The Saboteur

The Saboteur Hands On Preview - I Can See the Whole of Paris From Here!

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After all the games we've had recently where concept and delivery have been at two different ends of the scale, The Saboteur actually came as a bit of a shock to us. Not only is the concept of the title fairly unique and interesting – not the World War II setting, but everything else – but Pandemic looked to have nailed the delivery as well. Over at EA earlier this week we got chance to see more of The Saboteur in action and we got bitten by its charm. In the first part of our session we saw a brief presentation of the train level – a level that those who went to PAX might be familiar with – and then went hands on with a mission called "Big Gun."

The train level that Tom French ran us through was a good indication as to the amount of variety that The Saboteur seems to boast. Your first objective was simply to make your way down to a railroad bridge and rig it up with a number of explosives that would be triggered to bring the approaching train down into the valley. Then you would have to climb aboard the train, defeat the bad guys and save a scientist before the train made it to the bridge, thus, faking the scientist's death. Your everyday sort of stuff then... It was a combination of stealth, climbing, and out and out combat – a good measure of the "quiet in, loud out" mentality of the game. It also gave us a good indication as to the sort of verticality the levels would offer the player, as they constantly had to link the combat into the climbing mechanic – getting to high ground was essential. Our hands on with the level “Big Gun” was a little bit more sandbox orientated though.

The level in question, "Big Gun," had a simple objective – get into an enemy camp, and destroy the big gun. How you did it was entirely up to you, but you were in a race against the clock. You could sneak in, grab a guard and disguise yourself and try the stealth approach, or you could do what I did... climb up high and rain down destruction on those around you whilst running and jumping from roof to roof. The climbing mechanic is simple and relies on a leap of faith concept, as in, you’ll run and jump at something hoping to hang on, and not once did our Irish friend let us down. Tom French told us the mantra was simple, "if you think you can climb it, you probably can" and that didn’t falter once.

Whilst the original art design and concept may pull you in, the gameplay will keep you nailed to the floor in fits of excitement. I must admit when Tom French walked us through the cemetery level in Seattle, I was apprehensive about the automatic cover system, but fear not, it never once caused me a problem and was actually pretty damn effective. The gun combat is your bog standard, traditional third person shooter, but couple that with the wonderfully intuitive climbing mechanics, and you have a whole bag of fun on your hands.

The developer walkthrough at PAX was played through on easy and really doesn't do the difficulty of the game any justice. After playing through the Big Gun level – or attempting anyway – I died on numerous occasions and quickly discovered you really couldn't just run in and gun everything down. You essentially have to have an element of strategy – use cover, catch them off guard, steal an outfit, find the easiest way in, etc – and a lot of this tied in to the climbing mechanic. Climbing the rooftops was not only the most fun route, but also the most effective. Sure, you have to evade snipers as well then, but you can take them down and use their guns against them. The only problem I found was that every sniper rifle I got my hands on wasn't entirely accurate even though I had my foe smack bang in the middle of my sight. A poor sniper rifle? We're not sure, but it made things that little bit more tricky and not in a good way.

In our hands on we also got a good chance to check out the driving mechanics of the game and can be happy to report that they're more arcade-orientated than anything else. This essentially means tons of speed and plenty of hand braking round corners, which is good news considering that the environment is absolutely huge (5.5kms by 5.5kms). The story doesn't limit itself to the main streets of Paris either and the action can push out into the game's countryside, as well as other places in France and even crossing over into the German border; with plenty of interiors along the way too. 

In terms of longevity, according to Tom French you can push 20-25 hours out the main story, 5-10 out of the side missions and a load more out of the ambient occlusions – other points of interest and tasks around the world like destroying German checkpoints, etc. French also noted there will be collectibles but they won't hide them too much and players can even purchase maps in the game to help find them – a strategy that is more than welcomed, although don't expect it to come cheap.

The most important aspect of a hands on preview is grasping the game's controls and seeing how they fare in the thick of action. It's virtually impossible to judge the calibre of a game with the scope that The Saboteur boasts from a small vertical slice of the game, but from a control design point, The Saboteur passes the test with flying colours. The gun combat did seem very simplistic, and a few of the guns seemed off in terms of accuracy (the sniper for instance), but the climbing mechanic is pure bliss and it brings the game in to its own. The Saboteur was a borderline buy prior to my hands on, but it’s safe to say now that I can’t wait for December to come so I can climb that pesky Eiffel Tower.

The Saboteur is scheduled for a December 4th in Europe and December 8th in North America.

Check out the cemetery walkthrough from PAX here.


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Game Info
Pandemic Studios
Electronic Arts


US December 08, 2009
Europe December 04, 2009

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