The Saboteur

By | March 7, 2010

Yes, the videogame. Been playing around with this latest sandbox game. It does a lot of things right. And it looks pretty… but…

This is a game for killing Nazis from the point of view of an Irish race driver and mechanic helping out the french resistance. Seriously. You get to run around laying dynamite and evading patrols in a sort of reverse terrorism, because it’s to give the good people of France hope, restoring color to the world.

The actual gameplay is rather straightforward. It’s a GTA style game with wall-climbing, because that’s the new thing these days. In this environment, the Nazi army has established rather a large number of guard towers. You get to remove them with dynamite. It’s a bit of civic cleanup… rather literally, as the work is akin to picking up trash off the roadside.

Fortunately, once you clear the streets and rooftops of these eyesores, the game rewards you by not actually having any of them respawn. The major benefit is obvious! Uh… well, you get paid for it. A little. And when you run away from Nazi alerts, it’s easier to lose them in an area where you’ve destroyed all watchtowers.

About the only thing that’s really new here (since transforming a landscape’s color pattern is as fresh as Prince of Persia and as old as Q*Bert) is the “Perk” system. The game has a few skills and upgrades unlocked not by amassing loot and buying them, but by achievements. Each is a line of 3 tiers, unlocking the potential to finish the next, and giving progressively more game-changing rewards. In many cases, the work is really its own reward, as you can upgrade your ability to throw folks around in melee simply by throwing a few Nazis off their towers. Or not just getting some practice in with a sniper rifle, but by lining up shots where you cap 2 soldiers with one bullet. The abilities unlocked vary a bit from minimizing recoil to letting you summon a vehicle driven by a shopkeeper. Important, as, well, even with upgraded storage for multiple types of explosives, you are only one man, and you are trying to blow up several hundred structures.

Part of me really wants to enjoy this game, for the spectacle, and the unlockables. But I’m already most of the way through them, and… realizing about all the game has to offer from here is combat and sneaking around to eliminate a gigantic number of minor obstacles. Not that this is a bad thing, but I would be far more involved in the game itself if this realization had been delayed by another layer of accomplishments.

Playing this game on the PC of course provides another layer of fun in the form of crashes. Thank god for quicksave. That feature alone has made the game go from impossible to reasonable, due to a tendency to crash after 20-50 minutes playing at anything higher than minimum resolution. Whether this represents a holdover from the console editions or my computer’s shoddy design… the world may never know. I will, however, not forgive the game for having no quick way to access the full map. You can only enter the menu, select map, and then select Full Map. Which is ridiculous, because you only ever want the full map on that screen.
Most recently, in an event that probably sums up my impression of the game, I found a spot to drive downhill through a park, hitting a few ramps to jump the vehicle for profit. The game only requires that you get the car over the ramp, not to manage to land something you cannot adequately control. It is functional, and less frustrating than many GTAs, but a bit tedious for the rewards offered. Still, a bit of fun to take care of before moving on.

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