Hello all! Last week, I played a crazy crossover game that shouldn’t work, but totally does. And I found I had to grow up to play a Disney game.
This week, I’m checking out this little gem that sadly turned out to be its developer’s last title.
Side note: I couldn’t replay the game originally planned for this week, due to an unforeseen hardware issue with my PSP. Hence, last week’s teaser is totally off. I’ll get it sorted out and write about that JRPG ASAP :)
The Saboteur was the last game developed by Pandemic, a talented studio that developed a lot of cool games (including one AlmightyDuke wrote about last week). They made Mercenaries, one of the most fun titles on the PS2, and they developed the much-loved Star Wars Battlefront games. Most Pandemic games were awesome, is what I’m saying, and it was a pretty big loss when they shut down.
In The Saboteur, which takes place during World War II, you play as Sean Devlin, an Irish mechanic who loses an auto race to one Kurt Dierker, after which Sean and his friend Jules attempt to sabotage Dierker’s car, since he cheated during the race. However, Dierker turns out to be a Nazi Colonel, who thinks Sean and Jules are secret agents. He kills Jules, but Sean escapes, seeking revenge.
The game takes place in Nazi-occupied Paris, as Sean joins forces with the French Resistance. For you, the player, this means driving around and completing missions GTA-style. You’re free to explore the city and take missions at your own leisure. When you decide to undertake a mission, the game’s depth becomes apparent-to a point.
We’ll get to the best part of the game-the color-in a bit.
Thing is, there’s usually a couple ways to complete a mission. Devlin can disguise himself as a German soldier, which is a fun-if somewhat wonky-way to infiltrate a level. See, you get found out if another soldier gets too close to you; this is all helpfully communicated to you in the minimap, so it’s at least a viable option. Shooting your way through is also valid, and Pandemic always knew how to make shooters, so this is probably the way you’ll go. You’ve got a healthy amount of WW2 weaponry at your disposal, and one of the things I noticed-and loved-about The Saboteur is the guns. Specifically, they have great audio-visual feedback, which makes the gunfights exciting rather than just simple point-and-shoots. Enemy A.I. is...there. It’s not an overly difficult game, but it’s a fun one. It’s all very much GTA with a greater emphasis on plot, atmosphere, and shooting. Driving all these old-timey cars is a riot, though.
The aspect everyone who played The Saboteur mentions, without fail, is the game’s use of color. While free zones in Paris are in vivid color, Nazi-occupied areas are in stark, dreary, yet stylized black-and-white. I’m a huge advocate for more black-and-white usage, particularly in games like this. You can see in the screenshot above; it’s not total B&W-that screenshot sums it up. Explosions, windows, and some lights, particularly red ones, are in color. It’s a sharp, contrasting look that I love. I loved it in Splinter Cell: Conviction, but I’m probably alone in that feeling, so.
It’s quite effective to be driving around Paris in color, only for the game to de-saturate into B&W when you cross into bad-guy territory. The game communicates to you that you’re now in enemy territory, stay alert. It’s a much more effective tactic than just popping “RESTRICTED AREA” on the screen, Assassin’s Creed-style. And, it just looks damn cool.
An example of the contrasting looks of the game.
And the other reason I’m writing about The Saboteur? Well, I love the tone, the atmosphere of the game. See, it’s easy to dismiss The Saboteur as yet another WW2 game, sigh. But it’s different. Whereas most WW2 games went for gritty realism, like all the Medal of Honor games-and I like and respect that style-The Saboteur opted for a more comic book/graphic novel aesthetic. Sure, it’s a serious game, and the stakes are high. But there’s less a feeling of war, and more a feeling of adventure throughout the game. Devlin has an everyman quality about him; he’s an ordinary mechanic, out for revenge, and gets caught up in something greater. Plus, he’s voiced by Robin Atkin Downes, and that’s just delightful. His nemesis, Kurt Dierker, is less a Nazi Colonel and more a Nazi Supervillain; he’s maniacal and has a grand way of speaking. The supporting cast is great, too, and they all further the whole graphic novel feel.
The color and art style contribute further. People are more or less drawn realistically, but this is a surprisingly colorful game...when it’s in color. We’re used to (and tired of) drab, muted war-games, so games like this and future Game of the Week Spec Ops: The Line are fantastic exceptions to the (brown and gray) rule. Even that cover art has shades of old propaganda art; the whole game is serious, but fun, rather than just overly serious. Personally, I feel like this helps relate to the player character more.
So yeah, go check out The Saboteur if you haven’t. It’s clunky at times (and the nudity DLC was beyond stupid) but it’s still a fun romp that holds up very well.
Thanks for reading my stuff! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, read more of my stuff at Current Digital, and catch up with my (currently on hiatus) other article series here!
Next week, we’ll check out an NES title that pioneered storytelling in games. Also it’s hard as $&%#.