The Saboteur Review
The Saboteur takes place in Nazi occupied Paris with you in the shoes of Sean, an Irish race driver with a talent for scaling buildings, playing with explosives and making life miserable for the Nazis. The open ended play style here works out much as you'd expect: There's a main storyline, side missions to complete, cars to steal and buildings to climb, so you can safely check off all the boxes on your open world check sheet. What really sets The Saboteur apart from most other open world games is the setting of Paris at an interesting time in history. When the game begins there's no sign of the French resistance, the Nazis are terrorizing the citizens and the city is drained of colour. Later as you begin to raise the spirits of the people you'll see less Germans in in the areas you've worked in, colour will return to the world and the people will help you fight or hide from the Germans. This mechanic works very well and you feel like your actually making a difference to the world rather than just grinding through missions.
The missions will take you to some interesting locations beyond just the cities streets and to notable places like the Louvre or sneaking around buildings. Often you have the option to use stealth to complete a mission rather than running in guns a blazin' but sadly the stealth approach is often hindered by the rather erratic AI. There's several ways to go about a stealthy mission and blowing up nearby guard towers and sniper nets before your mission begins can help you remain undetected as well as helping you earn contraband which is used to purchase weapons and upgrades. Getting hold of a silenced weapons and wearing a stolen Nazi uniform can get you far but the guards can get a little too jumpy. Carrying a gun or walking just a little hunched over is a good way to raise suspicion but walking along the roofs of Paris towards a guard tower, standing out of sight and blowing the tower to pieces doesn't register with the Nazis at all and neither does stealing a car and running down all the Frenchmen in sight. Fortunately any stealth is purely optional and there's no missions that you'll fail for being spotted because some grunt guard had eyes in the back of his head. The combat works well for the most part and there is a reasonable selection of weapons and unlockable perks to explore, sadly though combat does have a few kinks. The controls and interface clearly weren't designed with a PC in mind which can cause a few issues when switching weapons and performing some action. The health system also seems a little unfinished, getting shot by a single nearby guard can drain your health very quickly where as being shot at and hit by many guards a reasonable distance away drains little health despite your character jerking around like Peter Weller.
The art direction is one of the most striking things about The Saboteur, viewing the city in black and white with a warm orange glow coming from the windows and the red of the Natzi flags remains a good effect throughout the game, it's a pity that you have to return the world to a mundane art style by helping the French resistance. The script, voice work and the story work well together, and hearing Sean shout "Bollocks!" after falling off a building just doesn't get old, unlike some other often repeated lines of dialog.
The Saboteur is a fun game with many great moments, it's a shame that some parts of the game feel so well executed and others feel so rushed. Should the developers had another few months work on The Saboteur I've no doubt that they could have turned this good game into something great, but as it stands the few glitches in the engine and rough edges hold this game back in a way that can't be ignored.
Originally posted to CitizenGame.co.uk on Dec 9, 2009