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The Saboteur

Sin City. Grand Theft Auto. Inglorious Basterds. Moulin Rouge. Indiana Jones. Daniel O’Donnell. All these things seem to inform Pandemic’s World War II-set open world kill-’em-up.

It’s German-occupied Paris as a big-budget action movie: explosions, preening Nazi race drivers, base-jumping off the Eiffel Tower and sexy secret agents. By which we mean it’s trashier than a gossip magazine. But that’s not necessarily a kiss of death. A freely-roamable re-creation of 1940s Paris is the game’s heart, soul, star and redemption; a blend of the iconic and (to games, at least) the unfamiliar: a place.

Nominally, Irish racer Sean Devlin is the game’s hero, an unconvincingly accented cheeky chappie out for revenge, who finds himself lending a hand to the French resistance in the process. We’re not convinced he’s as hyper-cool as the developers may think, and he’s upstaged by the streets and sights of Nazi-flecked Paris. Again, this is no bad thing. The more of a cipher he is, the better: no-one wants Sean Connery interrupting their sightseeing tour of this incredible city.

What Devlin does do, is provide the means to interact with this place of gothic spires and looming iron art-towers. He has a repertoire of skills that sprawls far beyond open-world games’ traditional shoot/jump/drive/punch. He’s a man of stealth, a baby Agent 47: sneaking, silent, hiding until trouble passes, and even borrowing uniforms from his victims. Vast swathes of The Saboteur can be conquered without engaging in a direct firefight – it’s a game that wants you to play as you choose. You’ll win stealth-specific upgrades for going consistently unnoticed, for instance.

Whether your preferred form of Nazi humiliation is direct or silent, there’s a vast choice of how to travel to it. Walk the streets, drive a selection of ’40s gas-chuzzlers or traverse the rooftops – Assassin’s Creed is another highlighted member of Saboteur’s complicated family tree. Exploration is the key draw, and if somewhere’s absolutely locked down by the Nazis, it’ll appear black, white and gloomy. But if you’ve caused enough carnage to help the people largely win it back, it’s rendered in over-saturated, almost impressionist colors. Visit one of these locales and you can expect help from the liberated locals, rather than being a badly brogued lone gun.

So The Saboteur’s simultaneously tickling us in all the right places and putting us off with all the boobs and banality of its presentation. It’s hard to judge which element is going to win out, but Pandemic (with the Mercenaries series) have a fine track record of making games that are no-brainer giggles, even if they’re not masters of tasteful, shiny surfaces.

Nov 20, 2009

7 comments

  • JohnnyMaverik - December 2, 2009 3:30 p.m.

    > But it just reminds me of > something else...can't quite > put my finger on it... I know exactly what you mean =/
  • nadrewod999 - November 25, 2009 10:44 p.m.

    I think that, even though Pandemic shut down and supposedly took "Mercs Inc." along with it, I saw a news article saying EA will make sure it is fully developed and published. So yes, there will be some games that will probably never get a sequel (or might get a sequel in a different style by a different company, like Fallout 3, whatever you like best), but at least everything that was started by Pandemic will be finished in a way similar to how Pandemic would have done it.
  • Felixthecat - November 25, 2009 9:08 p.m.

    I love the fact that it has something called WtF which makes areas regain colour. And it means "Will to Fight". But it just reminds me of something else...can't quite put my finger on it...
  • Jordo141 - November 24, 2009 4:12 p.m.

    Too bad it's half Belfast, half intentionally horrible put on accent...
  • breener96 - November 24, 2009 3:54 p.m.

    I can't wait! Stealth, guns! It's like MGS with an Irish guy! That's another thing. I don't know any games where the main protagonist is Irish (unless you count Nina and Anna in Tekken). We're finally being recognised!
  • chester_spartan - November 22, 2009 10:55 p.m.

    Was devastated to here Pandemic shut down :( ill be getting this for sure. Nice lil Pandemic farewell here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2vIgpZVibI Im still going to be sitting in my corner waiting (indefinitely) for Battlefront 3 :(
  • DeadGirls - November 21, 2009 10:37 a.m.

    If this game is Mercenaries 2 in occupied France I will buy it, BUT it has to have co-op, like Mercs 2 did. ReCap: videoed 18-year-old

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