Is This World War II Satire Worth Playing?
As I raced across rooftops in Paris, I kept thinking about what had gotten me to that point--my choice to snap a Nazi’s neck in front of his commanding officer. If I had only been more stealthy, I would not be running away from Nazi soldiers, Zeppelins, tanks, or fighter planes. Instead, I would be wandering the bustling streets of Nazi-occupied Paris looking for a bar.
When developer Pandemic set out to create The Saboteur, an open world game involving Irish mechanic/freedom fighter/womanizer Sean Devlin, they focused their sights on a very stylized and ridiculous version of World War II. The game feels more akin to Kelly’s Heroes, Inglourious Basterds, and Hogan’s Heroes than it does to Saving Private Ryan. The characters are all excessive in their behavior, whether it involves leading the French Resistance or selling items on the black market.
This concept may seem a little strange at first, but this is why the Saboteur works as a game. Gone are the serious military engagements; they have been replaced by stealthy assassination missions, bar fights, and a very important Grand Prix. The bar fights and assassinations may seem out of place with the normal World War II concept, but they fit in with the movie-style story arc that has been created (one mission features an obvious reference to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark).
The plot of The Saboteur also has taken a slight “detour” from the actual history of World War II. Instead of simply stating that World War II began in September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, the developer chose to show the beginning of World War II as an invasion of France in 1940 weeks after an important auto race in Germany. The plot also heavily involves the use of Zeppelins as German attack vehicles even though they had not been used since the Hindenburg disaster. However, these detours do not affect the actual gameplay, which is an extremely good time.
Traversing an open-world version of Paris is well worth the price of admission. The city has been faithfully recreated by the developers, and they have made sure that it feels alive. As you walk down the cobbled streets you will see either Parisians going about their lives or you will see Nazi soldiers harassing citizens or holding public executions; this depends on which part of the city you are in. The city also has a plethora of options for getting around. Every car in the city is available to drive, every rooftop is accessible by climbing the face of buildings, and zip lines blanket the entire city. This may not be very realistic, but using a telephone wire to swing through the city is much better than riding a bus.
The combat and stealth sections of The Saboteur can be both very satisfying and frustrating at the same time. You have many different options for completing the different missions which will affect your rate of satisfaction. Shooting everything in sight may get the job done quickly, but it will also produce a seemingly never-ending stream of enemy soldiers that will hunt you down. Taking the stealthy route through the game took much longer, but it resulted in fewer enemies and firefights.
The Saboteur is a very well-made game, but it is not without fault. Glitches and hiccups happened at different times in our playthrough, but very few were frustrating. Most of the glitches involved cars falling out of the sky or soldiers randomly exploding. This type of glitch is not a deal breaker for many players, but it does have to be noted. The city, which changes from black and white to full color as you make progress, was very well realized, but it needed more side missions than just demolition projects.
The Saboteur may have certain flaws, but they are more than made up for by the characters, story, and city that are the essence of the game. Is The Saboteur perfect? No, but it is definitely worth playing.