The build I played of The Saboteur this week was a month old, so if I had fun and was impressed, what does that mean?
I'd only previously seen the game played by a developer and that was several months ago. Back then I wrote a positive preview based on the number of interesting ideas the game's designer conveyed to me. The open-world adventure would put the player in control of Irish race car driver Sean Devlin who circumstances would transform into a fighter against the Nazis in occupied France.
The game world, drained of colour, represented the blight of a Nazi presence. Liberating areas of the world would restore colour, in a scripted manner. I liked the little things I heard about, like the ability to take cover from pursuers by running up to a urinal or stealing a kiss from a woman. I liked the idea that guard towers and other objects in this world would stay destroyed, making missions set near them easier.
None of this changed when I got the game in my hands on Wednesday. I played the PS3 version. Controls were standard for an open-world game. Running and camera were on the control sticks. The triangle button got my guy into a vehicle. Shooting was straight-forward. Various Achievement-like accomplishments unlocked upgrades in weapons shops or new abilities for my character, like a stealth kill move.
The game ran well, controlled well and looked impressively large-scale. I played a level called The Zeppelin, which introduces the player to the Nazi nemesis they will chase throughout the game. The mission involved stealing a truck, bringing it to a castle occupied by the Nazis, and then either sneaking or shooting my way into it, before ascending to a docked zeppelin for the second phase of the mission.
The Saboteur uses a disguise system, and fills in a circle of colour around the circular lower-left mini-map to show how close the Nazis are to recognising that you're a freedom fighter up to no good rather than one of their own. Until your cover is blown, your character, Sean Devlin, might be wearing a Nazi uniform. It's gone when that meter fills. To avoid that, the player needs to act calm—with the caveat that the Nazis won't be alarmed if you run over French civilians—and not bother the enemy forces. Blowing up the gate to their castle or just walking around in civilian clothes while brandishing a weapon, however, does alarm them. As with Prototype, an icon near the mini-map shows whether Sean can be seen by any Nazis at a given time or not. So stealth is an option, albeit a tricky one.
The most arresting thing about the game is its graphics. Development studio Pandemic has produced a game that looks like nothing else. As you can see in screenshots, it's not purely black and while in its black and white stages. colour seeps in: Red armbands on the Nazi uniforms, yellow muzzle flash and orange explosions. Devlin himself has a little bit of an illuminated outline to make him stand out. Enemies exude a red glow to show they are angry and on-rushing.
I eventually handed the controls over, partially because I wanted to take some notes and partially because I wanted to enjoy the look.
The jury is out on whether the gameplay will hold up in The Saboteur. That's the kind of thing you can't judge without a full playthrough of the game. I do think, however, that the art style can be declared a winner. If you're looking to look at something different, this is a good game to keep an eye on.