The Saboteur ImpressionsBy Sterling McGarvey - Posted Nov 11, 2009
Killing Nazis never gets old. That’s been my adage for years. It’s game developers’ execution of SS-slaying that got a bit long in the tooth. Enter Pandemic, a studio known for some great games (at least collectively; I’m one of the few dissenters regarding Mercenaries) involving open worlds and ridiculous amounts of destruction. The developer’s latest effort, The Saboteur, purports to fuse the high-level demolition to WWII-era Paris. The game’s all but finished at this point, and although EA didn’t leave us with final builds to gnaw on, I got a glimpse at what the game has in store for its December 8 bow.
If you’re not in the loop, The Saboteur puts you in the shoes of Sean Devlin, a race-car driver who’s cheated out of a victory and nearly killed during a major race in Germany. After fighting his way into Nazi-occupied France, he becomes an unlikely resistance fighter who strives to become a huge thorn in the side of the Third Reich. Lead designer Tom French dropped in earlier today for a guided demo. X-Play will have the goods next week, but I watched over his shoulder as he filmed a guided walkthrough for G4tv.com, which you can check out Thursday morning. What were some of the highlights you can look forward to seeing in the final game? Read on!
What’re Ya Buyin’?
Sean can’t break up the occupation without some heavy weapons, and in between the jollies of cavorting with ladies of the evening and giving fatal facial piercings to fascists, he’s eventually going to have to buy some artillery. That comes thanks to back-alley vendors who sell him lots of huge guns. It’s a touch that feels very Mercenaries, largely thanks to the assortment of weapons available.
I’ma Set It Straight, This Watergate
It implies sabotage in the title, right? It’s here that The Saboteur seems to most live up to Pandemic’s open-world legacy while providing some moments similar to other sandbox titles. In addition to huge explosives, you can buy maps from resistance merchants that will provide you with locations to the 1300 occupation tools, from artillery weapons to propaganda loudspeakers. Once you destroy them, there’s a line-of-sight Nazi alert radius that seems to play on GTA4’s police radar. There’s many a rooftop radio tower as well, which evokes the high-flying moments of Assassin’s Creed, not to mention the concept of scaling tall buildings of a bygone historic era. I'm interested in the notion of combining rooftop jumps with guerilla tactics.
The Saboteur also utilizes a perk system to drive home the incentives. When Sean performs certain a number of kills (such as getting 13 consecutive headshots), he gets more accuracy, faster bomb planting, or other bonuses that help you get the job done more efficiently. I witnessed the perk system at work as French lined up some headshots and got a new perk titled “Headhunter,” which made him a more accurate gunman.
You Look Like Someone I Know...
I last played The Saboteur in San Diego at Comic-Con, and at the time, it felt like a fun and relatively intuitive shooter, even if it didn't feel buttery smooth to play. What I saw today opened up a lot more of what you can do in the game, and while there are definitely some strongly Mercenaries-like moments, I saw elements from other open-world games woven into its digital DNA. It’s important to note, dear reader, that none of that is a slight. If anything, I’m now more curious to see how well Pandemic has interspersed all of these elements to create an entertaining action game.
...Or Maybe Not.
At the end of the demo, French showed off one last bonus: after spawning a high speed race car with nitro, he strapped a bomb onto it, drove it head-on into a Nazi tank battalion, and jumped out just in time to detonate several war machines. Shrapnel flew everywhere, Nazis died, and the audience's collective eyes widened. It’s always the little touches that make games like these stand out, isn’t it?