Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Saboteur review

    I want to get X-Com: Enemy Unknown but right now it's a little too expensive. I had the option of trading my copy of Assassins Creed 3 in for half off of it but Christmas is coming up so I purchased, instead, two DS games for my niece and nephew. I want to get Far Cry 3 before I get X-Com, anyway, since it looks more like my sort of game. Still, there's a few days before that happens and I can wait a little until the price goes down. Instead, I decided to head over to the bargain bin and pick myself up a copy of The Saboteur.

    The premise of The Saboteur is a kind of offbeat one. Basically, it's an attempt to tell the story of the French Resistance in the same manner as Frank Miller's hyper-stylized Sin City movie. The majority of the game takes place in a black and white world where only a few things are colorized like Nazi armbands, streetlights, and French Resistance blue ascots.

    The similarity to Frank Miller's work goes beyond the mere artistic style with the world of The Saboteur being seamy, sexual, gritty, and brutal in equal parts. While Frank Miller has gone insane in recent years, this is a tribute to his best work and manages to remain edgy without being offensive.

     Well, unless you count the DLC, which adds nudity to the game. I don't because it was obviously intended to be part of the main game before it was taken out. I don't mind tasteful nudity, like in the Witcher 2, so long as it's part of the story. The burlesque house of The Saboteur remains classier than 90% of other games mostly clothed females. Here, when nudity shows up, it adds to the decadent atmosphere and contrasts sharply against the violence committed against/by the Nazis.

    The premise of The Saboteur is Sean Devlin is an expatriate Irish race car driver living in Nazi-occupied Paris. Sean, like most people in Paris at this time, has a grudge against the Nazis (no points for guessing it's for murdering his friend in the black and white picture he carries around). Sean is recruited into the French resistance within minutes of the game's opening and encouraged to use his skill at explosives to start bombing Nazi equipment around Paris.

I haven't had a chance to blow up Nazis on the Eiffel Tower yet but I'm hoping there's an opportunity.
    The game is, essentially a Grand Theft Auto clone with the addition of Assassin Creed's climbing system and Red Faction's exploding scenery. The story-mode consists of you doing missions for the French Resistance, attempting to drive the Nazis back while getting torn between two alluring women, while free-play mode consists of blowing up literally hundreds of hard targets.

     Seriously, I've blown up dozens of Nazi sniper nests, radar emplacements, AA guns, and fuel depots only to have inflicted 5% of the damage possible on the German war machine. If you're a completion-ist, this is definitely an enjoyable way to spend forty or more hours. It's fun, though I break up my terrorism spree with story missions because the Nazis are rather lazy in this game. Sean kills a Nazi General, steals his car, drives away from the scene and the SS gives up relatively early in pursuit.

    Seriously guys, show some initiative!

    One cool feature of the game is that as you liberate areas from Nazi control, the dark washed-out colors of Sin City is replaced with bright lively colors. I think this might actually be a mistake because the black and white parts are incredibly atmospheric. I think the colored parts should have been restricted to the Pre-War period as well as safe-houses. I can't imagine the people of Paris are particularly happy with even a reduced Nazi presence as long as they're still a few blocks over.

Ah, beautiful liberated North Paris. Sure, there's still Nazis but that's South Paris' problem!
    The Saboteur makes no attempt to be historically accurate, more or less ignoring the existence of Vichy France for example, but this is to the game's credit. No one wants to know about the sort of reprisals the Nazis did when they can, instead, single-handedly win the war against Hitler. I also appreciated the treatment of the Free French as the badasses they were versus the singularly disgusting "Surrender Monkey" stereotype they have in some parts of America.

    Of course, this begs the question why the developers felt the need to use an Irish hero in the first place. It's not like Sean Devlin has a particularly deep character arc or needs to be educated on peculiarities of French culture. About the only thing he learns about the French is they have incredibly nice strip clubs and really hate the Nazis, things I suspect most of us could have guessed. I think it was a missed opportunity not to have a French lead, though the NPCs more than make up for it in likability.

    In conclusion, I heartily recommend picking up The Saboteur. If you're an adult, enjoy moody atmospheric entertainment, and haven't yet had your fill of killing Nazis thanks to Wolfenstein then this is the game for you. It's not perfect, the combat system is sometimes awkward and the difficulty on Causal is RIDICULOUSLY Causal but, overall, I really enjoyed it. I congratulate the development team for their work.


1 comment:

  1. If you like this game, I would recommend Just Cause 2. You can probably pick it up pretty cheap used as it came out 2 years ago.