Listener Game Review – The Saboteur

saboteur_logo Another listener review! Stop from TheStoppableForce blog has sent us in this great review of the recently released game, The Saboteur. Take a read and leave a comment on your experiences with this game.


Story

You are Sean Devlin, Irish race car mechanic turned race driver, just before the German invasion of France. Sean loves the good things in life – hard liquor, fast cars, and faster women – but when a prank in retaliation for a fixed race goes wrong and the Nazis kill his best friend, Sean finds himself down on his luck in a Nazi-occupied Paris.

Through chance, Sean is recruited by the French Resistance, and has only one goal in mind: make those Nazi bastards pay for killing his friend, by doing what he does best – blowing @#$@ up. Along the way, Sean meets a variety of characters in the Resistance, while evading the SS and keeping the people he loves safe and alive.

Gameplay

saboteur_screenshot_1 The Saboteur steals some of the best elements from other games and combines them into one solid whole. You’ll find suspicion meters like Assassin’s Creed, stealth and infiltration elements like Metal Gear Solid, driving elements like Grand Theft Auto (specifically GTA: San Andreas), and third person combat with a cover system like a stripped down … well, any of the above. The combination is very satisfying, but some of the elements could use some tightening up.

For example, the driving – one of the most-called out elements of the game. The cars perform decently well, and anyone who’s played GTA: San Andreas will recognize the driving system; however, there’s not a lot of differentiation between the cars besides top speed and the occasional cannon, and anytime you’re in a tank, it handles about as well as trying to drive a slippery piece of bologna controlled by two strings across the tundra in January. (It’s still better than Mass Effect 1′s Mako, but not by much.)

The suspicion/alarm meter is another element that isn’t QUITE as good as the games it’s cribbed from, namely Assassin’s Creed. Sometimes it’s far too easy to do suspicious things and NOT around suspicion, other times it just seems how unrealistic it is to not be suspicious just because you’re five feet away from a dead Nazi wearing his uniform instead of six feet away in your ordinary clothing.

If you accept that the elements of The Saboteur are not as fully-fleshed out as the games that originally spawned them, though, you’ll find yourself having quite a good time. One thing that does work very well are Perks. These should be familiar to anyone who’s played the Modern Warfare series of games, and they work much the same way. Blow up enough Nazi outposts, you get to carry more dynamite.

Blow up the REALLY good stuff, and suddenly planting explosives while wearing a Nazi uniform doesn’t raise anyone’s suspicions.

The actual structure is pretty typical for an open-world sandbox game:

you have mission-based gameplay, interleaved with things to do on your own. It’s up to you whether you want to go perform some missions for the French Resistance, or just go out and find a village occupied by the Nazis and blow up their radar towers and gun emplacements.

Completing missions or blowing up what the game calls ‘ambient freeplay targets’ – radar towers, tanks, fueling stations, and so on – yields contraband, the currency of The Saboteur, which you can use to purchase new guns, upgrades, and more.

Presentation

saboteur_screenshot_2 The most-hyped element of The Saboteur’s presentation has to be the black and white game world, and it lives up to its expectations. You won’t see it right away (you get a brief glimpse during Sean’s first mission, then lose it during the entire playable flashback sequence that follows), but it’s pretty great once you do, and effectively sets up the "film noir" feel of The Saboteur. In areas of Paris still heavily occupied by the Nazis, the world is shown entirely in black and white, except for primary color elements – the red of Nazi armbands or spilled blood, the yellow of light coming out of an upstairs window. In these areas, the citizens of Paris are oppressed and hopeless, and Nazi patrols are more numerous. Through the story and side missions, Sean will inspire the people of Paris, returning color to the city and encouraging them to fight back. If he gets into a scuffle with an SS officer in these areas, he can usually count on the people to step in and throw a punch or two as well.

The soundtrack is made up of period-appropriate jazz and big band numbers, and help immerse you in the wartime Paris setting of The Saboteur. It’s a mix of original pieces composed for the game as well as licensed music, and it is completely criminal that EA has not made this soundtrack available for sale. Many of the new pieces are just as good, if not better than, their licensed counterparts, and you’ll hear them everywhere – from driving a car to getting a burlesque show in the basement of La Belle Nuit. It’ll get stuck in your head, even if you’re not a fan of the music in question.

Speaking of La Belle Nuit, this is definitely not a game for kids. The Saboteur earns that M rating, with lots of blood, foul language, alcohol use, and – if you’ve got the Midnight Show downloadable content installed, which every copy of the game comes with a code for nudity as well. It’s never gratuitous, though, and it really enforces the ‘booze, broads, and murder’ attitude that Sean exemplifies.

Summary

There’s a lot to like about The Saboteur. If you felt like picking apart each piece of the gameplay, yes, there are flaws. However, taken as a whole, it’s a fantastic example of how to do an open-world game well, and it’s worth at least renting just to see the style and try it out for a while. The characters, no matter how rough around the edges, are likable. The missions never get monotonous, which can make or break an open-world game like The Saboteur. I highly recommend you check it out ASAP.

About MikeH

Gamer/Podcaster/Blogger - Mike, who is also known as Fimlys in the WoW community, is the Author of Asleep at the WoW Blog ( http://aatwow.fimlys.com ) and Co-Host on the Twisted Nether Blogcast (http://www.twistednether.net ) and HotsCast a Podcast about Heroes of the Storm. He also produces Polygamerous and does the web maintenance. An avid gamer, he's played since his parents first bought him an Atari 2600.. Back in the stone-age...