When the words ‘game’ and ‘World War II’ are mentioned in the same sentence, everyone has a stock image of a first person shooter storming the beaches of Normandy. The Saboteur deviates from this redundant, tired look and lets you feel like a small part of a more rewarding cause. Rather than being a soldier, the gun-for-hire aspect gives the player a greater sense of accomplishment which works exceptionally well during the harrowing scene of one of the most brutal times in recent history.
The Saboteur is set in Nazi controlled France, specifically around the city of Paris not long after the start of the war. Sean Devlin, an Irish immigrant with a sharp tongue and clever wit. As the main protagonist of the game, Sean finds himself facing choices that are difficult and questionable at times, and that there is more to his demeanor than pure simplicity of a cigar in the mouth and a mechanic turned racer. It is hard not to like Sean in The Saboteur at the onset especially with some of the crude and hilarious jokes of the title. Through the course of his missions and the gameplay design, Sean shows that he has ulterior motives for hating the Nazis but has to bide his time. Sean works for various resistance and black market people throughout the story to fulfill his revenge against the Nazis, for which the reasons will remain unclear until well into the introduction chapters of the game. As the story progresses, each characters traits are shown in the full and you are never in any doubt who Pandemic Studios want the player to like and which ones to loathe. The Saboteur provides an incredible time in 1940’s France and makes sure players encounter characters that have their own plans and motives in the world.
One of the main features that was touted for The Saboteur was that the game is in black and white until certain missions are completed which give the locals hope for the future hence the change into colour. There were a lot of skeptics about this, whether it would work or just feel like a gimmick, but it is achieved really well and the art direction really complements the sense of liberation that the player is giving to the people of Paris. The missions themselves are full of variety which is excellent considering the number of main and side missions that are given to choose from. However traveling, either, to the mission starts or the target of the mission feels extremely long and while there is a plentiful supply of cars, some fast travel system would be greatly appreciated. The climbing mechanism, that we have seen in games such as Infamous and Assassin’s Creed, is again used here and while it does not feel as free as Assassins Creed — it is solid and allows scaling the famous structures of Paris with relative ease and efficiency. The driving feels unfortunately stiff but it seems to work because of the amount of times you will be escaping Nazis. The only real downside to driving is the fact that crashing into other cars feels pathetic, but it makes more sense on a chorniclogical note even though it is not realistic.
The main mission structures involve a simple 4 word plan: Easy-In, Hard-Out. The concept works fairly well for the most part as the initial difficulty requires stealth for parts of certain missions and then requires a battling fight to the exit, providing action and adventure in one mission. An entire mission can technically be played out with stealth, but it is not easy. Taking the disguise of a German officer is an interesting approach but becomes frustrating at times due to the A.I. being a bit overdone. On the whole, mission structures work well to support the action and add fun stealth elements to the countless other methods involved in approaching a mission.
A fresh idea was needed for the World War II setting and The Saboteur definitely brings a lot of new ideas to the table. While it recycles a lot of features and ideas seen in other open world games, The Saboteur brings enough new mechanics and styles to make it stand on its own. Parts of the game which are not upto the standards of the rest do not affect the enjoyment you get from playing against the Nazis and The Saboteur ends up being a far better game in the process.