Take a big open GTA-inspired world, rewind the clock back to 1940, and step into the shoes of an Irish race car driver / mechanic who is also a spy and swears a lot. The Saboteur certainly has a unique atmosphere.
Onto the game experience, my first impressions were not good. I was told I could use a DLC code in my game to get some free content, including “nude girls” and more “hiding spots”. Unsure how important these would be to the game, I curiously opened the game box and dug out the code. Luckily my eyes skimmed the fine print before I tried to enter the code, because it expired a year ago. Now if I wanted it I’d have to pay. Great, timed content designed soley to fuck over late adopters. EA really knows how to impress.
Moving on, the intro to the game itself was a bit confusing. It took me about an hour to grasp what was going on; it’s one of those plots where you start off 3 months into the future, then it takes you back to where things started. The game takes place in France and you’re a spy helping the French Resistance regain power from the Nazis. The gameplay is fun – the first thing I did when unleashed into the world was try and climb everything. Your character Sean is an AMAZING climber, you can climb anything in the game within reach – he’s the fucken Irish Spiderman.
The world is full of buildings to climb and streets to drive around in. The buildings are well designed and often complicated, making it a challenge to find paths to climb sometimes. Usually, though, it’s straight forward: hold up and jump to keep climbing. Sean looks for points of contact, and if there’s multiple, you select them with the analog stick. When not on buildings you can drive around by hijacking cars like any normal open world sim. Funny how normal this has become. The car handling isn’t great, but it’s solid. The cars feel a bit stiff and disconnected from the ground, but they’re easy to maneuver with an exaggerated handbrake and fairly responsive turning. The essential horn button is there, and you have multiple camera views available when driving.
The Nazis patrol the streets, and they act like the “cops”, if you do anything dodgy around them and raise their suspicion, they’ll start shooting at you. Suspicious things include climbing walls, sprinting, and sneaking. People will yell at you like you’re a weirdo if you do any of these things, and you’ll attract attention, which is a nice realistic touch. People actually SEE and REACT to every little thing you do. Of course, blowing something up with dynamite or shooting someone will also get the Nazis’ attention. Once this happens you have to run, either until you get out of sight, or find a hiding spot. Hiding spots are usually high up on rooftops, and if you can get up there while Nazis are shooting at you then you can hide in a little shed area and they all disappear from the radar and forget about you in the blink of an eye. As you progress in the game, the resistance gets stronger and you can fight off the Nazis with help in key areas when you’re in trouble. There’s a great “sports team” community type bond with these people as they stain the streets with blood.
Oh yeah, there’s missions. The great part about these is the freedom you get. It’ll tell you to infiltrate a base, and you have to sneak in and kill a certain person, or blow up something, but it won’t tell you HOW. The game encourages an active imagination, which I love. One mission involved blowing up 3 trucks. It’s hard to do that when they’re moving, since you can’t shoot out of your car. So before alerting the trucks, I slowly hijacked about 20 cars and blocked off the entire road where they would go. Then I blew up one of the trucks, and the other two started moving, but they were sitting ducks as they awkwardly tried to push through multiple layers of cars. Other improvisation can include stealth killing Nazis and wearing their uniform, slowly picking off Nazi guards on towers, or blowing up something random with a dynamite to get the Nazis to look the wrong way. All very entertaining. There was one mission that insisted on stealth to free some prisoners, but I was determined to go in guns blazing. After about 20 deaths from failed attempts, I pulled it off and it felt amazing to do the mission my own way.
Did I mention the developer Pandemic is dead? They were closed down before this game was even released. It’s a shame because this could have really taken off if it had some kind of support and marketing behind it. In a lot of ways, it’s better than the multi-million selling hit Grand Theft Auto 4. It’s a great experience with a unique moody atmosphere, good graphics and fun gameplay with lots of options and freedom. I’ve played about 10 hours and I can’t wait to see what kind of missions are up ahead.