Nazis and aesthetics, it’s a dangerous subject and one The Saboteur, just like so many things, dares to touch but doesn’t succeed in understanding, let alone integrate it in an adult and intelligent way into the gameplay and storyline that gets put up around it.
Nazi-occupied France and Paris are displayed in this action game in black & white to bring the oppression to life. If you succeed in liberating part of the city or the countryside – we’ll keep the fact that this is a strange concept in the middle – then the colors return and things become good again. Unfortunately everything looks way cooler and more exciting without those boring and o so repetitive green-brown colors. Especially the combination of the black and white with some details like bright red, threatening swastikas or the fire coming out of blazing guns gives the game a unique and immersive look, and an atmosphere we would love to experience again.
You can move freely in the areas as this is an open-world game. You choose whether to walk around on foot or take a car and drive to for instance the Eiffel tower or another place that’s perfect for some sightseeing. Although the cars aren’t so great, they do remain fun to drive, mostly due to the fact that you don’t get to play with cars from that era every day. Less well worked out is the crawling onto buildings. First and foremost it feels stupid to sling onto rooftops like a monkey in a World War 2 game with hostile soldiers all around you.
The feeling that there’s always something unnatural only gets heightened by the main character. You play Sean Devlin, an Irishman, who mostly loves whiskey, cars and female beauty, but also kills hordes of nazis while swearing like a devil without even dropping one drop of sweat. The reason for his personal crusade against the Nazis is the death of his good friend by a Nazi officer and this is again soemthing that’s hardly believable and will need some getting used to. In the end we do find quite a bit of worryless fun underneath that layer of unease.
The clash between “Allo Allo!” and the need to appeal to adults is also found with the rest of the stereotypical characters and the storyline. We’re constantly reminded at how gruesome war is and all the big and small drama that plays every day, but the devs were so kind with some free DLC to make sure the local prostitutes show their titties. Not that the dressed-up nipples left much to the imagination!
Next to watching women you of course have to fullfil some real missions as well. These usually consist of blowing up a certain objective, or taking down an adversary. Fun is the fact that in theory you can choose yourself whether you take out the big guns or get going with a more stealthy approach and first scout the area, or dress up and disappear in a group of bystanders a la Assassin’s Creed. I personally found the difficulty degree to be quite ok and didn’t have too much trouble with getting stuck or worrying that a mission would fail. Very relaxing. Quite a bit less good are the man-to-man fights which will quickly make you draw your weapons. Luckily the game is generous with gunfights, tons of alarmed hostiles and spectacular explosions to keep the action junkies happy.
Also well worked-out are the so-called minigames and additional assignments. A bit more could wouldn’t have hurt but you can finish plenty of races, shoot birds and destroy all kinds of German valuables in order to get some extra cash.
The Saboteur may not be a top title and have it difficult to combine its over-the-top action, caricatural characters and female beauty with the dramatic setting World War 2 no doubt is, but the end result is nothing more or less than an enjoyable action game. The German occupation delivers some beautiful and stylish images at times and there’s plenty to do for those that love shooting around.