mikeinsc's The Saboteur (Xbox 360) review

Overly Ambitious, but Almost Great

 Yeah, not exactly a new game, but as a fan of Pandemic's work before their demise, I felt I had to complete the game.

And it was, completely, a Pandemic game. High level of aspiration with some bugs, but an overall excellent gameplay experience.

The setting is the high point of the game. I can't think of other games set in World War II that took place in occupied France. Dealing with Nazis in a location that hasn't been bombed to hell is a nice change of pace. Pandemic nailed their location cold and even if it isn't based on a map of Paris circa 1943, it FEELS authentic. And the cars also feel right. You know it's not going to feel like a modern car does...but the cars are all rather easy to control. And with all of the driving you have to do, that is a sizable benefit.

The art style was also really good...but since it came out after Prince of Persia 2008, it lost a lot of its impact. Nazi dominated territory is in stark black and white with red signifying Nazi-related things (flags, people, etc). Once you liberate an area, color radiates out, making it full color.  The visuals are lovely from afar, but do have the issue of looking much less nice up close. Sean actually looks decent enough, but textures are just not meant to be examined closely.

You are Sean Devlin, an Irish racecar driver in Paris, seeking revenge on a Nazi officer who cost him a race victory and killed his best friend right before him. Its pulp, to be sure, but it works pretty perfectly for this game. No lofty goals and no real love of the Resistance...he just wants revenge.

You join the French Resistance (which was more fiction than reality) and help the French deal with the Nazi. Since you are woefully outmanned, your only weapon is sabotage...and sabotage you do. You have TONS of things to sabotage. AA guns. Propaganda speakers. Searchlights. Radar. Armored vehicles. Nazi generals. There is no paucity of targets.

The game is spread out over a pretty large area. Fortunately, cars are everywhere and are easy to drive.

You can choose to tackle story missions two ways: via stealth or guns blazing. Stealth involves you stealth killing a Nazi and stealing their uniform. This mode isn't terribly effective as it takes little to "out" you and you have to move at a painfully slow gait to avoid more suspension than you normally cause just existing.

Odds are, stealth will fail you. Thankfully, guns work REALLY well. Even better, your enemies have a red glow in dark areas, making it easier to locate them. Its for the best because enemies become exceedingly difficult as time goes on. Regular Nazis eventually become flame throwers and, then, terror Nazis. You run too fast into an area and you will have about 10 Nazis all nailing you with different types of ordinance and you will have your butt handed to you. They don't do a lot of grenade spamming, which is nice.

This isn't to say the game is without flaws. There are lots of them. Pandemic titles always have serious glitches. Clipping occurs, cars will drop out of the air in the distance, AI is either genius or retarded, frame rate chugs in odd places, etc. These are headaches, but not game breakers. My biggest beef is that the sabotage seems to have no impact on the world. Blowing up sniper nests does provide you fewer snipers aiming at you...but where is the benefit of blowing up radars or speakers? Outside of Achievements, nothing comes to mind.

And I can appreciate the complaint that there doesn't seem to be a lot to do in the world. I just don't agree. True, there aren't many side missions, but I enjoyed having to sneak around to sabotage Nazi equipment. Some of those attacks were hardly easy to successfully pull off without triggering every troop in France.

The game is really good. Pandemic made another top drawer title and its a shame they died...but you can see that their games lacked the polish of Rockstar or Volition titles. But its well worth the time to play and you can find it cheap in lots o places.

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