There's a reason Paris is called The City of Light. It's a beautiful place--home to timeless architecture, unending landmarks, and a rich culture uniquely its own. But as a historical setting, it's not all charming cafes and romantic photographs atop the Eiffel Tower. Paris has a dangerous past, which developer Pandemic is looking to explore in The Saboteur. In this stylish World War II-era sandbox action game, you play Irish racecar driver Sean Devlin on a vengeance quest to topple the Nazi occupation of wartime Paris. Throughout the course of that quest, you'll hide out in brothels, kill and impersonate German officers, and bring color to a world gone gray. After a recent demo courtesy of lead designer Tom French, we can now add dealing in the black market and unlocking (light) skill upgrades to that list.
The black market plays a big role in The Saboteur. As anyone who took a World War II class in school knows, the franc was less than, shall we say, stable during the war. So with no viable monetary currency to help Sean get what he needs, he's resorted to selling contraband to some unsavory individuals in Paris. Generally, this involves finding liquor and wine bottles scattered throughout the city or simply completing a quest that rewards you with a number, which represents a certain amount of contraband. Then, you take this contraband to back alley vendors to trade it in for weapons, vehicles, and other assorted goodies.
For the most part, the guns you can buy are historically accurate weapons, such as the Thompson submachine gun and scoped M1 carbine rifle. And once you really amass a good amount of illegal goods, you can trade those in for vehicles to store in your garage, ranging from civilian jalopies to fully armored Nazi troop transports that just happened to fall into someone else's hands. You'll also be able to buy neighborhood maps of the city that call out areas of interest (like more black market dealers) you wouldn't normally be able to find on your own.
Of course, you can acquire all of this stuff on your own, but you'll naturally run the risk of drawing Nazi ire when you kill them for their weapons and yank them out of their vehicles in broad daylight. According to French, the unofficial mantra behind The Saboteur's mission designs has been "quiet in, loud out." This means you'll want to sneak your way into a sabotage mission and wait until you've completed your mission before leaving a wake of destruction on your way to safety.
But there's at least one tangible advantage to jumping headlong into combat. The Saboteur uses a system of light skill progression that rewards you with perks for passing certain milestones throughout the course of your vengeance quest. For those who favor the sniper rifle, collecting a certain number of headshots unlocks steadier aim at level one, while the second level of this perk reduces the recoil. Most aspects of combat have perks like this, from melee fighting to quickly planting explosive satchel charges.
In traditional sandbox action style, the amount of destruction you cause in combat will be met with escalating alert levels from the Nazi occupation. You'll start with simple foot soldiers coming after you at level one, but if you kill enough people and blow up enough vehicles, you'll find yourself attacked by terror squads, as well as machine gun-equipped zeppelins at level four. Then, at level five, you'll find yourself attacked by air raid planes. There's a certain level of ridiculousness to just how aggressively these enemies come after you considering it's an entire army against one man, but Pandemic has made no bones about the over-the-top nature of the action in The Saboteur. Despite the historical setting, Pandemic knows that you still want to play a video game.
It's that combination of over-the-top action and historical authenticity that makes The Saboteur such a promising game. It's scheduled to arrive on December 8. Check back then for our final review.