The Saboteur review

  • Color, or black and white. Paris is stunning in both
  • Finally playing the good guy in an open-world sandbox
  • So many nasty Nazis to kill in so many nasty ways
  • Gameplay - especially stealth - can be frustrating
  • Forced gratuitousness
  • The slight unfinished feeling. RIP, Pandemic

“Jack of all trades… master of none”

The phrase above borders on cliche. The phrase above has been leveled at GTA and GTA clones for nearly a decade now. Yet the phrase above so perfectly summarizes The Saboteur’s gameplay – both good and bad – that we can think of no other way to begin discussing it.

Here’s a list of everything Sean Devlin can do:

• Shoot Nazis with the usual arsenal of pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers.
• Sneak up behind Nazis, breaking their neck or pounding the back of their head for an instant stealth kill.
• Disguise himself in various Nazi uniforms in order to access restricted areas and avoid confrontation.
• Hide, or blend, into safe spots when the Nazi alarm has been triggered.
• Climb buildings, run across rooftops and zipline between towers.
• Plant timed explosives in order to sabotage Nazi installations spread across the city: tanks, artillery, radar stations, etc.
• Hijack, then use your garage to collect, any car you see on the street, including Nazi jeeps and motorcycles.
• Race competitively through Paris and the surrounding French countryside.

So that’s Grand Theft Auto, Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed, Hitman and maybe even a little Red Faction: Guerrilla… all rolled into one game. In theory? Awesome. In reality? Where a single design team can only do so much with so much money and so much time? Well… still pretty cool, but not as awesome as you’re probably imagining.

The Saboteur’s biggest flaw is that it tries to do too much and, as a result, ends up doing too little. The game borrows the best ideas from the best competitors, but then fails to execute them as masterfully. The shooting is not as fun as GTA’s… Sean can’t lock on to his targets, or easily aim for specific body parts, while the blood is cartoony and the weapons lack oomph. The stealth is not as effective as Splinter Cell’s… once in disguise, you literally just hold down the “walk like a Nazi” button and move carefully around annoyingly sensitive alert radiuses. The climbing is not as intuitive as Assassin’s Creed’s… you have to hit the same button over and over again to move upwards, and Sean’s jumping animation is laughable. Finally, the explosives are not as satisfying as something like Red Faction’s… you can destroy specific targets on the map, but the environment as a whole is not destructible in any way.

Perhaps these comparisons are unfair, but when a game like this is so clearly inspired by others, they’re hard not to make while playing. Each of the described activities is certainly implemented well enough to be entertaining enough; we just wish the design team had limited their ambition and focused on perfecting a few less.

Stealthy vs Shooty

Something The Saboteur does better than the majority of its competition, though, is provide you with choice. Games are constantly promising that players can tackle missions from any angle, and in any manner, but here is one that actually delivers. Of course, you may only discover this truth by dying in frustration so many times that you try a completely different strategy out of sheer desperation… but it’s a truth nonetheless.

Above: That’s one option… 

Remember that book-burning general, for example? He’s surrounded by security, but otherwise out in the open. The first time we completed the mission, we stole a Nazi uniform , crept carefully past every guard, planted a bomb on the general’s tank and then triggered the explosion once we’d snuck back out. The second time, we simply sniped his head off from the street. Later, when the game asked us to destroy a base full of radar stations, we originally – and secretly – planted sabotage bombs on every building, running away and returning when things got too hot. It took an hour. Then we reloaded and hijacked a nearby artillery gun instead; it reduced the base to rubble in mere seconds.

Above: Here’s another 

The Saboteur isn’t always clear with mission instructions, which can be frustrating, but this is why. You make up your own instructions.

The completionist’s dream (and nightmare)

Like any open-world game, The Saboteur also gives you plenty of side stuff to tackle between story missions. There’s a perk system that rewards you for hitting certain milestones (like running over 20 Nazis with a vehicle) or encourages you to attempt new daredevilry (like assassinating 5 Nazi generals while in disguise). Succeed and you’ll receive extra cars, extra weapons, extra gadgets and extra skills. Our favorite is the “touch of death.”

There are also bonus “freeplay” objectives – enemy installations that can be destroyed at any time – scattered everywhere across the map. Driving to your safehouse and notice a propaganda speaker? Jump out, plant a bomb and drive away. Snatching a sniper’s uniform in the middle of a larger, more important mission? Set a charge on his tower’s ladder on the way down and – bam – you’ve taken care of another one.

Blowing these things up is addictive as hell… at least until you realize the sheer, overwhelming, ridiculously stupid number of them.

Above: Yup, all of those white dots are “freeplay” objectives. And that’s not even the whole map!

More Info

Release date: Dec 08 2009 - PS3, PC, Xbox 360 (US)
Dec 04 2009 - PS3, PC, Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Pandemic Studios
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:


  • allstick - July 22, 2010 4:32 a.m.

    Finally got around to playing the game. Loved it. Your review was dead on. Loved that too.
  • Jason.Darksavior - March 14, 2010 2:26 a.m.

    It's pretty fun but after a while, I couldnt be bothered to finish it.
  • CreeplyTuna - February 28, 2010 5:46 p.m.

    sooo much better than gta 4 cuz its acually fun
  • Godstrike3020 - December 18, 2009 11:04 p.m.

    well i didnt think this game looked good but now i feel stupid for my self
  • AssBurgersFTW - December 15, 2009 12:18 a.m.

    the nudie mod is free on PC
  • narutofreak1 - December 14, 2009 10 p.m.

    wow that certainly looks like a good game... gonna have to get it soon...
  • Persona - December 13, 2009 4:13 p.m.

    Someday EA will be attacked by the other game publishers. And Pandemic will rise again to develop the game with fully destructible EA headquaters. Mercenaries 2 was pretty fun despite bugs. And the "A city worth fighting for" really stole the cake for me. It's like watching a painting come to life.. which is something memorable.
  • AndyGiff93 - December 12, 2009 11:55 p.m.

    Nice review You helped make my mind up I shall buy it after christmas
  • gatornation1254 - December 12, 2009 1:37 a.m.

    I think I might have to pick this up after Christmas. It sounds entertaining at least.
  • Skykid - December 9, 2009 9:35 p.m.

    I'll miss Pandemic so much. They made Star Wars Battlefront I & II. EA should go to hell for axing them. Sabotuer looks awesome. Looks like a possible Christmas gift.
  • TheIronMaiden - December 9, 2009 8:38 p.m.

    hmmm might pick it up just for sheer amusement. Sounds like a good change of pace from the normal run and gun style WWII games.
  • Romination - December 9, 2009 7:34 a.m.

    I really have no idea how Pandemic could be ANYONE'S favorite developer....But them closing probably made this much difference: None. It was just a few weeks ago, the game was probably already being printed by then. Anything they added in wouldn't have been much. The game was gold. Then they closed.
  • Amatarasu - December 9, 2009 5:42 a.m.

    WTF?! Pandemic got canned? noooo, they were my favorite developer!...well second to valve, but i'm not talking about them! 2009 sucks!Nukem, Billy Mays, now pandemic!? WHY!!!
  • joel2211 - December 9, 2009 4:27 a.m.

    Im playing the game now and I personally think it is a good game. Something about going up to an enemy sniper tower and planting dynamite on the ladder and walking away while it blows is pretty fun. I suggest you guys and gals get it
  • CH3BURASHKA - December 9, 2009 3:25 a.m.

    I hate how their last advertising push was all about boobies. It waters down the tone of the game even before I've played it. For shame. And no, I'm not gay or something: I have porn, and I have games. I don't need both in one.
  • Metroidhunter32 - December 9, 2009 2:46 a.m.

    Hm. Mayhaps not a purchase, but a rent if I get the time. And they may go to church but they go with the girl in a boob tube. Not exactly sunday best. BTW, best recaptcha ever: Rudolph dolls
  • Samael - December 9, 2009 2:20 a.m. point better than most reviews I've seen so far, everybody's giving it 7's. I'll rent it for sure.
  • lovinmyps3 - December 9, 2009 2:12 a.m.

    This is a maybe for me. I really appreciate style and it looks like this is just oozing with it. "You'll hate: Gameplay" lmao
  • chairmanofthebar - December 9, 2009 1:35 a.m.

    I was part of a market research focus group for this game about 3 and a half years ago. I kept wondering what the heck ever became of it. I don't know what the main villain ended up looking like, but when they showed us what they had back then, he looked so much like M. Bison from Street Fighter, it was hilarious.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - December 8, 2009 11:36 p.m.

    @sledgehammer70 You're right about the DLC price, so that'll be corrected promptly. Last week they were saying 400 MS points ($4.99). Thanks for the catch!

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

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