Remember… is a series of retrospectives, some from our magazine archives, and others from our more recent nostalgia dreams.
The Saboteur is often dismissed as a cheap clone of Raven Software’s 2009 Wolfenstein reboot, a genre-establishing game that reintroduced the franchise’s zany Nazi occult division to a new generation of gamers. Pandemic Studios’ game attempted to do something like this but with a more artsy spin. And strippers.
For those of you who missed it, Saboteur is a third-person open world shooter set during WW2 in Nazi-occupied France. You play as Sean Devlin, an Irish race car mechanic who’s also unusually proficient with high-grade explosives and guns – and, inevitably, finds himself mixed up in the local resistance. And with the help of revolutionary comrades, prostitutes, and a bad-boy priest, he redecorates Paris. Literally. When you start the game, everything is shaded black and white with patches of red, blue and yellow, like a cabaret cupcake with symbolism sprinkles. As you blow things up and reduce the Nazi presence in the city, you bring back colour to the world so you can ogle the low-poly strippers at your base.
Saboteur probably wouldn’t be released today as-is. All the female characters in the game either have saucy French accents or demanding German ones, and they’re all dressed like dominatrices too. But seriously, they’re “independent women who make their own decisions”. The amount of cleavage and jiggle mechanics here is enough to provoke a Normandy-level social justice invasion, which is totally justifiable – Saboteur even launched with free DLC that included full frontal nudity and sex scenes, and the game’s own glossary describes Sean as a bit of a womaniser.
But enough about that, let’s play dress-up and kill some Nazis. The Saboteur’s stealth system is based on Sean’s ability to steal Nazi officer uniforms and infiltrate restricted areas in disguise. These mechanics could have made Saboteur a great stealth game if there were more options rather than just avoiding guard patrols, and the range and visibility cones on the guards make it hard not to get noticed, almost always resulting in a firefight. Sean’s massive health bar makes up for it, though. He can tank through most enemy encounters without cover and almost instantly regenerates once he steps out of the fray for like three seconds.
Sean’s parkour skills are slow and frustrating. Each time you climb, you’ll end up jack-hammering a hole in your A button. The process makes escaping enemies on foot tedious, and if it weren’t for Sean’s nigh-invincibility you might actually worry about the tank-mounted machine guns shredding his insides. Climbing down is terrifying. You can’t guarantee if Sean will reach for the ledge you jump off of, or if he’ll scream one last Irish-accented ‘BLÜDY HEEEELLLL!’ before his knees and abdomen become intimately acquainted. On the other hand, the slow climbing and high chances of falling to your death does instill a sort of realistic anxiousness when you try to platform your way into a Nazi base.
Saboteur might not be the most original or innovative video game of the last ten years. But compared to the most recent installment in the Killing Nazis in France genre, perhaps, The Saboteur is certainly worth your time.
GET IT ON GOG.COM!
We’ve teamed up with GOG to give one NAG reader a free copy of The Saboteur. Simply drop a comment below and we’ll randomly choose a winner on Friday.