It’s been almost two years to the day since I visited Pandemic Studios to preview a then unannounced third-person stealth action shooter called Saboteur. But while a lot has changed since then -- including Pandemic becoming a part of the EA family, and the slight changing of the game’s name to The Saboteur -- not much seems to have changed with the game itself, or Pandemic’s plan for it, as we learned when we saw the game at a recent EA event.
In it, you play as a race car driver who gets himself involved in the Paris resistance during WWII. In fact, your character is actually based on a real person: William Grover-Williams, a British race car driver living in France who was recruited by the SOE to lead part of The French Resistance.
As a result, you won’t just be doing plenty of killin’ and sneakin’ around, you’ll also do a bit of drivin’, which the Pandemic guys illustrated by showing us the not-so-leisurely drive you take to Paris at the beginning of the game. But even with this, and the game’s open world Parisian setting, the game doesn’t look as much like it’s Mercenaries-esque as much as it does Assassin’s Creed-ish. That’s because your character isn’t just good at drivin’, sneakin’, and shootin’, he’s also freakishly good at climbin’. You can climb any surface, so long as there’s something for you to grab on to. And there’s plenty to grab onto in Paris.
What separates The Saboteur from Mercenaries, Assassin’s Creed, and other open world action games, though, is the visuals. Specifically, the use of color. Because of the occupation, all of Paris is originally shown in stark black & white, with only select areas of color, such as the red in a Nazi flag or the glowing yellow where a light is on inside a house. As you help the resistance, and as the resistance gains strength in an area and the people grow more, well, resistant to the Germans, more color is brought in. During the demo, for example, we were shown one area that was fully colored, while off in the distance there were buildings that were still largely black and white. In fact, the colored areas aren’t just realistically hued, but are instead a big exaggerated. almost glowing, kind of like that movie Amélie, which provides a stark contrast to the game’s initial Sin City-esque look.
The Pandemic guys also showed off the combat in the game, which seems to have shifted the game from being more of a Splinter Cell-ish stealth game — though stealth is still important — to a third-person shooter with cover, though one that’s not as cover-centric as Gears Of War. In the section they demoed for us, for example, they first snuck up behind a couple of guys, but when it became obvious that wouldn’t work anymore, they grabbed a machine gun and started mowing them down, while occasionally ducking behind a crate for safety.
Sadly, ours was just a brief look at the game, but it was long enough to renew our interest. And while Pandemic are looking to release the game before the end of the year, we’ll just be glad if we don’t have to wait two more years for it.