Published on October 31st, 2009 | by prime0
This isn’t the World War you might be used to fighting though. No, The Saboteur is something very different indeed. You take the role of a hard-drinking Irishman called Sean Devine, a man with an eye for the finger things in life. Well, drinking, girls and cars anyway. Devine is a former racing driver – based on the real racing driver turned saboteur William Grover Williams, incidentally – who, after the murder of his best friend by rival driver and Nazi Kurt Dierker, decides to take the war into his own hands, and sets about liberating Paris from its German occupation. All. On. His. Own.
Unlike almost any World War 2 game you’d care to mention (and we could mention a few), The Saboteur is not a first-person shooter. It is, in fact, an open-world riot set against the backdrop of one of the most cultures and recognizable cities on the planet. And Pandemic’s Paris is clearly a labour of love – this is much more than bricks, mortar, as Tom French explain…
“We knew we didn’t want to do a 1:1 scale version of Paris. We were more concerned with capturing the spirit of this amazing city. We also wanted literally every block in the game to have something for the player to do, so even with our scaled-down version there’s a ton of content to explore and discover.”
The Saboteur cityscape is a reverential approximation of all the landmarks you’d expect, from L’Arc de Triomphe to Sacre Coeur and even the Eiffel Tower. Yes, up the Eiffel Tower. You see, The Saboteur isn’t just about exploring Paris by road and field, as you’re totally free to climb any structure you can look at.
It all helps with the actual business of usurping the Nazi regime in the city. Sean gets himself “in’ with the Resistance, rapidly turning from washed-out racing driver to full-time saboteur and everything that encompasses, from gunfights to driving to full-blown infiltration. And if there are a few explosions along the way, no-one in The Resistance is about to complain.
One mission that EA kindly placed under our diligent control involved entering a Nazi stronghold beneath the cover of an SS Officer’s uniform – you can steal clothes to aid your mission. It was a fine example of all of The Saboteur’s gameplay styles wrapped up into one neat set piece. The task began with a slow drive up to the gates, making sure not to accelerate too quickly, so don’t raise the guard’s suspicions. After sneaking into the stronghold itself – again making sure to act as if Sean ’belonged’ there – was only one solution left… these Nazis were going to have to die.
The Saboteur plays it safe when it comes to gunplay – opting for a Gears Of War style pop-and-shoot system that plays to the strengths of the engine. Sean is actually ‘sucked’ into cover whenever you prop yourself up against it, making for a pleasingly seamless segue between standard clambering and full-on-firefights the animation, too, is up to scratch, with enemies reacting comically to a torrent of gunfire, and there’s a daft amount of claret on show, as if to reinforce the pulpy nature of the story.
So, with tens of Nazis pouring towards Sean in this heavily guarded stronghold, there was only one way to escape – up. After dispatching another brigade of troopers, we began to scale the stronghold in order to carry out our ultimate goal, stopping a Zeppelin from launching into the Parisian skies. Climbing works much like Assassin’s Creed – there are obvious handholds and ledges on almost any vertical wall you can see, and the skill and satisfaction comes from the negotiation of the environment – analyzing the world as a three dimensional space calculating the fastest way to the top. This applies to all the climbable structures in the game, even the Eiffel Tower.
Once we hit the top, one of The Saboteur’s more visually impressive moments kicked in, as Sean worked his way through a burning Zeppelin before it hurled towards the ground. Pandemic has expressed its desire to give players genuinely memorable moments throughout the story, citing other open-world games as lacking variety in their single-player missions. From this evidence, Tom French and his team have certainly achieved that. A pulpy, Indiana Jones-inspired war game that actually lives up to its promise? The Saboteur’s sounding more and more appealing with every passing day.