In spite of the game’s many obvious shortcomings, we couldn’t help loving – or at least really, really liking – The Saboteur. The story is well-told and well-paced enough to make up for its predictability. The characters are admirable and lovable enough to forgive their awful accents. The style and setting are beautiful enough to hide the lack of depth. The gameplay is diverse and exciting enough to hide the lack of polish.
Still, you can’t finish The Saboteur without wondering if this is what developer Pandemic really intended their finished product to be. Throughout the game, we noticed sloppy glitches such as Sean’s head popping through a car roof, or a Nazi general randomly exploding after we walked by him. Seemingly important characters are introduced, then abandoned by the main story. The protagonist’s mysterious background is repeatedly mentioned, but never fully explored. The Achievement / Trophy for beating the game is called “The Legend Begins.” Heartbreaking.
If Pandemic hadn’t been closed by EA last month, would they have been given more time to transform The Saboteur into something amazing? Or given the chance to make an amazing sequel? We’ll never know. As far as swan songs go, though, The Saboteur is a high note.
Okay, we can’t end the review without touching on this already infamous DLC. If you buy The Saboteur new, you’ll find a code inside that unlocks topless women and a secret underground club filled with more topless women, as well as burlesque shows, a knife-throwing minigame, the chance to win a bonus car and the even greater chance to see Sean get drunk and pass out.
If you buy the game used or borrow from a friend, however, you’ll have to pay an additional $3 on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network to unlock the Midnight Show content. Are one car, one minigame and some extra breasts worth three bucks? We can’t decide that for you, but we can provide a video of the underground club to show exactly what you’ll be downloading / missing.
GTA IV? No. We did enjoy playing an unequivocally good guy in an open-world game for once, and murdering stereotypically evil Nazis is much more satisfying than slaughtering random, stereotypically ethnic gangsters. Liberty City dwarfs The Saboteur’s Paris in size, depth and detail, however, and GTA IV is – without a doubt – the more refined and fully realized game.
Assassin’s Creed II? No. Both games recreate a past time and a specific place, but the developers of Assassin’s Creed II obviously did a ton more research. Their virtual Italy feels like a real place, starring real historical figures and supported by real historical footnotes. The Saboteur opts for a fun, yet super silly, fantasy version of WWII France instead. Plus, the climbing isn’t nearly as intuitive.
Mercenaries 2? Yes. Pandemic Studios developed this sandbox game, too, and the play style is noticeably similar as a result. We preferred The Saboteur’s bright urban landscape and innovative visual style to Mercenaries 2’s sprawling wilderness and gritty “xtreme”ness, but then again, the latter’s got boats and helicopters. Oh, and lots of bugs. Yeah, we’ll go with The Saboteur... it may not be polished enough, but it’s definitely more polished than its predecessor.
The Saboteur is a charming mess. Yes, the unpolished gameplay can be frustrating and, yes, the storytelling can be silly. But as soon as we drove through the gorgeously stylized Paris – then jumped out of our nitro-fueled racecar to snap a unsuspecting Nazi’s neck – we didn’t care anymore. For us, the good overwhelmed the bad.
Dec 8, 2009