The market seems to be flooded with World War II games these days by way of titles like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. However, Pandemic Studios plans to change that status quo with Saboteur, an open-world stealth-action game set in World War II.
Trey Watkins, the director of Saboteur, explained, "We are certainly set in WWII, but we don't consider ourselves a WWII game. We're not storming the beaches of Normandy; this isn't about beating the Nazis — this game is about a guy and his personal story that happens to be set in WWII."
The guy he's referring to is the main character of Saboteur, Sean, who is just a regular Irish guy who happened to get caught up in a bad situation. Some people very close to him die because of the actions of some very specific Nazis, so he goes on a personal mission to get his vengeance.
Phil Hong, the producer of Saboteur, said that this is something very different from what has been done before. "The uniqueness is in the story we're telling; it's a personal revenge story about a guy who's in the wrong place at the wrong time — which is Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion."
More importantly, Sean is not a character in uniform, and he's not engaging in military combat. "In our research of that era, we've come across amazing people who've became larger-than-life legends that we can draw from and we've kind of crafted our guy after," Hong said.
The idea for Saboteur came about when they noticed a niche that needed to be filled in the market. First of all, they realized the success of open-world games like Grand Theft Auto, but they wanted to incorporate an aspect that made their game unique.
"We also saw games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid playing up the fantasy and gameplay of stealth action, being behind enemy lines, and being an undercover agent. So blending those two styles of games — making an action-stealth game in an open world — felt like a play for finding a sweet spot in the market," Watkins said. "We didn't want to see another Call of Duty or Medal of Honor, and we wanted to take a fresh approach, so we went behind enemy lines; we went to occupy Paris."
A major mechanic featured throughout Saboteur is the "will to fight." Nazi-controlled zones — or areas with low "will to fight" — are colored in black and white, and once you liberate these zones, they will turn into areas with high "will to fight" and will be drenched with color.
"Color will — in real time — come back into the world. The skies will open up, a blue sky will return, and the clouds will recede," Watkins explained. You can see the effect side-by-side by standing in a high "will to fight" area that is in full color and then further off seeing the black-and-white, Nazi-controlled area. This effect makes it much easier to know where you need to go for your next objective.
So with a game named Saboteur, what acts of sabotage can you plan on participating in? Watkins said that players can expect, "everything from stopping the Nazi weapons train, to assassinating a Nazi leader rally, to a fist-fight on top of the Eiffel Tower."
However, you won't see Sean doing any fancy, gravity-defying Matrix moves in Saboteur. "He is an up-close-and-personal kind of guy. He uses his fists. This is much more a knock-down-drag-out bar fight style than it is anything else. You're not going to see roundhouse kicks," Watkins said. "He's going to pull up his fists, he's going to grab the guy by the scruff of the neck, and he's going to pummel him. You'll see headbutts, elbows thrown, kicks to the groin, and all sorts of dirty street fighting."
Hong explained that the Nazis will simply regard you as a common plaything at first, but once you take down a few guys, they pull out the big guns. And this is exactly why they've implemented the "clamoring" system — an acrobatic way of moving about the city to avoid detection by Nazis.
"The basic principle is that Sean is extremely dexterous and can make his way across the roof. So he uses that to his advantage; when there is a Nazi patrol on the streets, he scales the wall," Watkins said. He's no Spider-Man, but he'll be able to scurry up drain pipes and shimmy across ledges to drop down on foes. "We're spending a great deal of time making the clamoring system really simple to use so that players can just get the feeling of being cool or running across the rooftops — just free running."
There is also a game mechanic called "suspicion," which is how the Nazis perceive you (this sounded much like the stars from Grand Theft Auto). Anything from fighting to gunfire can set off this suspicion, which is why "clamoring" is so important to the gameplay. "We wanted to make the stealth feel fast and just something that is happening along the world. Since it is an open-world game, it is just important that we allow the players the freedom to move and not feel frustrated by slower gameplay," Hong said. While blasting your way into a building makes for a good entrance, they wanted to challenge players by making them think about different ways to penetrate a base or headquarters and engage in battle.
With so many facets of Saboteur modeled after Grand Theft Auto, it is almost inevitable that we are able to accommodate vehicles. Watkins planned to take on the open-world mantra of, "if you can see it, you can get in it." You will be able to use a large variety of transportation like cars, boats, planes, bicycles, and motorcycles. Since Sean is a racecar driver, a large part of the game involves him being able to drive cars well.
It was obvious listening to the developers that they intend on Saboteur having a very cinematic feel. In fact, the visual style of "will to fight" is clearly modeled after a hit comic book movie. "Artistically we were heavily influenced by movies like 'Sin City'," Hong admitted. Watkins also comments that there are many high-action moments in the game that use director Jerry Bruckheimer's style of filmmaking.
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