Publisher:Electronic Arts Platform:Xbox 360, PC, PS3 Expected Release Date: 2009
The Saboteur was a pain in the arse for us to preview, frankly. We had to hang around at a slowly emptying showcase event for hours and hours, killing time until the very last presentation and Q&A session of the day before we got a chance to see the game for ourselves. Still, we thought it was going to be worth the effort – and we weren’t disappointed. The Saboteur was definitely one of the most engaging and interestingly presented games we saw that day.
The Saboteur isn’t like most World War 2 games. It’s neither a strategy game nor a first-person shooter for one thing and there’s no obligatory Normandy-Landing levels. The game uses more than just the colour brown and it doesn’t use scripted events to try and enforce a sense of fellowship on you and the surrounding NPCs.
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Instead, The Saboteur is the exact opposite of all these gaming conventions. Rather than just making everything brown and claiming that makes it realistic, The Saboteur deliberately plays with the idea of colour in an attempt to create a sense of cinema, not drama. Rather than limiting you to a single, linear and heavily scripted path The Saboteur drops you in an entirely open sandbox from the start.
Most importantly though, rather than casting you as a faceless soldier in a huge army ala Call of Duty, The Saboteur puts you in the role of a lone operative with a very specific, personal agenda that will literally drive the hugely engaging story forwards for the entire game. This isn't your standard 'only you can win the war and you must' scenario - there's an actual plot, motive and everything!
The titular saboteur’s agenda in the game is actually pretty simple though – revenge. Players are cast as Sean Devlin, an up and coming Irish vintage car racer who cares little for the war, the Nazis or the French people he finds himself surrounded by. All Sean cares about is fast cars, fast women and fast living. Everything he does is representative of his character – smooth, stylish and single-mindedly focused on his dream of being the best racer in the world.
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Unfortunately for Sean, who is based on the real-life William Grover-Williams who was the most famous of all the ‘Grand Prix Saboteurs’, that dream isn’t something he gets a chance to chase for long. The Nazi forces move in on France and crush any hope he has of achieving his lifelong dream. They also kill a load of his friends and fellow gear-heads, forcing Sean into heavily occupied Paris, where his rage only grows.
Quickly falling in with the French Resistance, Sean becomes a saboteur for the allies and begins a campaign of urban guerilla warfare about the Nazis, zipping across the city to break the lines of communication and destroy Hitler’s ability to hold Paris. More importantly, Sean focuses in on those specific generals who robbed him of his friends and purpose. It’s vengeance Sean wants, not justice. The war itself is irrelevant to Sean; weakening the Nazis is just a means to an end.
On the other hand though, Sean doesn’t necessarily find it easy to abandon his old ways – the booze and beauties remain an important part of the story too, lightening the tone and making Sean less of a relentless machine. Though we only got a chance to see snippets of it in our time with the game, Pandemic’s lead designer on the project, Fallout 2-alum Tom French, promised the Moulin Rouge might play a big role in the game...in more ways than one.