I’ve broken out of my “Gamer’s Block” in a big way; all it took was a hardcore gaming session, a brilliant (though overlooked) game, and hundreds of dead Nazi’s. Pandemic, prior to it’s closing, released The Saboteur in 2009. It bolsters an honorable metacritic score of 73, but personally, the game is much better than the score indicates.
You play as Sean Devlin, an Irish racecar driver, who is out to avenge the death of his best friend, murdered by an evil S.S. Corporal who also races cars in his spare time. The game takes place in Nazi occupied France during World War 2 and the map layout is similar to that of the Grand Theft Auto series. As you progress throughout the game, you will meet multiple members of the resistance, all begging for your help to rid France of the disgusting Nazi-swine.
Each area of occupied France lacks color – that is not a metaphor. While the Nazis control a sector, the game will be presented in various tones of black, white, and gray. As you fight for control, save citizens, and sabotage Nazi establishments in these zones, color will eventually return which indicates that the french civilians have regained their hope and are fighting back.
While not groundbreaking, the game certainly delivers. The draw distance isenormous, the lighting is decent, and the shadowing is everything you would expect from a game developed in 2008-09. Weather effects are apparent, with rain occasionally dampening (HA!) the scenery. And the day/night cycle is seamless. You won’t be mesmerized by breathtaking visuals, but neither will you be disappointed.
Setting a game in 1940′s France is a difficult task; there are so many european accents that have to be included for multiple characters, it can be easy to destroy a player’s immersion with one bad voice-actor. Thus far, I haven’t witnessed that. The NPC’s speak with appropriate accents and your character’s Irish dialect is spot-on. From small, in-combat quips like “Oh Shite! I’ve sprung a leak!” to full cutscene monologues, “Tell the bastard to kiss my arse”, your character is realistic and, surprisingly, not over-the-top.
The weapon audio is also accurate — bolt-action rifles, machine guns, pistols, even melee combat was developed with intense scrutiny.
The controls are easy to use, which in a game that uses multiple button-presses, saves frustration. As expected, left and right trigger are your “aim down sights” and “fire” buttons, respectively. LB is your “sneak” and RB will toss a grenade, if you have any available. X and Y do multiple attacks, each depending on whether your sneaking, walking, or even facing/behind your enemy. B will put your weapon away — as a member of the rebels, you can’t go walking around with your weapons out without casting enormous amounts of suspicion!
This is where the game shines, the multiple aspects of gameplay available to players. Story missions, side missions, and hundreds (possibly THOUSANDS) of mini-objectives pepper the map.
Ala Grand Theft Auto, Story missions and Side missions are indicated on your map with a square block, each unique to an NPC that will give you a particular mission. Normally, these NPC’s are at rebel “bases” or safehouses, and each of these locations is flanked by a garage and a black market dealer. The garage allows you to grab any car you’ve already parked (at any garage) and the black market dealer allows you to buy new guns, refill ammo, or purchase new perks (more on that in a bit).
The perk system adds a spin on the game that has been unseen for this type of genre. As you complete particular objectives (indicated by each perk), you will unlock another tier of a particular perk that will help you even further. For instance, under Brawling, if you knock out 2 Nazis, you unlock a Haymaker attack. If you then stealth kill 10 Nazis, you unlock a Sucker Punch attack. Finally, if you stealth kill 5 Generals, you unlock Grim Reaper, which is a “touch of death” attack, or a 1-shot melee kill. These perks range from combat to driving to decreasing sniper sway. It’s in every player’s best interest to maximize their perks as soon as possible.
Now, every player knows that Nazis are the worst of the worst — they kill without remorse, they’re mean, ugly, and cold-hearted. So we kill them. However, doing so doesn’t come without consequence. If you’re spotted openly engaging Nazis or even driving through their checkpoints without providing your “papers”, they may raise the alarm and give chase. As you kill more and more, the alarm level will increase until, at alarm level 5, you cannot outrun the “area of alarm”, and are forced to find one of the very limited hiding places available in the game. This adds a danger element and risk/reward system to most players blatant disregard for authority.
Finally, I need to discuss the “free-roam objectives”. Each zone has an enormousnumber of “nodes” that represent a free-roam target for the player. It could be a Nazi-controlled sniper tower that you have to blow-up, or a package of contraband that you have to collect and sell. Each one is used as a “getaway” from the main story, and offers up some intense combat or hilarity, depending on how you decide to dispatch the enemy.
I love this game. For whatever reason, I missed it upon release in 2009, and for that I’m sorry. I’ve spent about 14 hours playing and I’m less than 50% done with the story, and less than 5% done with the Free Roam Objectives. I expect to sink 35 to 45 hours into this game, and I can’t see myself getting bored any time soon. You can purchase this online at most retailers at a discounted $30 or less, however I found a site selling used copies – because the development studio is closed, I feel it’s ok to buy used in this instance — and you can purchase it for $8 by clicking HERE.
$30 would be a good deal, but at $8.00, this is a MUST HAVE GAME. In 2009, I’d have ranked this game 8.5/10, today, even with the advances we’ve had since then, I still rate this a 7.75/10. Great Game.