Saboteur First Look
We check out Pandemic's unconventionally sneaky action game set in World War II.
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It's safe to say that games have gone to the World War II idea well one time too many. But then, that most epic conflict in world history has proved to be a fertile source of inspiration for game developers. Despite the familiar nature of most action games centered on the war, Southern California-based Pandemic, of Destroy All Humans!, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Mercenaries fame, is trying its hand at offering a new take on that familiar ground with Saboteur, an original third-person action game. We recently visited the developer to get a look at an early work-in-progress version to find out how its game isn't going to fit into the stereotypical WWII mold.
Saboteur separates itself from the pack of WWII games out of the gate with its story. Whereas the majority of WWII games cast you in the role of a soldier fighting in the Allied forces, Saboteur casts you as an average Irish dude named Sean. Though the war is a bummer for those in Europe, Sean was basically OK with it until a fateful day when friends of his were murdered by German forces. However, the tragic events don't inspire the rough-and-ready Irishman to enlist and become part of the war effort. Turns out, Sean's motivations are a bit more "focused." Rather than try and do his part to take down the Axis forces, Sean's goal in the game is to take revenge on the Germans who took out his friends. One in particular seems destined for a special kind of murdering when the time comes.
Though Pandemic wasn't ready to fully disclose the details of Saboteur's gameplay, there were a few elements that will be key to the experience. The basic framework of the game is third-person action. You'll guide Sean on his run of revenge through, above, and around the streets of Paris. You'll be able to pick up weapons and drive vehicles as needed to ensure you get your job done. Sean's lack of formal training will influence the game's action, as he'll be a little rough around the edges and more improvisational than your typical soldier. The stealth elements in the game range from your standard sneaking around rooftops to avoid being seen to, of course, murdering quietly. One of the interesting stealth aspects is that in some cases, you'll need to quickly blend in with the crowds, so you might have to grab an unsuspecting lady and make out to keep from being discovered. One thing to note is that Sean is in this strictly for payback, so while you'll clash with Germans, you're not necessarily fighting for the Allied forces. This isn't to say you won't wind up helping them out if your goals happen to match theirs, but it's not really a focus.
Besides taking pride in your kills, killing enemies restores hope to the city. You get a visual representation of this via the game's slick color mechanic, which is known as "will to fight." If you can take out Germans in parts of the city that are displayed in black and white, you'll restore color to the city and the residents will be happy. No, you're not joined by a sun god in the form of a wolf on the adventure, though Saboteur's color mechanic does sound a bit like Okami's. Pandemic had been mulling over how to pull it off for several years, and the advent of new hardware finally convinced the team to implement it to their standard of quality.
The visuals in the work-in-progress version of the game are looking incredibly sharp, even at this early stage. The city is a large playground, and as with Mercenaries, it will provide a large amount of ground to cover. You'll be able to roam the streets, take to the roofs, or drive around the country. While exact details aren't final, it seems as though you'll have a fat chunk of Paris and a modest chunk of the surrounding countryside to adventure in. There seems to be a good amount of interactivity with the environment already, though we're not sure if it's going to go to the Mercenaries-style "Look, ma! I leveled the city!" extremes. Character models are looking solid, though animation is understandably rough given the game's early state. Color is a key element of the action. Besides the polar changes between the black-and-white and colorized areas in the city, the game's color palette--inspired by the French countryside--is lush, with deep tones that complement the game's cinematic look.
The game's audio sounds as though it's going to take some interesting detours. Saboteur should have the expected array of voice and sound effects that take advantage of the sound hardware of the new consoles. However, the soundtrack is shaping up to be an interesting element. The team is aiming to incorporate period jazz and some new takes on classic pieces to give the game a unique feel. The juxtaposition of the low-key music and some of the action should make for some very cool moments and sell the game's cinematic presentation.
Based on what we've seen, Saboteur is looking like a promising action game that may just offer a decidedly different World War II experience. The game seems like it should be a good showcase for what Pandemic does well--open-world gameplay, third-person action, big explosions, and slick tech. At the same time, the stealth elements seem to flesh out what's been tried in Mercenaries. The dynamic world and the color mechanic are also pretty interesting and should further help the game stand out if they're worked in properly. There's a considerable amount of potential here, especially given Pandemic's recent track record, so we're aching to see how it all comes together. Saboteur is currently slated to ship on next-gen consoles next year. Look for more on the game in the coming months.