Typical Pandemic Mess, But Fun as Hell
I was huge fan of Pandemic's 2006 sleeper hit "Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction". While it wasn't perfect, it certianly was ambitious and a great deal of fun to play. I eagerly awaited the day when they released a second one for the current console generation, one that fixed and added to the fun gameplay of the 1st. When that day came I was a bit disappointed. "Mercenaries 2" was a barely playable buggy mess of a game. Despite it's very low quality, I still had myself a bit of fun while it lasted. The end of that game hinted at a possible sequel, but after how dissapointing Mercs 2 was I had lost all intrest in anymore games made by Pandemic Studios. All of that changed the day I found out about "The Saboteur".
What attacted me to "The Saboteur" most were it's setting and style, which are what this game does best. Set in Nazi occupied France during WWII, the game tells the story of Sean Devlin an Irish man fighting the good fight for the people of Paris. Like every open world game it has the elements it needs. A big city, places to explore, things to "collect", and baddies to shoot up. All of these make it so much fun to play. Unlike GTA where the only real enemy you have are the police, "The Saboteur" has Nazis who in a sense are like the police. They will get suspicious if you climb walls or carry guns out in the open. The game has many Nazi places to destroy such as spotlights, sniper towers, anti-air towers, parked tanks, etc. These on their own are fun to sneak up to and "sabotage" by blowing them up. The shooting in the game may take a while to get used to if you've been playing other 3rd person shooters this year. They may seem bad at first, but once you get used to them they work pretty well. The stealth aspect of the game does work, albeit not perfectly. You can steal Nazi uniforms if you kill them stealthily which will help you get into bases, but if you walk to close your suspicion will go up. If your suspicion level gets full the Nazi will blow a whistle and all in the area will attack. Like GTA there are 5 levels of their attacking depending on how long you last and how much damage you do to them. It is good fun to steal unifoms and sneak, but sometimes it is impossible to keep away from suspicion and you will mosy likley end up just going guns blazing. A perk system encourages you to go and do some demanding tasks to get some pretty rewarding abilities. For instance if you stealth kill 5 Nazi generals (those whom are randomly spread throughout the city with a number of guards), you will be granted the ability to stealth kill enemies with a knife that no one will notice since their bodies do not fall to the ground for a few seconds. Other ones have rewards that really help in tight situations like not being knocked over by explosions. The perks really do add to the experience.
Another new trend in open world games is urban traversal. This is one of the grey areas of "The Saboteur". The mechanic itself works well enough, that is it is a bit awkward. Sean looks kind strange as he is doing his seemingly impossible swings and jumps. Compared to something like "inFamous" of "Assassins Creed 2", the traversal in this is SUPER slow. It is reccomended to NEVER try climbing up tall buildings when being chased by Nazis for you will get riddled with bullets and never make it halfway up the building. That being said it is sufficent enough to allow you access to higher points, and once you get up you'll never want to stop jumping from roof to roof! The only other downside as well is the graphics. It looks like a game that definately has been in development for a while, but it really hasn't. It is a bit rough around the edges and the frame rate slows a fair amount throughout (especially during in-game cinematics). But for me graphics never really effect how much I love or hate a game, that is unless they are really terrible. A lot of little things like only being able to carry two weapons at once, an ok but never used cover mechanic, not being able to run down small trees, and terrible tank driving detract a bit from an otherwise really fun experience.
Overall "The Saboteur" is a pretty fun game with a few downsides here and there. It borrows many of it's elements from other recent games, but they aren't just straight-up rehashing them. It's too bad Pandemic was shut down this past year, and it seems a few parts of this game may have suffered due to them knowing they were going to lose their job after finishing it. This game is one of the best in their short existence to come out. With style, a great setting (many Paris landmarks can be found throughout if you explore the world), and some average game mechanics that work well enough to play, "The Saboteur" is definately a good game to get a load of fun out of!