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Written by Tina Amini on 12/8/2009 for PS3  
More On: Saboteur
The Saboteur is the story of Sean Devlin,who is roughly based on William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams. Sean Devlin, the less mouthful of a name for our protagonist in this WWII sandbox game, becomes involved with the French Resistance in Paris. Initially, the only obligation he feels towards the Special Operations Executive and French Resistance is a personal vendetta against a particular Nazi officer who brutally murdered his friend. Drinking and smoking his way through Paris from what can be guessed as his form of mourning, he is finally picked up by Resistance leader Luc Gaudin, and recruited for what begins your journey to help revive Paris and inspire an uprising against the Nazis.

We have seen a plethora of video games tackle the WWII genre, but I never felt like the theme was more fitting than in this GTA sandbox style. Your quests typically take you along what begins to feel like a familiar path. There’s a general theme of planting explosives to hinder the Nazi occupation in what ever way you can. Being part of what starts out as a small organization to battle the Nazis, you make use of what weaponry you have in your disposal. Namely, dynamite. Although the quests seem simple and perhaps even repetitive at times, this was the most logical and more realistic approach to take. All of the leaders and members of the Resistance could use a helping hand in the time of war to plant an explosive or two. The sandbox style lets you decide which are more important to venture towards first, and how to lend your help out. Driving around Paris in my stolen vehicle and seeing all the red Nazi flags hanging at every lamppost and street corner, I thought to myself: “What WOULD someone do in that situation?” The short answer? Blow things up.

Your quests are meant to inspire residents of France to stand up against the Nazis. As a regular citizen, perhaps with a few tricks up your sleeve, it’s most logical and effective to create destruction such that the dilapidation of Nazi bases becomes more apparent than their strength. The game acknowledges your efforts throughout the gameplay by splashing color to what starts as an entirely black and white France. As you progress, more of France will be represented in full color, indicating which regions of France are more likely to support your cause and stand up against the Nazis. This was a great aesthetical addition on the part of Pandemic to replicate the ideas of desperation alongside what hope you can initiate.

Completing said missions can be done in one of two ways: (1) disguising yourself as a Nazi (by “borrowing” one of the soldiers’ uniforms) and finding the more tactical route to navigating your way through their bases, or (2) blowing up everything and everyone in sight with guns blazing. Avoiding the fire blasts might seem like the easier route, but it’s actually more difficult to go about sneaking. Your disguise will only hold up for a certain distance from the Nazis scattered around the base area, and running or doing other suspicious things like climbing will get you exposed. Small circular yellow areas on your map will indicate “suspicion zones,” and you can forget about wandering around innocently if you’re caught in there. Setting off alarms left and right, and hastily trying to make it outside the red alarm zone on your map (or scrambling to find a hiding spot) might get tiring. This makes brandishing your gun around and provoking a gunfight while cackling maniacally a hell of a lot more appealing than maneuvering your way through these obstacles. Generally, I stuck to sneaking in halfway until I realized the mass of Nazis lined up ahead was just begging for a grenade in their faces. And grenade they got. Still, having the option to tackle my mission in the way I preferred was definitely appreciated. You can make The Saboteur as violent as you want, or as quiet as you like.Typical to the sandbox genre, some quests are not necessary to complete the game, but they definitely add to the playtime and flesh out the game. Even after completing your main missions, and after the credits roll, you’re launched back into Paris to continue with your Revolution against the Nazi force occupying France.

Along the way, you’ll be able to gather a bigger collection of stolen vehicles and purchased armory. You can buy your arms on the black market, as well as upgrades to your weapons, maps, your strike calls and the revolution members (in the sense of more health, ammo, warm bodies, etc), and so on. Personally, I stuck to my Tommy gun and pistol the whole way down. My grenades, too, of course.

The other way of getting additinal abilities and upgrades comes from what you might call “achievements with a purpose”. Officially, the game calls them “perks.” Performing certain actions to get these perks will result in various upgrades and will unlock various abilities: upgrades to your melee attacks (if you decide to brawl over gunfight).  You can also unlock weaponry, weapon advancements, unlock the getaway strike team and getaway car, and many, many others.

The one thing that made The Saboteur feel less smooth than it could have been was the controls. Especially when climbing or hitting an action button, the response wasn’t where I would have liked it to be. Part of my problem with the controls might also be due to how cluttered they are. For instance, to activate your various modes of fighting (brawl, sneaking) you have to hit either the left trigger or left button (PS3 controls). Then a combination of the d-pad buttons while still hitting the button/trigger will perform a specific action within that mode. To fire a weapon, you’ll have to equip your gun of choice and then use the left button to aim and the right button to fire. Perhaps it’s my hastiness when there’s a showdown with the Nazis, but mixing up the buttons always blew my cover and had me outrunning the dreadful red zone on my map.

Playing as Sean Devlin is a fun experience. He encompasses what I might call grungy charm: the complete opposite of a gentleman, but too witty to hold it against him. Being that he’s also a racecar driver, you get to partake in some races with some swanky cars. This helps for practice on the many getaways that you’ll undoubtedly be giving heed to.

The supporting characters to this WWII story also have their own personalities to keep the game genuinely interesting. They range from the older, wiser father figure to the promiscuous and deadly female. Not all characters will be likeable, but, for me, that creates a good balance. Sean also has a different relationship reserved for each character that felt natural and potentially realistic to how human beings would normally interact (if such a thing exists). On a sadder note, Pandemic really blew it with the love interests in the game with a half-assed ending. There were hints and nudges all throughout the storyline, and being brought to what felt like a forced resolution to Sean’s love qualms was a total let down. There was such a buildup in storyline that I was expecting a heartfelt ending to tie it into.

Beside the “getting the girl” part of the game, the storyline fit well within The Saboteur and the WWII theme. Rather than a typical “kill all Nazis” type of WWII game where the storyline is thrown in for good measure, The Saboteur took the theme and created something that felt natural and organic.
The Saboteur is a fun, if not fairly short game with a solid storyline in tandem with its WWII theme. The sandbox style gameplay fits in perfectly with the sort of missions you undertake as a civilian attempting to inspire an uprising. If you don’t mind paying the full price of $60 for a game that you can probably finish in a weekend in one sitting, the game is definitely worth the 15-30 hours you might spend on it.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I am host to the kind of split-personality that is only possible when a girl is both born and raised in New York City, yet spends a lot of time with two older brothers. So, on one hand, I'm a NYU student majoring in media and communication who has a healthy obsession with fashion, music, media and the latest happenings in NYC. But, on the other hand, I'm rocking a level 70 blood elf warlock (I just got Lich King -- give me a break), spend much of my time playing games of all genres and platforms, and if you pass by my dorm you can possibly even hear my roar of victory as I spring on the unsuspecting as one of the infected in Left 4 Dead. And just when I thought things were as random as they could be, I spent the summer in Texas and, turns out, I like 4-wheeling and shooting (real) guns too.

I whet my appetite early on the classics and later moved on to Counter-Strike, GoldenEye and the like. You'll find me trying just about any game now -- I even tried my hand at Cooking Mama -- but the more blood and gore, the better. All my friends and family are probably pretty annoyed by how much I talk about video games. It's your turn now, Internet.
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Mini Review by: Ben Berry

The Saboteur is a great premise: be one of the few brave souls who starts the resistance in France against Nazi occupation. For a Grand Theft Auto clone, it's got the right feel, the right look, and the right added extras in order to feel like it's own game. The story is strong, the dialog and the voice acting are both very good, and the music is very fitting for the period and location. The developers even went through the trouble of adding in burlesque dancing in the "moulin rouge"-esque place your character spends his nights in France.

Unfortunately, what they didn't do is build a stable game on the PC side of the house. There were some seriously bad defects at launch related to a large faction of the current and recent models of ATI video cards, which my PC was affected by. The game would load but freeze shortly thereafter, and simply wouldn't play. Pandemic rushed out a patch that never really got past beta. It allows the game to play, and mostly play pretty well, but it crashes fairly frequently. Further, there are still problems loading video segments.

In the end, when you can play it, it's a great game. Problem is, you have to do some waiting, and sometimes have to replay sections of the game when it crashes prior to an autosave. If it weren't for the crashes, the only real problem this game has is that it's short. It only takes about 30 hours to play through even with a significant amount of sandbox exploration. It still feels like a good game even just being that short, but the bugs make it really hard to enjoy the whole experience.