Reader Review: The Saboteur

You may know Adam Ruch from the other stuff he's written for the site, or his blog Flickering Colours, but he's also a seasoned veteran of our Reader Reviews section. This time he's taking a look at The Saboteur - a game I was always interested in, but never got round to playing.

And the best reader review each month wins a Blu-ray pack courtesy of Madman.

Take it away Adam.

The Saboteur The Saboteur was released in 2009 and represents the swansong for Pandemic Studios, who were closed down shortly after its release. I have to wonder how long prior to the completion of The Saboteur the development team or upper management at EA knew the studio’s fate – a death knell may explain the disappointing lack of polish I experienced playing this game. That disappointment was all the more intense for the raft of great ideas and a wonderful setting chosen for this game.

Loved The setting, like I said. I love open-world games, so that’s my own bias creeping in. But a city like Paris, during the Nazi occupation is just about the most perfect backdrop for an open-world videogame I can think of. The lengths to which Red Faction: Guerrilla went through to create this kind of scenario is completely unnecessary in the Saboteur, history took care of it for us. I also just finished playing LA Noire, so I’m in kind of an early-mid 1900s groove at the moment.

The concept, which ties in to the setting I guess. It just makes sense! Open world games generally struggle to reconcile a player’s destructive tendencies with the attempt at realism those games mostly go for. In the Saboteur, the game actively encourages wanton destruction. There are so many designated targets, of a fair variety, that it’s almost impossible not to have something on the screen that needs to be blown up. On top of this, it's Nazi stuff, and let’s be serious, who doesn’t want to blow up Nazi infrastructure? And not just blow it up, but plant a bomb in your car, rev it up to breakneck speed, then bail out to ghost it into that clump of goose-steppers around the fuel depot. “Oh-ho that went f*cking well!” Couldn’t say it better myself.

The pastiche of mechanics from other open-world games really amazed me. The Saboteur implements practically all the open-world mechanics from Grand Theft Auto, Red Faction: Armageddon and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and adds a few of its own. I pretty much already knew how to play from the start, and there were so many options on how to get the various jobs done! The disguises were super-fun, as I’m a little bit obsessed with being sneaky in open-world games.

Hated I played the PS3 version and it was the most buggy game experience I’ve had on console this generation. The bugs were actually game-breaking in places. There’s a race sequence early in the game where I got into first, and was about to lap the rear-most cars when I actually completed the final lap. The game, however, never registered my position, so when I crossed the line, activated the losing mission failure. As it turns out, as soon as I pass Dierker, it’s meant to switch to an cut-scene. So I had to do it over. In another case, I was on the back of a truck with a minigun, standard ‘escape the pursuit’ fare. I died, so had to start over, only when the mission reloaded, no one’s miniguns worked. Not mine, nor the Nazi’s pursuing me. It was a bit of a problem since I was meant to use the gun to blow up a roadblock…

Aside from that, the hackneyed plot was a let-down. There’s a pretty significant ‘Wait, what about…?’ moment regarding a super-secret box Sean recovers. It’s quite a big deal apparently, and he’s not meant to peek inside. Of course, he does, and is shocked by what he discovers. I, however, have no idea what ‘the bastards found,’ that plot point just disappears into nothing. The narrative arc is mainly a revenge quest, which is fair enough I guess, but was stilted and, in the end, unnecessary. The Saboteur is set in Nazi-occupied France. Who needs motivation to go and clear out Nazis? Sean has way better reasons to help out the Resistance even than Ezio. The vengeance, the rescue of Kessler the defecting scientist, and Sean’s weird relationship with Veronique all seem to be attempts to motivate me to want to help out – but the most affecting incidents were outside of all this scripted stuff.

In the open world, twice, I saw variants on Nazi soldiers doing what real Nazi soldiers did: the first rounded up a man and forced him into the back of a truck. The second was a group of three, holding two civilian women at gunpoint. I hear one say “Please, you don’t have to do this,” just before the Nazis shot them both. Any personal revenge quest pales in comparison to taking action against these sorts of routine atrocities.

This game is totally worth playing. By now it’ll be a bargain at retail, though I guess I’d suggest trying it on the XBox 360 to (maybe?) avoid some of the bugs I found on the PS3 version. I've heard a lot of others saying they had no bugs, so who knows.


Comments

    Absolutely love the Saboteur, one of my favourite games from 2009. It really did do Nazi-occupied France extremely well.

    This was a well-timed review. I'm trying to round up a bunch of games from the last year that I missed and Saboteur was very high up on my list but I'd nearly forgotten about it.

    I'd heard it was a good but not great game, but I don't expect greatness from everything I play (I'd have a long time between new games if that were the case) and Saboteur always seemed to have some good ideas behind it.

      This is exactly what I was thinking.

      Get out of my head, Charles!

    Loved the game - played it through to get 1000GS and honestly never experienced a bug in the 360 version. It is likely luck though as reviews always pointed to the bugs.
    Great setting - great protagonist and quite a good story. The thrill of destroying a Nazi encampment and walking out with no-one the wiser as it blows up (convincingly) behind you is awesome, and it's a repeatable thrill as there are over 1400 Nazi installations to destroy...

    I hired this and got bout halfway through this.( Damn thats another to the pile of shame!!) I agree with the awesome setting and i really like the colour mechanics for freed areas, but it also had some of the most pointless swearing and gratuitous nudity that seemed there for no reason other than to excite 13 year olds. seemed they couldn't make up their minds as to who they were aiming for. I liked the game, but it just seemed to take elements from GTA, Assasins Creed etc that were all executed much better in their original forms. Having said that at a bargain price, it would be hard to pass up.

    Its in my pile of shame...

    I like the part when the guy was Irish.

    I enjoyed it a great deal, one of the better open world games that mixed in elements of race games, shooters, Hitman styled sabotages (obviously) and some Assassins Creed styled climbing and fleeing. But the controls were very average and the game felt like it needed a few more months on the oven.

    The game is brilliant, a true shame that Pandemic got closed after it.

    A few things that I think should be touched on, the visuals, the game isn't perfect but it really is a very sexy game, the Noir visuals in the occupied areas completely suit the game, provides the very dark and grim aspect of an occupied territory would feel like.

    Once you actually liberate areas, the game actually gets colour and that too is damn pretty!

    Lastly on the bugs, personally I didn't come across anything like that, few clipping issues running over rooftops, but nothing game breaking. The PS3 version is fine.

    Everyone should pick it up, it's a game where you can have dumb fun, plenty to do and find, Sean is a great character who also mouths off pretty well!

    I've played it both on PC and on XBOX, and didn't have any bugs on either platform, to be honest. Though I did find it easier to play with the xbox controller (both on the xbox and pc, thank you $10 wireless adapter!)

    I think the revenge plot was fine... it sets up an antagonist (lets be honest, Sean was never going to find Hitler and stick a bomb up his...) though the first chance you had to take down Dierker shitted me off (the Zeppelin, anyone?)

    I thought the ending (no spoilers) was pretty awesome.

    There were a lot of side missions that did seem cut short, or stories never followed up on. But I've kind of gotten used to that in games like this... seems the norm these days that the publisher will push the developer to cut swaths out.

    The midnight show DLC isn't really worth it, and to be honest, I found it detracted from my game... for the sake of some omgbewbies, I found it was cheapening of the game, so disabled the nudity and went back to the "classy" pasties version.

    I always found it interesting that they seemed to neglect Sean wearin any red nazi Swastika on his disguise. I haven't found any reason why this would be and I don't know how we are to expect Nazi disguises to work on other Nazis when each outfit so clearly missing their beloved symbol. The game makes the lack of these symbols even more obvious with how anything red stands out in an otherwise grey backdrop.

    I was willing to overlook the fact that Sean couldn't sound less like a German due to his accent (because technically he doesn't have to TALK to a Nazi) but one look at a German uniform that doesn't have a Swastika on it... You can't tell Nazis NOT to look.

    Great review and I have to say I played it on the Xbox 360 and didn't encounter any game breaking bugs so it could be platform specific like you said. I played the death out of this game, open world stealth how I love thee. I managed to blow up every target on the map and boy did that take a while. The perk system was good too, really encouraged you to play the game a multitude of ways and gave you new skills you actually cared about.

    I enjoyed it - despite the lead's appalling bloody accent - and often thought it needed revisiting. But I liked Alpha Protocol, so what do I know?

      lol, I loved the bad accents... especially Luc (?) which was the quintessential over the top dodgy French accent ever.

        I did keep waiting for him to say, "of course I'm French! Why do you think I have this OUTRAGEOUS accent?!".

    I bought the sabotuer and played no more than 3 hours of it. It's the most boring, linear open world game I've played in a long time. It won't be getting another run on my system.

    I'm a massive fan of open-world games and this period in history.

    I gave it a red hot go for a few hours, but just never go into it. The sneak sections were so damn touchy/sensitive..and yes, I was careful and meticulous. The map/alert level indicator was unnecessarily complex as well.

    Anyway, each to his own as always. I probably wasn't being patient enough with it, bottom-line.

    I loved this game, started a bit weak but when the story got going was awesome.

    I played the PC version and found it pretty darned solid with the exception of the twitchy stealth system (I get what they were going for, but too often it became a matter of gaming the system instead of sneaking intuitively)
    The only thing that really bugged me was the low-res textures on the hillsides outside the play area.

    But man were there a lot of nice touches in there;
    - raising suspicion if you were running when in disguise
    - the out-of-bounds area being strung with barbed wire and triggering aerial assaults to stop you leaving the map
    - a decent challenge-based upgrade system (though some of the higher level unlocks did get a bit tricky - I needed a walkthrough for finding all the vehicles since you can't just grind challenges like you do with XP leveling)

    And to touch on the Nazi soldiers doing Nazi stuff; not only did I see them rounding up civilians onto trucks and for firing squads, but they weren't just canned events ignored by other NPCs. One time I even saw another gentleman run in to assault a Nazi officer so the lady being herded onto a truck could escape, leading to the officer firing on civilians and causing chaos and panic in the streets!

    I didn't like the game at all. The idea was good, the setting I agree was very lively and well represented, but the game itself failed to provoke me to play and I lost interest very quickly.

    Clunky controls, blotchy narrative and uninspired plotlines... Meh.

    I too love the Saboteur. I've only played it on Ps3 and I've never run into any bugs that I would call outstanding or particularly noticeable... just some odd animation glitches here and there, really.

    Also, I don't know if anyone else caught it but the plot line you refer to (about the thing in the crate)? I'm pretty sure that's a wink/nod type of referance to Raiders of the Lost Ark :-P

    At first I was confused and wondered what happened to it then I played it again and I think it's just supposed to be a 'cameo' of sorts referancing the first Indy movie even though the way the mission actually plays it feels like it's an introduction to a plot line :-P

    I think the Saboteur is one of those games that is good and great fun but that it really needed a sequel to polish up its' flaws and make it really shine as a 'GREAT' game. Too bad Pandemic bit the dust... :-/

    Too many great studios fall before their time.

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