it’s undeniably stylish and the variety of gameplay options and the fact that there’s an awful lot to do add considerable replay value



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