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FWD Progress: Pardon the Mess While I Blow Up a Tower

The Saboteur LogoAs you can undoubtedly see, I’ve re-skinned the site and created a new logo for Game Forward. Unfortunately, it‘s only the first of about a million little steps I’m taking to upgrade the look and functionality and it looks like I’ll have some downtime because of a few small, but very annoying layout and technical issues.

The site shouldn’t be offline for more than a day or two at most while I clean things up and rebuild. I’ve got a couple of iPhone/iPod Touch reviews to go up first though and a few games on the go as well. Over the holiday, I started into The Saboteur and despite a number of flaws and decidedly last-gen technical issues, I’ve fallen in love with it. Read More...

First of all, The Saboteur is a great-looking game, at least on the Xbox 360. Like most open-world games, it suffers from a touch of pop-in, however it’s a highly-polished title with a lively colour palette and excellent lighting effects.

The premise of the game is that you are an Irish race driver named Sean that sets out for revenge after his friend is killed as the Nazi forces invade France in 1940. When Sean is in a Nazi-controlled area, The Saboteur is essentially presented in Black and White, with sparse colour effects used to indicate enemies or provide ambient lighting. As Sean liberates areas of France, their colour returns and you catch a glimpse of an absolutely stunning game world set in both city and countryside.

This system may remind you of inFamous. The Saboteur also takes some gameplay queues from Sucker Punch’s 2009 effort and the popular Assassin’s Creed series. Sean is remarkably athletic and can scale just about any building with relative ease. Traversing rooftops proves to be an effective way of getting around without drawing too much attention to Sean.

Though the game can be played as a balls-out action romp, I’ve taken the stealth approach to it so far and it has proved to be very rewarding. Hundreds of ambient freeplay events task you with destroying Nazi sniper and lookout towers as well a fuel dumps and propaganda speakers and I found that a quiet, unseen approach has let me make it halfway through The Saboteur relatively unscathed.

There are a number of other gameplay systems at work including a disguise mechanic similar to Destroy All Humans!, some of which work and some of which are downright broken. There is also a very GTA III feel to movement and animation and there are many ways to exploit clipping and dumb AI routines.

There is also an extremely annoying control issue related to having to hold down a trigger or bumper to fight or sneak around. I’d have liked to see an option to toggle fighting or sneaking states because I'm developing "claw hand" every time I play.

The game itself  plays out much like any Grand Theft Auto title, featuring driving, stealth, sniper and escort missions. The story is very well-paced so far and I imagine it would take about 12 hours to complete if I had gone straight through. As it stands though, I’ve been spending a ton of time seeking out and destroying Nazi facilities.  

Because of their proliferation, it’s next to impossible to move 50 feet without picking an ambient freeplay event up on your mini-map. Much like with the orbs in Crackdown,  it’s tough not to get distracted and move off-course from your main objective

Despite it’s rather glaring flaws, I’ve spend almost ten hours with The Saboteur so far and likely will not be done with it by the time my rental period is through. The game world is fantastic and full of Nazi stuff to destroy. The audio is also quite well done and features well-implemented positional effects and a fantastic period soundtrack.

I’ll probably end up buying The Saboteur even though I had no intention to, or even any interest in the game just two weeks ago. The final effort from Pandemic Studios is a bit rough around the edges, but its ironically also the best game the studio ever produced.