The Saboteur is a World War 2 game, yet one that isn’t boring and worn out. Instead of being a first person shooter reliving the same battles again and again, Saboteur is a third person shooter taking place in Nazi occupied Paris, France. Instead of being a member of one of the Allied military’s, you play as a mechanic turned race car driver named Sean Devlin, who joins the resistance against the Nazi’s for reasons motivated by revenge.
During the course of exacting your revenge against the evil Nazi’s, you’re going to blow a lot of stuff up and kill an insane amount of Nazi’s. That’s always fun of course, but doing so doesn’t just advance the story it also liberates portions of France and strengthens the will of the resistance and people to fight back against their occupying oppressors.
The Saboteur uses the Sin City gimmick to showcase the Nazi occupation. Paris isn’t a pretty place; it’s a dreary and terrifying city being occupied, and this shows through because Nazi occupied portions of the world are in black and white. There’s a touch of color here and there, the most striking of which is the red of the Nazi flags that adorn the city streets and buildings. As you work your way around the city blowing up Nazi strongholds and killing guards, color returns to the city, and it’s a pretty good feeling to free the folks from the yolk of Nazi oppression.
The Nazi’s of course don’t like this, after all this is their Pleasantville and you’re the deviant running around painting your filth and introducing color to the world. Unfortunately, the Nazi’s have bad memories, so once you escape them you are free to roam the city without being chased so long as you avoid “suspicious activity.” Once you get away, there’s really nothing better than sneaking up on a Nazi guard, snapping his neck, and stealing his uniform to disguise yourself. Don’t arouse suspicion after doing this though, as you’ll instantly lose your uniform (which is pretty stupid).
The color changing and gimmickry is cool enough, but luckily for The Saboteur the gameplay is good and fluid for the most part as well. I say most part because there are instances where you’ll fight frustration wishing the gun control, targeting, and driving controls were just a little better. Fortunately, these little hiccup instances are few and far between, so just enough to be a minor annoyance sprinkled throughout the game.
As a open-world game, Saboteur features a decent amount of stuff to do. Aside from story missions, there is a mini game, some racing, and some faction missions to spend time working on, in addition to collecting and generally blowing up every thing Nazi related you see. If you’re a completionist, it’s definitely going to take you a good amount of time to 100% do everything. Odds are though, you’ll discover that it just isn’t worth it to spend that much time trying to do ever single little thing to reach that magical number.
Where The Saboteur falls flat is with the missions themselves. There’s some variety involved, but those missions are the exception. Generally speaking, everything you do involves going to point A, getting the mission, driving to point B, and blowing something up or getting into a big shootout. There’s hardly anything to break the repetitiveness of this cycle, but the missions that do are generally much better and a lot more exciting. For example, one mission requires you to blow up (even the exceptions involve blowing something up) a train-track bridge, and to do so you’ll need to plant about six bombs without being detected or letting the alarm sound. This involves a fair amount of climbing and jumping, all while several guards are walking around. This particular mission, as well as the handful of others that beak the mundane cycle, allows you to feel a sense of urgency that makes the game so much better, and you’ll be left wondering why all the missions couldn’t be as fun or exciting.
Luckily, there are several ways to attack any mission. For the Rambo’s out there, you can go in guns blazing and hope for the best. At times, this can actually be the best way to take care of business, but more often than not this kind of style will get you killed. Nazi’s are everywhere after all, and you’ll get killed in these Rambo situations quite a few times without ever knowing where your killer was located. If you find yourself on the losing end of this style of play, regroup and go the stealth route.
Stealth works best when disguised as a Nazi, and it is a much slower style of play. Occasionally, to avoid being detected, you’ll have to stay in one spot for a couple of minutes and then walk, not run, to where you’re trying to get. I generally preferred this method combined with an aerial attack, that is to say running the rooftops and picking off guards whenever I could do so in a sneaky manner. It’s longer, but definitely a more realistic style of play, or at least as realistic as possible in a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And as a general note on the climbing, Sean is no Cole, and certainly not anywhere close to an Ezio, but the vertical element works well enough and is of some value to the game.
The Saboteur is a fun, but ultimately flawed game. It seems in a way incomplete, like a few weeks or another month of polish would have completed the game and made for a better experience overall. This is understandable considering that the announcement of the closing of Pandemic Studios came before the game was released and more than likely did play a role in the game not receiving a little bit more polishing. Despite its flaws and the lack of that last little bit of polishing, The Saboteur is a fun open-world experience that should definitely be played and its really disappointing that Pandemic was closed at all, let alone right before the games release.
For gamers on a budget, The Saboteur can be bought really cheap now and at the price (under $20 on every system at Amazon), it really is a no-brainer. You’ll definitely enjoy blowing up a whole bunch of Nazi’s and Nazi stuff, and liberating Paris from Nazi control, in addition to simply driving around the black-and-white, and colored, portions of the city in some pretty cool vehicles.