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Not-so-retroview: The Saboteur


Please enjoy one of the best tracks used in this wonderful game while readind my blog:

Welcome to another of my "Not-So-Retroviews", this time, I'll talk about another gem of the industry that

probably deserves more than what it got, The Saboteur, for PC, XBOX 360 and PS3.
I'm sorry for my delay, I started to re-review a lot of games looking for a proper title to talk about, and I have been really busy with my webcomic as well, so my apologies, I hope you like this humble article.
The following analysis was made after playing the PS3 and PC version, with a computer that was below the minimum requirements at the time. I'll put the specs of my computer back then so you have a full understanding of some of my rant, though I said it was bellow the minimum:

AMD Athlon Dual Core 2.2ghz
Nvidia GeForce 7300GT 256mb DDR3
4gb RAM DDR2 800mhz
Compatible audio and plenty of HD space.

So you see, it was rather low spec and the game didn't have a problem showing it, low fps, almost

unplayable, but at the time, I didn't have a PS3, so it was all I have. Now I have a far better computer, but I already sold the game, so yeah.

Well, this game certainly needs no introduction, it was fairly popular when it came out, and its considered to be the Swang Song of Pandemic according to Wikipedia. 2009 was a huge year for Sandbox new IPs, Prototype, Infamous and Vin Diesel's Wheelman, but let's forget about that one please, and we can even count Wolfenstein, even though it was FPS, and with a sandbox of the size of a match box. And we can count sequels if you want, with Assassin's Creed 2.

Like I said, a nice year for Sandbox games, and mostly new IPs, and The Saboteur was the last one of its kind to come out that year, and the last one ever from Pandemic.
The story put us in the shoes of Sean Devlin, a mechanic made racer on the very edge of the beginning of WWII, or rather a very stereotyped WWII, with anachronic weaponry, evil scientists, and weapons and guns made of sheet metal.
Sean has a deep grudges against one of them Germans, for killing his friend, and a French resistance make use of that to fuel his Irish Saboteur roots, while listening to radios with music made in 1964.

It's beautiful.

Seriously, the game seems to have accepted that it was no documentary, and decided to go nuts with the setting, which could be a turn-off for some history freaks, but I found it even more charming than a real replication of those events could ever be. It's things like this that makes games like Sniper Elite V2 mission "Snipe the Führer balls" a fun thing to do, while historically awful, it's fun and engaging, what else is needed?
Back to Sean, after a couple of introduction missions, we found out that he has no sympathy for the New Paris management, and it's invited to set France free of German domain, by accomplishing tasks given by the French resistance and some British SOE.
Now, while I made some mention of anachronic stuff, I think the game did a great work not disclossing accurate dates, since like I said, they decided not to make a documentary out of it, but, they decided to base their main character in someone who really existed, William Grover-Williams, you can look him up if you want to know more, case in point, while not a documentary, it used a lot of references from the time, to make it more appealing I guess, and decided to twist everything up.
For a game on such a grim time of humanity, grim is something this game is not. Clever jokes, colorful setting, half of it at least, and even the enemies look like they were taken from a cartoonish parody of Wolfenstein.
Sean is a smart mouth, a bit nitter, always tactless about his environment, and liking it.
Before digging in, I need to say, that I love this game, and it's the best game in 2009 for me, after Prototype, and no, I haven't forgot Batman:AA, I loved it too, but when it comes to fun Factor, Prototype has the crown, and Saboteur the silver crown I guess.
Speaking of references and humour, this game like I said, lacks none, plenty of missions names, and situations are either comical, based on references and both. The world may be in its grimmer time, but Sean knows how to forget about it, always with a sarcastic note under his sleeves, and I think that's the biggest game charm, because while he's being ironic about everything, the world itself remains most of the time trying to be serious, which makes it even funnier.
Prototype fun was simply turning yourself into a genocide swiss knife for some laughs, and it worked pretty fine, but Alex Mercer was mostly a party pooper, so the fun came mostly from within you. God, I may have to write a Not-so-retroview for Prototype as well, I promise to barely mantion it from no on.
I think the game had potential to be more that what ended being, but then, what failed? The game is popular, no one will deny it, but it never catch up to other series, and there were reasons for that, so let's analise this game for once.

Gameplay is one of the strongest points of Saboteur, but is also one that has a hard time to shine. Most of Saboteur gameplay mechanics were used before in another game, making this one hard not to relate to other games, let's take out of the ecuation the Sandbox element, simply because it's impossible not to compare it to GTA or Assassin's Creed. No, let's talk about other factors, like the climbing, something most Sandbox games took from Assassin's Creed, Infamous and Prototype did as well, so Saboteur couldn't be left out. But sadly, the way it's implemented didn't help the game. While you can climb, the enemy cannot, so it's easy to break the AI, and makes the game far less challenging than it should. The gunplay is rather good, and weapons are easy to come by, so you can go gun-ho, but pushing it will turn the screen red. While you can make a mess of Paris, the game encourages you to use stealth, and to not raise your wanted level.
I guess that one was pretty much took from GTA, especially the fourth, when you got heat on you, a red circle appears on the minimap indicating the danger area to be, you need to go unnoticed, then, get out of the circle or it will never disappear. I don't think that taking this element from GTA IV is a bad thing, but it's one of those that cannot go without mention, someone always will bring that thing when discussing the game.
Like I said before, stealth is the way to go, so the best choice will be to take out with your bare hands on any Nazi without being caught, and take his clothes, to enter secure areas or hard to reach places, like you did on hitman series. Again, I don't think it's bad, but who can avoid making the comparison?
While stealth is pretty much a no brainer, another thing that can really help is doing A LOT of Free roaming sabotage, that will reduce the difficult of some missions drastically. Unlike some other games, most of Saboteur Free-roaming targets could significantly change the difficulty of story driven missions, getting rid of a sniper nest could be a good help, when you got heat on you and need to break the AI by going to the rooftops, so at least, you have some incentive to get rid of some white dots on the minimap. Other targets may be irrelevant except for trophy/achievement whoring, and ultimately boring sometimes, but I guess it could give the game a little longer life if you're into slave, unpaid work.
Another thing to keep in mind, is not to mess up with the citizens too much, you start to lose bonuses if you take your rage on them, and eventually get chased by the resistance itself, a thing they will ultimately forgive once you died, because you're still their hero I guess.
Driving is another one of the mechanics that's really fun to do, you can access to some races later on, or you can hijack a Nazi vehicle and wreck some chaos. The races are great, but sadly, they cannot be repeated, and there are not much of them either, so it's a pity to have one of the most fun elements in the game to be so short, in comparison to have 400 free roam targets in the middle of Paris.
Most vehicles are really well designed and most fo them have their own personality, so even taking a super slow lorry can be of fun from time to time.
The game also features Perks, that can be really a game changer, and what's great about them is that it doesn't require you to grind experience points to eran them, but to fulfill certain conditions, preventing from simply killing over and over with that broken AI to get perks completely unrelated to the killing you're doing, unlike most games. And what's more, the requirement for them aren't that demanding most of the time, it requires finesse, but doesn't demand you to grind as much as some other games do, so it's a great feature, greatly implemented.There is also a shop, since money moves the world, and this game is not exception, and like perks, you don't have to grind that much to get what you need, but get ready to über grind to get what you want. Dying in free roam removes any weapon and grenades you have on you, so you'll be visiting the shop quite often, and once you purchased a weapon, you can get it for free, paying only for ammo, grenades, dynamite, and some upgrades, making the monetary situation quite balanced.
The hand to hand combat is fairly good, but it's only useful when you start a new game, after the first couple of missions, it will only get you a ticket to have an army upon you in seconds, which is a shame, because later on, you can only progress if you do bare hands stealth kills, that after a time, get a little bit tiresome, thank god it's not a QTE.
So, that's it for gameplay, while fun, it decided to play it safe, and never took a chance to see how could improve what's already on the market, which I think it kills its chance to shine above all of them.
Oh, no I didn't forget one of its more engaging elements in the game, I decided to put it in another section that fits better, and even though we can consider it part of the core gameplay mechanics, I think it belongs to...

Yes, the graphics to me it's the shining part of this game, while a bit unpolished for its time, it made a great job delivering context and somewhat sense in this open world adventure.
The game has two kind of areas, motivated and unmotivated areas, which could influence how many enemies, patrols, and response from enemies greatly.
The game pretty much starts with a black and white world, deprived of color, except for blood, Nazi symbols, and resistance symbols. Parts of the game world in black and white will have tighter security, tougher resistance and it easier to stand out. Being in a black and white part of the map will make harder for Sean to escape if he gets heat, easier to get heat to begin with, and will result in heavier resistance from enemies, and no aid from citizens, making it a good challenge, though it doesn't fix the broken AI previously mentioned. Whenever a portion of the map gets color, people feels more motivated to join the fight, and the response from enemies is reduced considerably.
Putting color back in the map is only made with campaign missions, you cannot free a portion of the city by free-roaming, so, there are places that will make your life hell, if you want to free-roam in a black and white area.
This looks like a simple gimmick, but it really makes the gameplay fun, you'll have to balance which targets to get to be able to clear a mission easier, but failing to keep a low profile can turn your game sour in seconds, and you haven't begun the mission yet.
Most approaches are fun on their own, and there's always room to experiment, especially on later stages of the game, where the heat meter increases fast, It's all up to the player judgement. And while there's pretty much a most effective way to play this, players can try their own stuff, making it fun, engaging and challenging.
If I had to state my own opinion on this, I like the black and white aesthetics more than full color, it gives a grim sensation without being pretentious. The contrasts of blood and Nazi and resistance symbols are great with that filter, so I wished to have the option to choose how I want to look at the world once the game's finished, but that's just me, the game's great as it is.

The sound department seems like a mix and match for some people. Needless to say, I have no complains on this matter. I loved the music, and I didn't care if it was anachronic, good music is good, that's it. The voice acting is a bit rough, yeah, but like the rest of the stuff, it wasn't made to deliver superb drama and complicated relationships tree,and in fact, I have to admit that I felt too invested with the characters, and came to like most of them, the father missions were really fun, and the dialogs with the chinese Scientist were sublime, but I can understand why some people didn't find the audio department in this game as memorable as I did.

I realized I mentioned too much the Broken AI of the game, I'm sorry, didn't mean to be a downer, I actually don't mind AI that much, but I'm sure most people would be turn off by it. I think this game failed to try to expand the bounds, its biggest sin was to play it too safe, and this came from a game that used Swasticas without a second thought, I expected gameplay to ve as bold.
In any case, if anyone of you haven't got the chance to play this game, I would strongly recommend it, it won't

change your life, you won't learn anything of value, but you'll be too busy having fun to even consider that.

As for my next Not-so-retroview, I'd like to ask you if you're interested in the following games I've been reviewing lately, for my next analysis. The games I've been playing are as follow:

Saints Row 2
I guess I could add Prototype, but i've been mostly killing time with it.
Persona 4 and Golden
Persona 3 FES
Odin's Sphere
Sly Cooper
Zombie Driver

Also, I'm open to suggestions if you have one, toddles!
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About Earthfieldone of us since 11:47 AM on 11.07.2012

I'm just your average user, fond of gaming since I was a young lad.
I love retro gaming, not so retro gaming, and current gen.
I'm not a reviewer, but I love to analyze games as an entertainment and as an experience.
One word of advice, English is not my native language, so please bear with the grammar horrors.