No, not a video game adaption of Hitchcock’s masterpiece (that probably wouldn’t be very good anyway), but a WWII-set third person sandbox adventure game with stealth, action, fast-paced racing and slight RPG elements. Sound good, eh? Well before you jumping on the French Resistance band wagon, be sure to read our extensive review and find out just how the game fares when put to the test. Pandemic are the minds behind the brilliant Mercenaries (the first game that is) and the rather rushed Mercenaries 2, and now The Saboteur is here, bringing us yet another hopeful, rushed and unpolished final product.
The Saboteur puts players in the shoes of flame-tempered Irish Mechanic turned French Resistance fighter Sean Devlin (who is loosely based on real-life war hero William Grover-Williams). After a prank gone wrong, resulting in some hefty torture and a shocking act of unmerciful murder to Sean’s best friend, Sean is left with little more than a strong sense of revenge, and the bollocks to make the man who murdered his mate pay for his crimes. It’s up to take revenge by any means necessary, and if you just happen to get forced into helping the French fight the Nazi war force while you’re at it, then so be it, but don’t lose eyes on the real prize here. A typical revenge story which feels older by the year when so many games seem to rely on it, and coupled with the games clichéd script (which we’ll get to later), we have no more than a heavily clichéd storyline with predictable twists, cheesy one liners and unfleshed characters. The games fate falls back onto the gameplay to keep it alive and well.
And with so many gameplay elements thrown into one package (there’s races, stealth missions, full-frontal assault missions, mini games and more) there is sure to be one or two that don’t quite work right, right? Well in The Saboteurs case, most don’t work very well. There is no doubt that Pandemic weren’t aiming for realism in any of these areas. The stealth is very difficult and disguises are hard to get the advantage out of, with enemies seeing through them like a cling-film covered dressing room at a Burlesque House (speaking of which, purchase a new copy of the game and get a code for private Burlesque dances, a mini game and a nudity patch to remove the little stars off all the women’s breasts).
The action is actually quite enjoyable despite being technically dodgy and very straight forward, which makes the game a kind of guilty pleasure. To further the guilty pleasure outlook, the racing is extremely unrealistic and blunt, yet very enjoyable and fast-paced, not to mention how fun the city of Paris is to run rampant with a large variety of cars from classic race cars to big, tough and unusually fun trucks.
While not in one of the many different missions, you may want to take time out to explore the beautiful city of Paris. You can climb buildings with skills not unlike the recent Assassins Creed 2s protagonist, only a little more...bad. Sure, Sean can jump great distances and climb like a Russian circus performer, but it all just looks and feels so odd. It’s very blocky and you don’t really have much freedom. All the footholds are predetermined and shine white letting you know which one to jump to next. It’s all done with a few taps of A, and while it could have been a great additive, falls short of spectacular. However, even though the climbing itself isn’t great, once you’re up on top of some of those Paris buildings, you have great tactical advantage over your enemies and can make some firefights very fun by raining fiery lead down upon all who oppose you. And call is some allies via the games (very similar to Mercenaries supply drop mechanic) ‘supply drop’ type menu, and you could make any number of German soldiers no more than a fun roadblock for target practice. It’s the freedom of battle that makes this games many, many potential fights very enjoyable and will have you always thinking of new ways to dispatch the enemy. Another mentionable is also the games wide variety of weaponry at your disposal. You will never tire of running rampant with a double barrel shotgun or your trusty Luger pistol. It’s all in a days work for Sean, and while certainly not graphically outstanding or full of award winning gameplay mechanics, it certainly is, as a lot of the game is; a guilty pleasure.
The Saboteur has graphical features for the ages. The games textures and models are superb. Everything looks as it should, be it war-torn and filthy, or luscious and beautiful, as the French countryside should do, even if you are gunning down countless Nazi’s on its green grass. But with good models and textures comes great responsibility (for the developers that is), as you need to back them up with some hard animations and sturdy lip synching. And does it come to a surprise to anyone that that is exactly where Pandemic failed? Most probably not. The lip synching is very dodgy and looks like a half-assed Muppet puppeteer trying to sing with his little monster. Same can be said about the games over all animation, which seems decent during gameplay, but in cutscenes can look so blocky it’s almost saddening.
But put those little indifferences aside, and gaze your eyes on what could arguably be the best art style of the year. Where the Nazis reign supreme, the world is looked at as depressed and dull, and is shown with a very unique black-and-white colour coding, and only a select few things having colour, like lights, fire, and the red Nazi arm bands (a little like Sin City in that sense). But as you complete missions and sabotage enemy strongholds and watchtowers etc, colour slowly starts to come back to the area and when in full blossom, the city is beautiful and resistance fighters can be found at every corner, always willing to lend a helping hand in the fight for freedom. You can even see which areas are still affected by the Nazi war force from half the city away with their frighteningly large zeppelins over head and thick, dark, gloomy and very intimidating clouds that swirl high above the land.
With the Irish, British, French and Germans all bundled into one package, there is sure to be some accents flying around the place. And to say the least, and in the nicest possible way; they suck. It’s almost as if Pandemic wanted to hire an all American cast and watch as they try to imitate with the best of their untrained abilities the accents of the various European nationalities. While funny at times, especially with all the swearing being thrown around the place and cheesy one liners in every conversation, it gets very irritating by the end of the game. In fact, it gets very irritating about an hour in.
Apart from the shoddy voice acting, the script deserves a mention. Not for any particular good reason though, as it’s nothing short of a full book of cheesy dialogue, one liners and bad plot twists. Not bad because they don’t make sense, because they do, it’s just they are so predictable that you end up not caring, and only stay in the game for some enjoyable action like none other.
The Saboteur is surely a game that everyone would enjoy one way or another, but should only be looked into when you’re not strapped for cash, which most of us would be with all these other great titles being released. You will be entertained for a few hours, and may even get addicted to the story once you get the hang of the clunky controls, but if you want a game full of top-notch production value, show-stopping gameplay and realism, then this isn’t for you, but if you can handle a bit of dodgy, well everything, here and there, then you will get your moneys worth out of the Saboteur.
A game that tried to hit every genre with flashy art and variety was destined to be a failure, especially when rushed and made in such a small time-frame. But The Saboteur had a fair go at it, and the result proved to be a clichéd yet enjoyable experience which can best be described in two words; Guilty Pleasure. The game would otherwise be a complete letdown if not for its bad, yet fun gameplay and mature style. The art style is amazing, and should have been saved for something a little more... Substantial. All in all, if you’re starved for games, give this ago, and you might just fall in love.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
- Amazing Art Style and atmosphere
- A guilty pleasure has never been so guilty
- Variety is enjoyable
- Horrid voice acting
- Dodgy animation and lip-synching
- Unpolished and rushed
Reviewed & Written By John Elliott