You are playing as a generally very likeable Irish racecar-driver/mechanic, who ended up in France during WW2, and one night while getting drunk to forget his sorrows in this nightclub called "Belle de Nuit" he gets into an argument with a French guy and ends up working with the French Resistance against the Nazis by starting to blow up Nazi bases and killing the lots of them wherever he goes.
Sean sitting in the Belle de Nuit, bored and depressed and what he's missing
The game is held in the style of a "film noir" (dark, pessimistic view on the world around you, gloomy scene-compositions and stereotype characters filled with problems and bitterness). After you "free" an area from nazi oppression by resisting them though (which usually means blowing stuff up), that city part gets its color back till (at some point) the whole world can bloom in its former glory again.
If you're still playing on a Black & White TV you might miss out on this
The Back-story deals with Sean Devlin (our main character) and his best friend showing what exactly happened to them, while taking turns switching from a funny to a dramatic undertone and back. It introduces most of the stories important main characters, including the two charismatic female leads. I personally thought it was gripping and had a lot of potential. I cared about some of the characters, enjoyed it and wanted to know what'll happen next. In that aspect with a little bit of polish it might have been a rival to a similar game called "Mafia".
There's barfights, nazi chicks, boobs and blasting stuff from guard towers to whole nazi headquarters, who wouldn't like those prospects?
The game plays kind of like a Mix between GTA (most of the basic gameplay-mechanics like the driving, carjacking, a meter when you are tailing someone, the map and the increasing "Wanted"-meter where you have to drive out of a "red circle" on the map without being seen by enemies are directly imported from there) and Assassin's Creed (Free Climbing, Hiding Spots, Fitting in, there's even "Scenic Spots" with pigeons flying away... this one is probably just for the lulz, at least it seemed that way like a humorous jab) with a little more of a Stealth Element to it based on Hitman (Sneak behind and Stealth-Kill a nazi, dress up in his uniform and try not to get too close to other soldiers or Gestapo officers (which can usually tell the difference) while going about your business, from stealth-killing some more of them, using the Vulcan neck-pinch on unsuspecting targets or setting up explosives on tactical positions). Stealth can be useful at times and it can be used in many of the missions, but there's usually the point where you get out your gun and dynamite and start killing everything that moves, because it is faster and easier and there's no direct reward or requirement for doing anything "stealthy" in the game.
Saboteur's "Scenic Spots" don't exactly look as pretty
as Assassin's Creed... and disguising yourself as a guard
You always have an indicator on the screen, which shows if a nazi soldier can see you right now, displayed as a (!) at the bottom left of the screen and if you do "forbidden" actions while they can see you they will get suspicious. If the bar is full they'll get out a whistle and try to blow it, causing an alarm upon which every nazi in the vicinity will either try and get to your position or start shooting right away. Fortunately you can bestow a quick death to anyone who tries to blow the whistle if you're quick.
If that thing on the bottom left is shown,
and you do something "bad" you're in trouble
The combat is far from realistic, there's your basic cover-system where you can hide behind short walls, crates or around corners when you walk up to them or by pressing the "Cover"-key from where you can shoot Nazis safely while under heavy fire and when you're wounded or your screen starts to pulsate red you have to hide somewhere for a short while to recover and you can go right back to playing Rambo again.
This is how it looks when you get shot one too many times
and Sean cowering in fear behind a crate, while facing the master race
After you get through the basics of the story and gameplay mechanics, the most important features of the game are being additionally explained in Tutorial-Screens like this:
If you fail at a mission the game doesn't penalize you for it like in GTA, in which you have to do it all over again e.g. pick up a car and weapons, start the mission, get to the last step you got stuck on just to fail once more and having to do it all over. But you can continue from the last step (usually just a few seconds or minutes ago) and move on from there.
Money in The Saboteur is called "Contraband" and can be traded in against Weapons, Ammunition or Weapon Upgrades at the Black Market. (Unfortunately after you find out that you can make almost infinite amounts of it quickly, by shooting zeppelins and planes it kind of starts to lose its value and become meaningless)
Upgrades and Perks
Additionally, you can climb around buildings like in Assassin's Creed, but the mechanics of doing so (On the PC you jump up one step by pressing Space and the usage of the directional Keys to either jump left or right and drop with C) unfortunately may get old after a while. Seeing as you have to press Space EVERY single time you want initiate a jump instead of say holding it down while using the directional keys to change the direction in which you want to go you'll end up hammering the key (or Gamepad button) at least 5-10 times to climb a building. The movements also don't feel as "fluid", intuitive or fast as they did in Assassin's Creed, but it still works essentially.
The slight white glow indicates the next ledge you can grab on to
There's more things to do aside of witnessing the Main story, which manifest themselves in the "Free Play" Targets the game offers similar to "Killing Pigeons", going Bowling or Collecting cars in GTA. Although they are a lot more Reasonable in this game, it's mostly about blowing stuff up or killing Nazis and there's even maps, which can be bought ingame to Highlight the targets on the minimap and don't have to be looked up on the Internet.
To my relief they didn't implement all those "social gaming" components GTAIV was so full of. You don't have to visit Internet cafes, you don't have to play dress-up or go on "dates" with your pals and girlfriends and drive people around in a taxi... In short, they got rid of most of the boring, pointless crap and concentrated more on gameplay and making things explode.
The map in big: "white dots" are indicating FreePlay Targets
You can gain Perks though (similar to Fallout) by completing different tasks, for example Stealth-Kill 5 Nazi generals or Roadkill-ing 20 nazis. Those perks are usually there to make your life easier by unlocking new attacks, letting you carry around more equipment, unlocking special weapons and the likes. You can also buy upgrades for some of your cars, your allies and your weapons in shops around the city.
Whenever you get a new car to a garage and "collect" it, you can spawn it right there fresh from now on at no cost throughout the game. It might not sound like the most realistic thing, but it beats finding the best car ever in GTA and not using it, because you're afraid it'll explode or you'll lose it somehow. Same thing with weapons, once you bought/unlocked them at a shop you can always reequip when visiting weapons-dealers around the game world.
Even on the highest settings they are... fine, but offer nothing special. Moreover it seems to be another one of those games, which are a little on the "Hardware-intensive" side of things (It's nowhere near as bad as Saints Row 2 or GTA IV for the PC though, it is still playable. But be wary if you own an ATI graphics card as you might require a soon-to-be-released Patch to be able to play the game at all). Textures are usually washed out aside of the main characters and there's clearly visible popping up of textures on buildings and even people while you are sprinting around throughout the city.
Another thing I had a problem with was, that the city doesn't resemble Paris all that much. Sure it does have a few of the landmarks but somehow it can't reproduce the flair or atmosphere, the city incorporates. They could have as well been replaced by something else entirely and it would not have made much of a difference. Besides, most of the city-parts look exactly the same.
Washed out low-resolution textures and popping
Furthermore, there are some problems with the AI: If you park a car at the side of the street people keep driving into it, if you use a hiding spot right in front of some enemies without a direct line of sight they tend to forget about you, they sometimes even blow themselves up or roadkill each other etc.
The controls work but I was fighting with myself constantly switching from a Gamepad to the Keyboard+Mouse during the game. The X360 Pad was better while generally running around/climbing and some of the driving sequences, but I kept dying in some missions involving heavy shooting, usually ending up with me grabbing the Keyboard, which basically solved that problem in no time cause you can aim exactly for the heads and shoot the enemies right away in a few seconds instead of them swarming you from all sides while you try picking off targets one by one.
Concluding, it's a game where you can MAKE your play: Want go stealthy about something? Dress up in a nazi uniform, drop in from above and dispatch of nazis. Want to have the biggest explosions and an effective way of eliminating half of a base? Mount a gun/artillery somewhere and blow them up from afar. Want to play Rambo? Rush in through the front door with guns blazing or if you want a more sophisticated method of mayhem and destruction get into a tank and run down their front door... (I usually just went in guns-blazing because it often seemed the easiest way but you can basically do all of them nonetheless xD)
It's not the prettiest game, the game with the smoothest animations, it might not even be the most stable or the most balanced game but overall it had something which for me was lacking in both GTA IV and Assassin's Creed... which is heart and it was fun while playing so I'm willing to let a few things slide, giving it a 8.0/10.
It might also be because I didn't expect anything from this game, and didn't play any of Pandemics previous titles before though.
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