Game developers will eventually run out of stories to tell about World War II.
The topic will become stale to developers and gamers alike. We’ve already seen this with the fervor surrounding Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” series that brings combat games into present-day settings. There are also very few original ideas left for World War II games — you can play famous battles just so many times.
Pandemic Studios and Electronic Arts, however, did find a different take on the war with their December release of “The Saboteur.”
Rather than serving as a soldier for one of the Allied Powers, you play as Irish race car driver Sean Devlin, who is looking for revenge after he lost a race to a cheating Nazi at the outset of the German invasion of France. Also, instead of taking part in D-Day or fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Devlin works alongside the French Resistance inside of Paris.
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The game is very unique in its approach, using an unconventional setting and storyline for a World War II game.
The presentation is also unique, and it’s one of the highlights.
Nearly all of Paris is void of color at the start of the game, save for the red armbands on the Nazi soldiers and Nazi flags and banners. But as Devlin fights and sabotages his way through the city, color returns to various areas after you “inspire hope” to the citizens of those places through your resistance actions.
On paper — based on idea and style — “The Saboteur” would appear to be one of the better games that came out in 2009.
But the gameplay has its issues. The developers took a page from “Assassin’s Creed” by allowing its protagonist to climb nearly any building in Paris. But the climbing mechanic isn’t user-friendly.
You have to tap a button with each upward movement, which can get annoying quickly, particularly if you have Nazis shooting at you. Climbing in “Assassin’s Creed” is a much more streamlined approach, with a single button held as you scale buildings.
The game plays a lot like “Mercenaries” — another Pandemic Studios game — which can be both good and bad. It’s bad if you want to be an accurate shooter, and there are unmistakable similarities.
Some of the story is shaky.
Devlin initially has no interest in helping the resistance, but he decides moments later that he is ready to risk his life to sabotage a Nazi fuel depot.
There are also tons of glitches in the game, such as when one of your friends goes from being in your car to mysteriously disappearing in front of it.
“The Saboteur” is a cool game that brings a different look to war games in terms of style and art direction. But some frustrating gameplay keeps it from being more than that.