E3 09: Color tells a story in The Saboteur

Before attending the brief demo of Pandemic Studios’ and Electronic Arts’ open-world action title The Saboteur at E3, I heard the word “color” used as a descriptor for the game several times. That always struck me as odd considering its genre. But after seeing the game for the first time — I’ve somehow managed to allow this game to slip completely under my radar — I totally understand why people talk color.

Color can tell a story.

The Saboteur’s setting is Nazi occupied Paris (for the most part). In the game, you’ll play as a rough-necked protagonist named Sean Devlin. He’s a bruiser with a bit of finesse and a knack for driving fast. At first, Sean doesn’t particularly care that the country is occupied — he’s only interested in racing. This attitude changes when his buddy gets toasted by a Nazi. Sean (naturally) begins a vengeance quest and inadvertently inspires rebellion.

So, let’s talk color. The Saboteur’s scheme is split between monochrome and full-fledged glorious reds, blues, and greens. The slices of Paris occupied heavily by Nazis are painted monochrome. This includes everything touching it — some cars, Sean, and whatever else. Like Sin City, Pandemic illuminates certain objects in the ink. Nazi badges and flags are a bright and vibrant red.

Here’s the deal: as you progress through the game and take out Nazis, you literally put color back into the world. You are the catalyst to change and the color acts as the narrative device. During the demo I watched the demonstrator drive down a wonderfully colored Northern France road into the Nazi darkness. I wanted him to win, to put the color back.

In that sense, the color is a wonderful device. I never care about an open-world action title’s atmosphere and Pandemic finally made me stop and look around. Totally awesome.

Brad BradNicholson