I think I’ve been caught in a strange space bubble of some sort because “CHAD GEORGE!!” is tattooed on my chest and even though news, pictures and video of Pandemic’s upcoming WWII sandbox adventure, The Saboteur, have been occupying the tubes like Nazis in the game’s France, I’ve managed to not see any of it. So, color me f’in surprised when I actually came face-to-face with the game last night at EA’s EA3 event and found it was not at all what I had expected.
For those as uninformed and clueless as myself The Saboteur tells the tale of race-car-driver-turned-freedom-fighter, Sean Devlin (based on real-life badass William Grover-Williams), who, after participating in a race gone awry in Germany and losing someone close to him, becomes an operative for the French hellbent on taking down the Nazi war machine. This, of course, involves killing lots of sharply-dressed soldiers and blowing the shit out of really big things in a super-stylized, open-world rendition of France. Dreams are made of this, people.
The most striking aspect of The Saboteur is its art direction. The majority of what I saw was cast in black and white with bright accents of red and yellow very similar to the now famous Sin City look. Nazi banners, arm bands and blood sharply contrast the stark world surrounding them with lights casting a pale yellow glow; it’s a look that really does make the game feel rather special. This look was chosen because Pandemic felt putting a force as oppressive as the Nazis in a normal setting such as France felt too out of place with what they wanted to achieve.
The color, or lack thereof, not only looks neat, it also acts as an indicator of sorts. When an area is heavily populated by Nazi forces it is devoid of color to nail that message of oppression home, but when the ranks are thinned out, the area will become bright with life and color which makes the game feel like a hyped-up crack dream of Walt Disney (fun fact: he was a Nazi sympathizer) that is cool and bizarre.
Missions in the game, are designed in a way that Lead Designer, Tom French, refers to as, “Quiet in; loud out.” What this means is the best way to tackle a situation is to sneak in, do your thing then bust out in a triumphant hellstorm of chaos. However, should you not be of the stealth persuasion, you can go in bombs bursting and guns blazing to achieve what I just made up as the “Rockmac Effect.” The goal for the developers is to deliver something very over-the-top but still allow options for the player to work however they want.
Being set in an open-world the game allows for plenty of freedom as far as exploration and general destruction goes. If you want to steal a car and drive it through a group of goose-stepping Nazis, you’re free to do so. Want to check out some of Paris’ best rooftops? Nothing’s stopping you since Sean has the ability to climb about in ways not unlike the heroes from Assassin’s Creed and the upcoming inFamous. There are also plenty of side quests and objectives planned that will help the cause and gain an upper hand.
Unfortunately, my preview of The Saboteur was cut extremely short and I wasn’t able to get hands-on nor finish the walkthrough with Tom French. Hopefully we can get some time with the game at E3 because what I saw really impressed me with its setting and style. I’m a sucker for a good sandbox game and I think this one has the makings to be that and more. I can just imagine videos of marching Nazis getting run over set to the theme from Benny Hill and I want it so bad.