The Saboteur (PlayStation 3) review
"The Saboteur is an excellent game. That said, it seemed like someone might have snuck into the game studio before mass production and sabotaged the project before it was released. The otherwise excellent ideas and aesthetic styles clash with an overly simplistic gameplay system and a plethora of glitches. "
The Saboteur is an excellent game. That said, it seemed like someone might have snuck into the game studio before mass production and sabotaged the project before it was released. The otherwise excellent ideas and aesthetic styles clash with an overly simplistic gameplay system and a plethora of glitches.
The Saboteur follows the story of Sean Devlin, the typical streetwise, trash talking badass with a penchant for alcohol, fast cars and faster women. Inspired by the real life tale of William Grover-Williams, Devlin starts the game as a mechanic-turned race car driver. When the Nazis end up cheating and ruining Devlin’s race, he and best friend Jules decide to destroy the Nazi race car. Things quickly go pear shaped, and Jules is quickly tortured and killed, while Sean manages to escape. Sean retreats to Nazi occupied France, where he is quickly recruited by a local resistance leader, named Luc. To complicate matters, ex-girlfriend Skylar is thrown into the mix, and she is quickly revealed to be a British secret agent. Working within this circle of contacts, Sean sets out to take his revenge on the Germans and liberate Paris.
The Saboteur takes several cues from uniquely styled movies, such as Schindler’s List, or Sin City. The game is notable for lacking color in areas controlled by the Nazis, while areas controlled by the French resistance are in full color. In areas that are grayscale, notable objects such as certain clothing items, or Nazi equipment, are unique shaded vibrantly. This stylistic theme gives The Saboteur an artistic flare that not many other games have attempted. The Saboteur manages to pull it off successfully, and playing the game while taking in the almost film noir environment is a treat in itself. The oppressive black and white of Nazi occupied France really helps emphasis the bleakness in the air, while still reminding the players through Hollywood theatrics that the game takes place in the 1940s.
The back the atmosphere, The Saboteur obviously makes use of other theatrical liberates in order to emphasis model, even if it means sacrificing some of the realism of the era. For example, many of the Germans carry the StG. 44 and the MP40 SMGs, both of which never became standard issue. However, these weapons are often seen used by Nazis in movies, and they’re liberally sprinkled throughout the game. The Nazis in the game also deploy hundreds of airships, which never happened during World War II. However, the airships serve as more than just eye candy; they’re a tool that the Nazis can use against Sean, should he ever attract that much attention. The soundtrack of The Saboteur is fantastically tasteful; however, several of the songs were recorded in the 1950s. Finally, all the characters in the game are classic Hollywood stereotypes: the academic Frenchman as a resistance leader, the overbearing British secret agent, the turncoat German who is easily likable, all of these contribute to the feeling that the player stars in some kind of Tarantino movie instead of playing a game. What The Saboteur lacks in realism, it makes up for in spades in style.
Despite all of this refreshing creativity, The Saboteur really doesn’t do much of anything new in terms of gameplay itself. It is basically the average sandbox game, which throws the player into a living environment, full of civilians, Nazis, many vehicles and locations. The player can choose to go wherever he or she would like to, and the story missions do not have to be completed until Sean goes to meet a certain contact. Sean can also traverse through the rooftop areas of Paris by utilizing parkour techniques to gain an advantage over the Nazis. What sandbox game would be complete without extracurricular activities to do while not on a mission? In this regard, The Saboteur both excels and fails miserably. Apparently when the Nazis entered Paris, they brought most of Germany with them. That means that every block has several targets that Sean can destroy, shoot, blow up, and otherwise vandalize. Not only does this give Sean contraband (or money) in which to purchase weapons and ammunition, it also helps reduce the Nazi presence in the neighborhood in question. In terms of the sheer amount of things Sean can destroy, The Saboteur should be hailed as an achievement. In terms of the variety of things Sean can destroy, however, The Saboteur quickly gets stale. Armored cars, speakerphones, sniper towers and anti aircraft cannons make up the majority of things Sean will encounter, and most of the other unique objects to destroy are encountered only during missions. This means that destroying the optional Nazi targets quickly becomes a mundane chore, an endless stream of towers for Sean to climb onto and plant a bomb on, or line of megaphones that Sean has to shoot. The lack of variety really takes away from any kind of enjoyment reaped from destroying the German equipment.
This brings The Saboteur to yet another problem. The amount of optional tasks Sean has to complete is completely unbalanced with the number of tasks he has to complete. When the main story missions, as well as the optional side missions are factored in, Sean actually still doesn’t have that many tasks he has to perform. This means that all the missions could be completed in much less than 7 hours, leaving hundreds of objects just lying around for Sean to blow up. This quickly becomes boring, since there is literally nothing else left to do except destroy Nazi equipment. While this might have been exciting during the course of the missions, it seems almost pointless after the missions have been completed. This is due to the fact that there was a false sense of achievement at whittling away at the enemy during the course of the story, which is completely removed once the story has been completed.
It may have been much more interesting had The Saboteur had more depth in terms of the way the game works, but the controls are very simplistic and leave little to the imagination. Very early on, the game makes sure you know the limits of what Sean can do, and what he cannot do, ensuring that there really won’t be much experimenting going on throughout the game. That said, there really isn’t anything wrong with the way the game plays, it just seems very simplistic for a game of The Saboteur’s depth. Glitches, such as the sound cutting out, or bullets suddenly not doing damage, are rampant throughout The Saboteur, and often rudely interrupt otherwise enjoyable mission sequences. While these aren’t glitches that render the game completely unplayable, it is inexcusable in a game with such great atmosphere. Screen tearing is also frequent is Sean ever decides to take to an anti aircraft gun to shoot down some Nazi airships. It is almost as if the glitches are there to reminder the person playing the game that they are indeed, playing a game.
It truly is a shame that a large amount of glitches and overly simplified gameplay ruin an otherwise fantastic experience. Although somewhat lacking in terms of replayability, the duration of the main story and optional stories is worth experiencing, not to mention the unique artistic style that the game brings to the table. With fantastic music, visual style and playful references to other works based in World War II, The Saboteur is a treat for those who are a fan of entertainment involving the era. Hopefully the next time someone tries something so unique, it won’t be a sabotaged effort.
Community review by Probester (January 10, 2010)
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