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The Saboteur

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2009 (US), Dec. 4, 2009 (EU)

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PS3/X360/PC Preview - 'The Saboteur'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on June 21, 2009 @ 8:15 a.m. PDT

Pandemic Studios' The Saboteur will feature an open-ended world. Mixing regular first-person action with stealth, you, as a member of the French La Resistance, have to free Nazi-controlled zones. Reminiscent of Schindler's List, these zones will be displayed in black and white, but once successfully liberated, become colorized.

It's not often that you're talking with a game's lead producer and someone hands him a "Best of E3 - Graphics" nomination right in front of you. Then again, it's not as if the Mercenaries developer, Pandemic Studios, can't claim to deserve it with The Saboteur, one of the more beautiful games of the current console generation.  It uses an artistic creativity and development of play that simultaneously evokes many disparate experiences, and it doesn't just look great, but also evokes a unique style that turns a tired genre into something fresh.

The Saboteur is based on the story Grover Williams, a real-world saboteur who aided the French Resistance during World War II in occupied Paris. While he's still an Irish race-car driver, Sean Devlin is a very distinct character from his inspiration, as is the entire universe around him; he's out for vengeance and willing to go pretty low to fix it. As Devlin, you will participate in De Blob, only dark, gritty, and with the Nazi occupation force instead of black blobs.

At the outset of the game, most of Paris is black-and-white, with only amber lights, red Nazi symbols and your blue car to break things up (and the blood on the screen when you take damage). However, by completing objectives, you weaken their hold and bring color back to Paris. The effect manages to evoke "Sin City" wonderfully and is even used to show where you might be able to do things beyond the required mission objectives. A splash of red indicates something you can somehow wreck to color in more of the city. You're not in a turf war, though; once colored in, only specific plot points will cause areas to return to being black-and-white.

Basic gameplay in The Saboteur reminded more of Metal Gear Solid 4 than anything else, with a firm emphasis on stealth aided by decent shooting controls. Notably, the game avoids a few common genre trappings; the demoed missions offered several ways through an objective, whether you sneak your way through unnoticed, beat some guy up and take his uniform, or smash the right object with a truck. In the game's open world, getting away can be a long-distance task, ultimately involving the use of safe houses around Paris to escape.

I must reiterate how pretty the game looks when, for example, you get a surface-to-air missile and use it on a zeppelin. A wonderful explosion ensues, followed by more color in the city, and it's just the sort of thing that makes you feel accomplished, and it can really only be handled perfectly with well-done graphics. Combined with a long view — you're operating through a massive city, some surrounding countryside and reaching just a bit into Germany — and exceptional attention to detail, the game's graphical quality takes itself to a whole new level, even in the gameplay.

Overall, The Saboteur will be a great piece for people who are waiting for the stealth mayhem of the new Metal Gear entries.  The gorgeous graphics and unique gameplay definitely set apart this title from anything else in the field.


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