Review: The Saboteur (PS3)
Title: The Saboteur
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: December 8, 2009
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
I will always have an affinity for open-world games because of their larger than life maps and unique ability to offer a player the freedom to roam. It has become increasingly difficult for developers to differentiate their open-world games from the genre’s staple series, Grand Theft Auto. The sad truth is that most of these games will go unnoticed because of GTA’s dominance. There are however some stand out exceptions that share the commonality of unique setting and/or interesting gameplay vision. Assassin’s Creed can be successful in the open-world genre because of the tasteful, historic component and entertaining parkour. inFamous can thrive in a freeroam setting with the same idea of differentiation. The Saboteur borrows from the open-world contenders and is able to produce a fresh experience with a great story, captivating dialogue, and a mixed bag of all the elements that make open-world games great.
You play as Sean Devlin, a disgruntled, Irish mechanic who is dealing with the perils of living in Nazi-controlled France. He decides early on that he will become part of the solution, placing his faith in the passion and resources of The Resistance. Sean will no longer sit on the sidelines while the Nazi Generals strut around Paris, striking fear in the hearts of the cowering innocents. He is part of a bigger movement now and for the first time in his life, he has a purpose.
This is the way The Saboteur is set up and it fosters an environment for depth and substance right from the beginning. You aren’t just some grunt immigrant character with an unspecified criminal background and lack of dynamic. The Saboteur is mission-based like GTA and the mini-map works in a similar way as well. Sean is hardened enough for the gun play to be believable and the weapon selection has decent variety. There are obviously many German guns in the game and some over the top, just-for-fun weapons have also been included. The shooting follows the third-person cover based system with an auto-cover mechanic that works surprisingly well. You do not have to press a button to get behind an object; Sean will automatically take cover as long as he is brandishing a weapon. I am glad to say that I rarely experienced a hiccup.
When Sean isn’t tearing Nazis apart with bullets or flames, he is street fighting, scaling buildings, and planting explosives. The hand-to-hand combat is not very deep but is by no means a major part of the game. It does however come in handy in the rare case that you find yourself unarmed. An explanation is not offered as to how Sean is nimble enough to effortlessly scale skyscrapers, but this feature adds a variety of approach to the game. You can decide to steal a Nazi’s uniform and head right through the front door or climb a building and zipline into the heart of a German stronghold.
Many of the missions seem to follow the same formula of; infiltrate, plant explosives/eliminate target, and escape. The game does however manage to avoid repetition by incorporating racing and sniping missions. With Sean’s employment prior to the events in the game being in the race car mechanic field, an emphasis seems to have been placed on driving action. As expected, Sean can commandeer any vehicle with the touch of a single button and riding through the environments is as smooth as can be.
In addition to all of these factors that can provide a change of pace, The Saboteur borrows an idea or two from a stealth game. You can hold down a button to enter “sneaking” mode which makes Sean walk around in a crouched position perfect for stealth kills. Your mini-map has a circular suspicion meter around it which begins to fill up whenever a Nazi sees you doing something out of the ordinary like climbing, running, or shooting. It is a very unforgiving meter and especially frustrating when you are wearing full Nazi garb, only to be discovered for standing too close to an actual officer.
By performing certain feats, you can unlock perks that can help you along your way. Depending on what you do, a player can expect to have getaway car support and/or a Resistance back up team helping to complete a mission. The Saboteur does not lean 100 percent towards any one genre but it works in this setting. Stealth fans may be frustrated that entire missions cannot be completed without making yourself known. Oftentimes, you can only sneak to a certain point before you have no choice but to finally make some noise. Run-and-gun fans will have to get used to holding off on the gun-blazing until they’ve infiltrated far enough. Once these ideas are understood, the game is nothing but enjoyable.
The gameplay graphics in The Saboteur are on par with any other current generation open-world game. During the cinematics though, there are times where I noticed a remarkable level of detail and quality. The character models are especially refined and Sean’s facial features and expressions are near L.A. Noire quality.
When you start the game, most of the world is colorless and the greyscale does wonders for the 1940’s setting. The cabarets belong in the black and white world and the colored parts of the map stand out vividly against their grey surroundings. By far the most breathtaking and rewarding visual part of the game involves restoring color to the world. When you complete a major mission, a Nazi stronghold is destroyed and that section of the map fills with color before your eyes. It is a beautifully crafted visual representation of the Resistance’s path to defeat oppression.
There are a lot of different cultures and ethnicities in The Satoteur and this dynamic leads to several different accents for characters. Your merchant has a heavy Spanish accent, the Nazi’s spout the distinct German tone, your Resistance buddies are French natives, and Sean’s voice has a prominent Irish component. He will often talk about kicking Nazi “arse” in an entertaining manner. The voice acting is good while the music fits the time/setting. Listening to the old tunes can get a little boring or annoying at times but it is historically accurate.
This game is single player only.
The Saboteur is a refreshing entry into the open-world genre that GTA fans would enjoy despite the differences. It finds its place among the crime dramas and offers a unique setting for the events to take place. Being put in Sean’s shoes really gives the player an appreciation for his purpose and the epic missions will send a chill up your spine. If you’re looking to fill that open-world void in your life between GTA’s, The Saboteur can both tame your appetite and offer a new experience in a populated genre.
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