Charming but flawed
Well, I’m so far just around two hours into playing Pandemic’s swansong, and I have to say, it’s been a real thrill-ride so far. They’re well-known for their Mercenaries franchise, and having never played nor even seen those titles, I had little to no context on whether this game was going to live up to my expectations or not. The reason for my high hopes were that if a game ever could fit into a niche market, I think Pandemic did an excellent job in designing one for me. Irish? Check. World War II fan? Check. Action movie fan? Check. Lived in Paris? Bah, oui, bien sûr!
So to put it simply, I have been really looking forward to putting this disc into my 360, and from the moment it loaded, I knew I was in for a good time. The part of me that misses the City of Lights was really looking forward to having the opportunity to cruise around my old haunts, and so I have to say, if you are looking for that, you will be missing out. It’s probably a little more apt to say this is set in a city that is highly inspired by Paris, but it is not Paris. I’ve only taken a limited time with Grand Theft Auto IV, but I think it’s pretty much the same with Liberty City and NYC. It’s not exactly, but you can certainly find places where you’ll feel a little familiar. The general layout is not bad.
The story itself is pulpy as hell, which certainly appealed to me. Many reviewers have enjoyed this slightly lighter approach to the WWII genre, and I am siding with them. This game has done well to see release at a similar time as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Both have a similarly larger-than-life take on the historical setting, and so the movie would be a good barometer as to how you’re going to feel going into this game. Everything is over-the-top, but done in a way which I feel still takes the core subject matter seriously, albeit delivering it wrapped in a very comic book/graphic novel feel.
Speaking of such a feel, the visuals of the game also go a long way to assist in this sort of comic book approach. Visually, there is very much a game-y sense, in that the starting-to-get-tired approach of everything being brown, dirty or gritty ‘real life’ has been eschewed for a slightly cartoony (maybe overemphasised describes it better) style that is also coupled with a visual represenation of which areas of Paris have been occupied by the Germans, in which the occupied sectors are straight black and white with red nazi insignia, while those that you liberate are returned to glorious colour. It makes for a nice feel, particularly while driving from a liberated zone into one which is occupied. The black and white drain gets depressing, which pushes you to further free them up.
Finally then, and most importantly, how is the gameplay? It’s a mixed bag. Driving is not great, but then it rarely is in an open world game such as this. The climbing has gotten bad reports, but I can’t honestly say I’ve run into a problem with it yet. Shooting is a little hard to control, but I think that’s just a matter of getting used to it. Asides from that, it’s pretty good. There’s a perks system that rewards you in various disciplines for tasks carried out in-game, such as killing enemies in a particular way will unlock other, better methods for future missions.
Overall, I think The Saboteur suffers from having other games do what it does a little more succintly, and maybe a little more tidily. But what it lacks in quantitive design, it more than makes up for in sheer gameplay quality. One final thing regarding buying it is that brand-new copies come with a code to unlock ‘adult’ material. This, from what I can guess during my two hours, is some very mild nudity. Anyhow, if you buy it second-hand, this material can be bought from the Marketplace for 240 points.
If what I’ve said appeals to you, I don’t think you should let yourself miss this gaming opportunity. It’s definitely worth up to the mid-thirty mark in sterling. Find it on sale, and you won’t regret it.