The World War II setting is merely window-dressing for the revenge story of Sean Devlin, a bitter Irish mechanic who has watched his friends fall in front of him.
Sean Devlin is a potty-mouthed, chain smoking, bad-ass, who is able to carry The Saboteur's often weak plot thanks to some great voice acting and character development. As his story progresses, you'll find yourself with a sense of compassion for the brazen Irish mechanic, which is probably The Saboteur's greatest strength. Despite some poorly acted support characters and some shoddy mission design, The Saboteur urges you through its lengthy campaign because of its lead protagonist.
The Saboteur's campaign is rather lengthy at roughly 12 hours, and there's a host of other stuff to complete when you're done.
We guarantee you'll hate protagonist Sean Devlin in the first hour or so of The Saboteur. But we challenge you to hate him at the end. Some fabulous voice acting brings the character to life and, as his story unfolds, you'll develop a sense of compassion for his actions. He rarely gets a good support-character to communicate with, but some conversations with British secret agent Skylar (who just happens to be a dead ringer for Scarlett Johansson) offer a sense of missed opportunity. A stronger supporting cast could have enhanced Devlin even further.
The Saboteur opens with a Tarantino trademark, as the plot hops back to a snapshot of Sean's life in better days. In those early hours you'll take part in a bar brawl, have sex with a buxom British lady, win a Grand Prix, be cheated of your victory by lead antagonist Dierker, drive his car into a lake, and eventually witness the murder of your best mate in a Nazi stronghold. The linear nature of The Saboteur's opening hour can lead to some disappointment when the game opens out into its final open-world structure. Only the very final mission delivers the same kind of thrill as the game's opening, with the middle-bulk succumbing to open-world cliche.
The Saboteur deserves kudos for being completely different to anything else on the market. The noire inspired vision of a Nazi stricken Paris is very warm and inviting. It's also underscored by some excellent audio design, with big-band music gracing the air-waves and enhancing the tone of the game. The use of colour is very prominent in The Saboteur's largely black and white design, with Schindler's List inspired dashes of colour flavouring the environments.
It's a little poignant to talk about the lack of polish in a game when practically the entirety of the development house behind it have been laid off. That's what's touching about The Saboteur: it's the swan-song of the now defunct Pandemic studio. Still, it would be unjust to type this review without lamenting the lack of polish in The Saboteur. We had our review code lock-up on us numerous times, causing us to restart missions more than we'd like thanks to an awkward check-point structure. For all its great artwork too, The Saboteur is a poor game technically, with a shoddy frame-rate and way too many jagged environments.
Despite a great beginning and end, the main bulk of The Saboteur's gameplay falls desperately on open-world cliche. The gameplay just isn't interesting enough to rely on basic smash-and-grab missions. The shooting feels loose and imprecise, the cover system is unreasonable and the movement of protagonist Sean Devlin is particularly clunky. Couple that with some poor stealth mechanics and you have a game that wants to offer variety, but delivers none.
Despite being an open world game, The Saboteur is really devoid of things to do within it. Yes, there's the odd side-mission and a bird shooting mini-game, but that aside, The Saboteur rest its laurels on providing numerous locations to destroy. Known as "Free Play" targets, you can use Devlin's stock of dynamite and explosives to destroy these objectives. It would probably be fun if the explosions engine was anywhere near Red Faction Guerrilla's.
Great voice work by Sean Devlin and Skylar are the only real high-lights in The Saboteur's vocal arsenal. Most accents are weaker than those heard in an episode of 'Allo 'Allo, and the script is no less cheesy.
As frustrating as protagonist Sean Devlin is endearing; The Saboteur is driven by its sense of style but, lacks the conviction required to take things to the next level.