I bought The Saboteur for $9.99 at Toys R Us months and months ago. I played it for a bit and set it aside. Eventually I came back to it, and what went from a casual lark on a cheap game became something of a minor obsession. It wasn't enough to do the main story missions; I had to do every side mission. I also had to tackle every single freeplay target in the countryside. Then I had to blow up all the bridges. Get most of the perks. Beat the game. Get every single freeplay point in Le Havre. Paris Area 1. Saarbrucken. Area 2. Every single perk. Every single achievement. EVERY SINGLE FREEPLAY POINT. And while I didn't get every single vehicle available in the game (something about driving tanks a few miles sounds less than ideal), I've beaten the game as much as one really can. There's nothing left to do. Every scenic point, every postcard, every enemy oupost, every perk, it's all been done. I've jumped off of the Eiffel Tower and lived to tell the tale. I've kissed Parisian women to avoid capture by the Nazis 50 times. I've saved 40 citizens, some French and some German, from execution by power-mad soldiers. I've done it all.
What's interesting with games like this, with games that let you play AFTER you've won, after you've done everything, is what's left. There are still Nazis in Paris, holding down the checkpoints and walking the streets, but there are far fewer than there once was. Sometimes a fed-up Parisian will get jostled by a Nazi soldier, and instead of running away, hands covering his head, he'll ball up his fists and rock that soldier right in the jaw. There are larger groups of people gathering, enjoying the sights, and it's actually kind of nice to see.
This kind of denouement also makes for an interesting piece of gameplay. I've put the game away now, possibly for good, but it's kind of weird to think of this gaming world that is defeated that I can still participate in. I can still make some Nazis very upset and lead them on wild chases through the streets, and I can still infiltrate Germany for some old-fashioned explosive hijinx, but for the most part, there's nothing left to do. What remains is a largely empty world, with no goals, no levels, and no missions. There are no conversations to be had with compatriots, there is nothing new left to discover. The world has been scoured as clean as it can be, and what remains is a lack of what was once the point of the game. There are no AA guns perched on the top of buildings, there are no more glowering statues of the madman Dierker. Propaganda-spewing speakers have been blown to bits, and sniper and lookout towers have been levelled. The only mark of my success is that something that never belonged has been removed, that I can walk the streets and find them a bit more free of the offending presence of occupation.
It's an odd feeling. Maybe I'll play the game a few more times, just to enjoy the work I've done, to reflect on it. To drive a regular car out of the garage, nothing with mounted machine guns or nitrous boosters, and just enjoy the change in the scenery, the lack of goals or challenges. To enjoy what happens after you've beaten the game, with the game world forever changed by your actions, and, for once, to be able to enjoy that. To be able to take a jaunty stroll through level 1-1 and find no goombas or koopas, to visit a Halo ring and find that there is no Flood, no Covenant, not even a bratty robot. Just a place where there ocne was conflict, and that conflict has been removed. I've saved the princess, and the mushroom kingdom is mine to enjoy.