While Pandemic has recently suffered a crippling blow at the hands of its parent company Electronic Arts, it's nice to see the developer of the Mercenaries and Star Wars: Battlefront franchises go out on a reasonably high note.
In this case, the high note is World War II sandbox title The Saboteur and, while obvious comparisons have been drawn to Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, The Saboteur manages to stand on its own two feet for long enough to be an enjoyable distraction from this year's other blockbuster titles.
The Saboteur has players assume the role of canny Irishman, race driver and all-round bad boy Sean Devlin. The backdrop plonks you firmly down in Nazi-occupied Paris during the onset of World War II and sees Devlin shape his bitter hatred of, well, pretty much everything, into a well-oiled vendetta against anything bearing a Swastika. Devlin is at odds with a number of personal demons from his past life in Ireland which leads him to take refuge in Europe acting as a part-time mechanic and race car driver, as well as helping to develop his character beyond the basics.
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As the initial events of the plot unfold, Devlin quickly finds himself getting sucked into the burgeoning world of the French Resistance -- a group of likeminded civvies who are intent on driving the Nazi presence from their beloved culturally and gastronomically rich society. It’s a humble beginning but from here our unlikely hero will grow into one giant thorn in the side of the Third Reich as he cuts a swathe of explosive destruction through the streets of Paris.
Borrowing heavily from games such as the GTA series and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed titles, The Saboteur manages to hit both highs and lows in terms of gameplay, technical prowess and satisfaction. The framework is basic and familiar and has you running up to Resistance NPCs, receiving specific missions, travelling the city in different vehicles and ultimately destroying Nazi hotspots by any means necessary.
The Saboteur uses contraband as in-game currency and Devlin engages in the usual game vandalism by kicking open any and all crates he comes across to gain extra cash. Completing missions successfully will also earn you the money you need to buy bigger, better weapons and ammo from the Resistance's black market.
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The more missions you beat, the more toys you unlock and when the game comes to a close at the 20-25 hour mark, Devlin will have access to a shocking array of weaponry. These range from basic SS pistols, submachine guns and rifles all the way up to anti-tank (and indeed, anti-zeppelin) rocket launchers. A couple of different kinds of explosives are also available and it's with these rudimentary devices that you'll be able to cut the Nazi forces deepest.
Following the critical path of the story means you will only experience around 60-70 percent of the game. As is the way with sandbox games, it's very easy to get sidetracked by non-mission critical sub-quests and better still, it's just plain fun to see if you really can shimmy over those rooftops, sucker punch that Nazi sniper and steal a quick turn on that deadly AA gun.
The game reacts to Devlin's destruction by way of an alarm system. There are four different levels of alarm which get triggered by an increasing amount of destruction. Level One sends in the motorbike sidecar troops with their peashooters, where as a full-on Level Four alert sees hideous Nazi Terror shock troops pile out of armoured tanks and the omnipotent zeppelin in sky turn its Sauron-like gaze in your direction. Luckily, if you're a good enough driver (or if you're able to find one of the scarce safe-rooms on the map) you'll eventually be able to outrun the encroaching peril.