The Saboteur: review

Just like what happens when your friends try and put on foreign accents at the pub, in The Saboteur, when one of the characters opens their mouths you need to brace yourself for one of four, stereotyped to hell and back, comically terrible noises. Being an Irishman in Nazi occupied Paris who encounters English agents, at times it feels a bit like what Allo Allo would have been like if it was a Guy Ritchie movie.

In The Saboteur you take control of the relatively charmless, agitated Irishman, Sean Devlin, running, gunning and sleuthing his way towards revenge, helping the French resistance along the way. You run around a huge open world accepting missions from people, which usually turn out to be variations of go here, shoot that, rescue this, explode him but despite the very similar goals, each mission retains a rather unique feeling to it. Repetition does not set in too fast and it really helps the pacing of the game.

This may have something to do with the brilliant presentation of it all, using some fantastic graphics magic which leeches the screen of colour in areas under heavy Nazi presence, leaving just the red on the swastika flag and the blue on scarves of resistance members.

A punch in the back of the head, more fun than chloroform

What’s more, when you liberate an area under heavy Nazi control, usually through the medium of explosives, the colour floods back bringing vibrancy and a real sensation of safety with it. It’s a clever effect and really hits home the feeling of how much trouble you are in depending on where you are.

The main thing that seems to come across when playing The Saboteur is the huge influence that other games have had on it. You steal cars, blow things up, assassinate people whilst disguised and clamber around the Parisian buildings as if the world is your climbing frame. This game is the hybrid love child of Grand Theft Auto, Mercenaries, Hitman and Assassin’s Creed which sounds like one kinky gang bang of game mechanics.

The result is a bit mixed. It’s like someone has taken a bread bin and then fitted a grilling element inside for instant toast. Yes it’s a very ambitious idea that might be fun for a little while, but it doesn’t do the jobs you expect particularly well, and will probably cause a fire.

All of the gameplay aspects work, but they just feel a bit unpolished. To start with the cars feel really twitchy and most un-car like, with the vehicle physics being similar to sliding across laminate flooring in your socks at times. They just don’t feel like they have any weight to them, all handling rather identically when it comes to flinging them around corners and crashing into things.

Nothing says 'fun for all the family' like a whore house

Clambering up the side of a building feels nowhere near as smooth as the antics of Altair or Ezio. Once latched on to a surface you have to tap the jump button to scramble up to clingable ledges, rather than just tilting the stick forward to climb. This may seem a bit petty, but it does get a bit frustrating at times when you find yourself mashing the button like it was a Track & Field game just to climb the side of a house.

Climbing things is often handy when you take the stealth option, but this isn’t perfect either. Once you’ve snuck up on an enemy, conked him on the head and stolen his clothes, yes you can get in to Nazi compounds a bit easier, but it also makes you feel a lot more vulnerable. You really need to concentrate on behaving yourself, and that doesn’t just mean not shooting anything. You can’t even run if you don’t want to make your very sensitive suspicion metre go through the roof and bring down the room of Nazis above.

The trouble is that even if you walk everywhere, getting too close will start triggering suspicion far too quickly. You might as well be wearing a ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ shirt and stink of Jameson whiskey the amount of attention you get by pretending to be the enemy. It feels a lot less like infiltration and blending in, but more like hide and seek with a gun fight when you get found.

The real fun kicks in when you start blowing things up, which you will be doing so much of, it would put Bruce Willis to shame. It’s not just in the name of random carnage and destruction either. Blowing up Nazi sniper nests and watch towers means it will be easier to escape in that area next time you get caught, as they stay dead once destroyed, meaning one less pair of eyes to scupper you.

If you decide to glow red you're really asking for it...

Talking of being pursued, The Saboteur has taken a leaf from the GTA IV tree in the way that you must escape a search perimetre on your mini map to call off pursuers. The interesting thing about Nazi law enforcement though is that climbing a building is an offence punishable by hot lead in your back, whereas stealing a Frenchman’s car is nothing more than a fist shake. It makes finding transport easier but does blur the lines on what you then regard as law abiding in the game and what isn’t. It’s a bit of trial and error to find out what gets you shot and what you can get away with.

The Saboteur’s main problem is that it was a bit overambitious from the start. It has a lot of gameplay options in it which are functional and give the player a choice of playing styles. The trouble is that they all feel a bit unfinished and not as smooth as how the similar actions appear in other games. It is a real shame because the game is actually really fun to play, with what must be around 25 hours of gameplay if you want to accomplish everything. It’s just a few hurdles that really stick out which get the game shot in the back, inches before it crosses the border.


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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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