Posted by: oatmealbear | December 22, 2009

The Saboteur: Review

Guns, explosions, killing Nazis, fast cars, and faster women. If any of these words sparked your interest, then chances are you’ll be interested in The Saboteur, the final offering released from developer Pandemic Studios before being unceremoniously closed by EA. You play as Sean Devlin, former Irish race car driver and all-around badass. Set in the middle of German-occupied France at the height of World War II, the game’s plot centers around a timeless narrative theme—the quest for revenge.  That’s pretty much the depth of the storytelling here.   Mass Effect this is not, but it fits the protagonist, a swaggering Irishman who gleefully fulfills every stereotype ever conceived.  Think Indiana Jones in Paris with TNT and a topless cabaret.

Visually, the game has been deservedly lauded for its clever use of coloring.  Neighborhoods under Nazi control are cast in stark black and white with injections of crimson blood and golden light from streetlamps being the only sources of color.  It’s a dramatic effect that heightens the tension and grandeur of the moment.  Once certain sectors are liberated, the full canopy is unfurled as color is restored.  As far as graphical quality, most textures and models are acceptably sharp, if not overwhelmingly so.  The level of detail given to the bustle of city streets renders a sense of the time period and is appropriately offset by the open rural countryside.  There’s an expansive sense of scale as well, and when you climb a particularly tall building, the panoramic views are impressive.  Yes, you’ll do a lot of climbing and scrambling up and down the sides of pretty much every building imaginable while doing your best Altair impression.  It becomes a tactical necessity later in the game when eluding pursuit and gaining a vantage point over targets.

The Saboteur takes its cues from a variety of predecessors, most notably the GTA series, Crackdown and Assassin’s Creed, and heartily embraces the sandbox gameplay mentality. While you’ll need to complete the primary missions to advance the overall progression, there’s nothing preventing you from sauntering around at your leisure.  There is quite a bit to see and do here: side missions, targets of opportunity, car collecting, and creating general mayhem.  I have an inclination for wandering, so the targets of opportunity, while admittedly repetitive held a unique appeal.  There’s nothing quite like lighting the fuse to a pack of dynamite and scampering away while the debris from a radar tower cascades to the ground. The manner in which you complete many of these missions is technically up to you, as the game creates the illusion of stealth system. In truth, you only have a penchant for “sneakiness.”  You can don German uniforms, use a silenced pistol to plink unsuspecting Nazi’s in the back of the head, and snap a neck here and there but at some point you’ll realize it’s more expedient to grab an MP-44 and start mowing down anything that moves.

If you’re looking for a realistic shooter, this is not for you.  Devlin can literally absorb hundreds of bullets and regenerates health on the move.  I probably died more times from falling from rooftops out of sheer clumsiness than German gunfire.  As the carnage progressively escalates, so does the Nazi response.  At threat level 5, the sweeping volume of Nazi vehicles in pursuit will eventually overwhelm you through sheer numbers.  Nonetheless, the amount of damage you can withstand is extremely forgiving, and if you can simply escape the detection radius, you’re home free.

The AI is a little quirky, occasionally doing random things and is generally very capable of getting itself killed by something as mundane as traffic.  The bugs in the game are not horrific but decidedly noticeable.  Once I bludgeoned a sleepy sentry to death only to have his partner 15 feet away drop dead at the same moment.  I’m that good.  Bodies frequently get launched into the air by explosions and then peacefully remain floating over the street.  An audio stuttering bug also causes the game to inexplicably freeze on exit, and there have also been reports of the game not running with ATI hardware.  Fortunately, I’ve got my trusty Nvidia card backing me up, and Pandemic has reportedly released a patch to fix this particular problem.

The Saboteur retails for $60 on consoles and $50 on PC.  Realistically, I would put the actual value at about 25-30.  It might make more sense to wait for a sale or rent if you’re on a console.

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