The Saboteur Updated Hands-On

We dive into the murky world of French Resistance fighter Sean Devlin in the first few hours of The Saboteur.


When Pandemic Studios' The Saboteur was unveiled in 2007, it certainly caught our attention. The story of an Irishman caught up in the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of Paris sounded like an appealing setting for a video game. Inspired by the film-noir genre popular during that period, The Saboteur shows vast areas of the city constrained to a black-and-white gamut, with only the occasional splash of colour, which fans of Sin City will relish. The game is finally hitting shelves next month--almost three years after it was originally announced--and we got the chance to play through the first few hours. Before you read on and discover how The Saboteur begins, however, here's a clear SPOILER ALERT: This preview reveals substantial plot details from the beginning of the game.

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Things begin at The Belle, a cabaret club in Paris's famed red-light district near Montmartre. We were instantly greeted by a dancer entertaining Nazi soldiers by wearing nothing but nipple tassels and lingerie. After this brief moment of titillation, we then met the game's main character, roguish Irishman Sean Devlin. It seems Sean has fallen on hard times during the war, and we found him drowning his sorrows with a glass of whiskey while staring nostalgically at a photo of himself with a friend. Frenchman Luc Gaudin strikes up a conversation with Sean, and you soon discover that he's a member of the French Resistance who has been observing Sean for several weeks. While initially reluctant, Luc goads Sean into becoming an activist, and once the cutscene was over, we went to meet Luc in the back alley to start our adventure.

In the first action sequence, you help Luc blow up a nearby German fuel depot. We drove Luc's car to the street outside a German supply depot where we were introduced to our first challenge: stealing explosives. Before that happened, however, Luc rushed to rescue an innocent Parisian being assaulted by some soldiers, and we had to give him a hand. This served to teach us the game's hand-to-hand combat controls. The Saboteur doesn't deviate from action-genre conventions, with light or heavy punches, kicks, and grabs performed using the face buttons. After brief fisticuffs with the guards, we earned our first perk: haymaker punches. Acquiring perks increases Sean's abilities, and you can earn melee, sniping, explosive, racing, and evasion skills--with 30 in total. You earn these by achieving specific objectives, such as killing 10 Nazis with grenades, which then allows you to carry additional grenades. The Saboteur features a regenerative health system, which means you won't have to worry about finding health packs when you're injured. Taking damage will result in an increasingly blood-splattered screen, but hiding for a few moments is enough to recover completely.

The explosives we needed were located within restricted areas--sections of the city that were garrisoned by Nazi guards. They will shoot you on sight and attempt to sound an alarm that brings further troops. If this happens, you need to remove your wanted level by exiting the nearby area and losing the police--much like in Grand Theft Auto. The Saboteur's minimap aids this process and reveals a variety of useful information, including the police's search radius, enemies, and objectives. It also displays your current suspicion level and, at times, a dotted circle around your character. If enemies enter this circle area, your suspicion level will increase, and actions out of the ordinary, such as running or climbing, will increase its radius.

After knocking out the guards and collecting some TNT, we made our way to the fuel depot where we were introduced to The Saboteur's climbing mechanic. Given the vertical scale of The Saboteur's gameplay, grabbing enemies and throwing them off rooftops is a great way of disposing them. Sean can climb virtually any surface he can see, and in addition to being the stealthiest way to traverse Paris, it's one of the easiest ways to infiltrate enemy installations. After climbing a nearby building and taking out a guard from behind, Luc created a diversion by rigging a fuel truck on the street to explode. With the guards rushing out to investigate, we slid down a power line to enter the depot. Once inside, we planted the charge to a fuel tank and then made a quick getaway with Luc back to The Belle.

Before we could get cracking with the next mission, we were treated to a flashback cinematic that took place three months earlier, before the German invasion of France. Sean was a mechanic and race car driver in better times. We meet his teammate--whom we recognised from the photo--Jules Rousseau; his sister, Veronique; and team owner Vittore Morini. We also meet Aurora, a race car that Sean intends to race to victory in the Saarbrucken Grand Prix the following day. Before that happens, the team meets for a drink at a local bar, the Red Ox. There, we bump into Sean's archrival on the track, Kurt Dierker, who is a perfect example of the blue-eyed, blond-haired Aryan race. With typical Nazi arrogance, he provokes a bar fight, causing the attention of the local police and the Gestapo, which has us hightailing it out of town by any means possible. Once outside the pub, we meet Skylar, a blonde bombshell racing fan and love interest to Sean. After using her car to lose the cops, we make our way back into town, and once Sean bedded her using his Irish charm, it was time for some racing the following morning.

The next mission featured a three-lap race where we had to fight our way through the pack and win the race. The controls are certainly not as responsive as a dedicated racing game, but the action was still engaging as we raced to gain the lead. Unfortunately, before we crossed the finish line, Dierker sabotaged our victory by blowing out a tyre with a bullet. Incensed with anger, Sean and Jules disregard Vittore's orders and decide to destroy Dierker's car before it can be paraded around the following day. We tailed Dierker out of town, making sure we kept our distance so we didn't spook him. Eventually, we arrived at the Doppelsieg factory, which was Dierker's team base and a rumoured Nazi stronghold. We snuck in and drove the car off a ravine, after which we were knocked unconscious by the Germans. We then woke up in an interrogation room where Dierker accused us of being a British spy. It seems that in addition to being a respectable racing driver, Dierker hides the dark secret that he's actually a Nazi agent. Much to our alarm, Dierker kills Jules, and after leaving the room, Sean kills the guard, which gave us a chance to escape. While it's easier to silently take out guards from behind, we had the option to shoot our way out of the base once we discovered a cache of weapons that included a pistol, machine gun, and grenades.

By now it was nightfall, and one great section involved climbing out onto a massive scaffolding structure to get to another area. The black-and-white visuals were striking, with flashing-red beacons standing out against the dark backdrop of storm clouds and heavy rain. We accidentally alerted a guard who called for reinforcement and decided to make a hasty getaway by fighting our way out of the base and driving a stolen car back to Vittore's farm. When we arrived, the Gestapo had already appeared on the scene and were torching the farm to the ground. We then had to fight our way through the troops, rescue Vittore and Veronique, then make our way back to The Belle, which, it turns out, belongs to her parents. The flashback sequence then ended with a cutscene that featured zeppelins floating ominously above the Eiffel Tower and swastika banners adorning the Arc de Triomphe.

This prelude did a good job of explaining Sean's motivation for getting involved in the resistance, as well as hinted at the ultimate goal of exacting revenge on Dierker and his cohorts. Before we could plan our next move, Vittore was taken by the Nazis on suspicion of blowing up the depot, and we needed to rescue him from a slaughterhouse that was being used as a Nazi prison. The game then introduced us to the suspicion meter. Similar to Assassin's Creed, attracting too much attention will result in nearby guards attacking you, and openly carrying a gun, planting explosives, climbing, brawling, or getting to close to enemy troops or installations will quickly put them on full alert. We were also introduced to "inspiration." After completing missions, Sean's actions result in the local Parisians being inspired to fight back against the Nazis, and this increased resistance is indicated by the restoration of colour to an entire area of the city. It also results in the absence of enemy troops from that area of the city.

As we mentioned earlier, The Saboteur features an interesting visual style with various neighbourhoods featuring a full colour or black-and-white gamut, depending on your progress. In addition to adding a splash of vibrancy to an otherwise gray landscape, the inclusion of colour in Nazi-occupied areas often indicates interactive objects, such as the yellow rungs of a ladder or red lights on scaffolding. Other objects are also bathed in colour, such as Nazi propaganda and neon signs. Vittore's vibrant blue eyes and suspenders are bathed in colour as well, which perhaps reflect his zest for life and freedom. On the downside, we did notice some bland textures and models, but we're hoping that these will be improved before the game's release.

Meet Sean Devlin, a man who would rather die on his feet than live on his knees.
Meet Sean Devlin, a man who would rather die on his feet than live on his knees.

In addition to an eye-catching visual design, The Saboteur has some great action sequences and an interesting storyline. While it's a bit rough around the edges, with some textures that aren't as detailed as we'd like, there are a lot of fine ideas at work in The Saboteur, and we're hoping that Pandemic can tick all the boxes once the game is released in early December. We'll post a full review then, so be sure to check back soon.

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Avatar image for evaneself

The Saboteur (PC) game has DRM, I do not buy it. EA has not learned anything, he must pay mockery that we submit. They sell time for gameplay, not games for collectors or owners.

Avatar image for sentenced83

its childish !!

Avatar image for tarianitaro

this game was amasing. ea games 4 ever :)

Avatar image for zafarabbas321

The Game was freez/hang on main menu any idea plz?? :( Dual Core 2.2Ghz, 2GB DDR2 800Mhz XFX 4850 512MB

Avatar image for JFHansen

hitmanxmk I guess you haven't tried the saboteur. You simply cant accuse it of not being innovative. The alarm,alert,sneak,getaway,ai systems is quite innovative. Hand to hand combat, is some of the best yet. these kind af games, have a tendency to falter when it comes too controlling vehicles, this game doesn't... it works great. this game is not a kids game. The storyline is very mature. The violence, is rough and uncompromising. and of course, there is the option for turning on nudity. All in all, a great game. just needs a patch, to weed out some major problems.

Avatar image for hitmanxmk

OMG WHAT A BAD GAME!!! How long people gonna live on other people backs? Cmon, they could think something more original than a GTA idiotic engine with stolen storyline which is very very very similar to Mafia...but...Mafia 2 gonna smash all this low budget, uninnovative crappy games!!! (oh, and this game is rly good, if u are 10 yrs old kid)

Avatar image for j-trix

This game is raawwwww! omg i'm getting it the day it comes out. It has such an interesting subject and I kind of like the fact that it is like GTA, pretty cool.

Avatar image for black2103

This is one very bad game.

Avatar image for UnitedGamerz

THIS GAME IS GOING TO BE EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for Cillerboy

any game with my countryman as the main protagonist grabs my interest, and this is especially interesting. might actually get this

Avatar image for ymarkman

I'm with DaneGamer on this one: This better be a more successful game than Mercs 2 was...I was so stoked when it came out, and then when I got it, I couldn't believe that it wasn't as good as the first one. The trailers made Mercs 2 look like it was going to be ten times better than the first, and they succeeded. I bought it, played it for 15 minutes, then had to turn it off. Too many glitches, horrible graphics, and not the same as the first. With The Saboteur, I'm hoping it will live up to the first Mercs...but I doubt it.

Avatar image for Conduras

after several hours of playing this game i feel like i'm playing GTA + Mafia with tities :D

Avatar image for DaneGamer

I REALLY WANT THIS! - but damnit... it's pandemic studios.. anyone remember the hype around Lord of The Rings: Conquest, and the result... damnit... and Mercenaries 2 which was full of glitches... i sure hope this is better... :S

Avatar image for R2-D2-586

Is this Uncharted GTA with world war II? I can see both games in this one... This means that will be grea ^^

Avatar image for chasetrain17

this game looks very good but I decided to buy Modern Warfare 2 instead but I really like the way this game looks I'll probably get it for Christmas

Avatar image for theatticusera

Hurray for game sending things early! i'll have this tommorrow.

Avatar image for xtremeflem2day

cant wait for december 8th!

Avatar image for pidow

Pre-ordered and next week the fun begins....I been waiting to play this game.

Avatar image for booooob_1

It's a fantastic game like GTA I bought a couple of days and today I finished The way you play great, great graphics it's an amazing.

Avatar image for Rikuide_Furame

I'm getting more into this with each passing day. Only a couple more days to release.

Avatar image for iceman_dan1979

i'm hoping this will be better then ac2 which i've given a chance and sure i think there are a few neat things about it but not enough, if this is rubbish then i hope pandemic go fully under if it is cursed like mercanaries 2.

Avatar image for starbead

@nish2280 According to GameSpy (via Gamefly), the story is based on a real person, William Grover-Williams, a race car driver who fought in the French Resistance. They also say that he, sadly, was captured and then killed in a concentration camp.

Avatar image for SadPSPAddict

shows some promise

Avatar image for nish2280

I swear they copied the jack higgens books with this game. i mean its uncanny; Sean Dillon the rogue irishman who has taken a change in lifestyle for the greater good?

Avatar image for Tikicobra

As promising as it looks, I'm having doubts. It doesn't look as polished as a game by a big studio should be.

Avatar image for bad_fur_day

Pre-ordered. I want to see more games like this. Shame the studio is on longer around.

Avatar image for lee1823

im really looking forward to this..... it seems to be doing something different from the rest of the pack. im getting a bit bored of the generic games for the masses and relish games like this... games that dare to be something different. bland textures or not... i'll be getting this along with heavy rain when theyre both released. good time to be a gamer. canny wait!!!!

Avatar image for nocturial

i hope that it will turn out better than sucky Velvet Assassin...

Avatar image for Claidheamb_mor

I'm looking forward to playing this game. It looks like a mixture of Saints Row/Grand Theft Auto crossed with Assassin's Creed. From the videos that have ben shown so far, The Saboteur looks like a fun romp, which may be a little rough around the edges.

Avatar image for dakan45

Hmm kinda nude intro for a gamespot video, also why the offensive words were not covered with BEEP just like in Mafia 2 developer walktrough video?:D As for the game? In the beginning it felt like a nazi occupated Assasin creed. Then like a mafia rip off mision (Racing mission) As for the black and white visuals, they seemed pretty unimpressive. But the game has some style allright.

Avatar image for Dynamo11

2009's Hidden Gem??? I definitely think so!

Avatar image for thenephariouson

@bazmazter Yep! I remember it, and also the sequel, where you were the girl. Ahhhh, those were the days : ) Im also assuming that you also remember, Quazatron, Night Lore and Everyones a Wally : )

Avatar image for bazmazter

I lovedSaboteur game back in the 80s.Any one else remember? And yes i am an old git.

Avatar image for brickdoctor

This looks pretty good. It might be 2009's hidden gem.

Avatar image for gijas

Well, the first cut scene sold me!

Avatar image for cp198108a

I been tracking this game a long time and hey its been 3 long years!! lol I seen alot of comment about this game by now some are okay and some are realy putting the game down. What i was reading most that people compared it with Mercenaries 2 and that most found it rather bad. I totaly enjoyed it but them again you can,t make everybody happy when making a game i geuss. The Saboteur sure has a great setting "Paris" and the fact that you can climb buildings and free-roam the city i sure like alot. I can imagine of people didnt like GTA IV then they probly not like this one. But hey a WWII game thats not a FPS for a change and a black noir setting plus free-roam gameplay sure sounds great, and they def improved the looks and Seans movement alot. I wondering if the european version (PAL) keeps the swastikas flags showing in the videos. It sounds not like a big deal but i def like games being realistic and this just adds to the whole gameplay feeling. I,m sure the NTCS version will have them lol. Well lets wait untill it comes out in a few days i hardly can,t wait!!

Avatar image for DFen

well this one seems interesting I'll give it a go :)

Avatar image for Hobbitslayer18

Looks good but it doesn't really attract me to buy it.

Avatar image for thenephariouson

Sounds like a good mix of Assasins Creed, SC and GTA, hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Avatar image for solidniko

looks great

Avatar image for solidniko

LOL so funny when he says go f*** urself

Avatar image for UnionOfV

Yes, some of us even know how to spell :-) I dunno if it's because of my nationality, but I find the French and Irish Hollywood accents equally amusing...

Avatar image for ClevBeast

Der's more to ireland dan dis. Looks rather good

Avatar image for ZiggyStardust66

This looks fantastic! Nice to have a WW2 Game that isn't just "another FPS", and nice to have one that's seems to be mostly free of Americans for a change!

Avatar image for m1rock

I cant wait to get my hands on this!

Avatar image for supertegwyn

Looks Great!

Avatar image for brok

"once the cutscene was over, we went to meet Luc in the back alley to start our adventure" Haha, I'll bet you did.

Avatar image for fascinationjx

i love the style. it's looking like it'll be a fun game w/ a refreshingly different vibe.

Avatar image for dysguised22

"That is the gayest thing I have ever heard" ...You're right. ...Nevermind that it's entirely referenced to the fact that they're talking about the main character standing up against nazi oppression and the reference to being on his knees entirely about subservience to a fascist superpower. ...Clearly gay're right. ...Although I guess if ones "Buce" is as "luce" as yours'd be an expert.

Avatar image for mr3bdulla


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