SAN DIEGO — Many believed that Rockstar Games reached the pinnacle of the open-world gaming experience with their release of the Grand Theft Auto series.‚ While the GTA titles are as fun as any open-world game on the market today, it seems that no studio has been able to create a (successful) stylized title in that mold.
That might be about to change.
Pandemic Studios is the developer behind The Saboteur, a distinctively designed open-world action-adventure game.‚ Set in 1940’s Nazi-occupied France, this multi-platform title is focused around Sean Devlin, an Irish car mechanic looking for revenge.‚ Devlin, whose character is based on an actual person of the same name and profession, roams an exciting and sexy open-world as he kicks ass and takes names.
I was lucky enough to get a close look at The Saboteur at San Diego Comic-Con 2009 months before its December 8, 2009 drop date.‚ The following is what I gathered from what I saw from the anticipated title.
The first major thing I noticed about The Saboteur was how it looked.‚ Overall, the graphics of the game were not much more realistic than what you would expect from a Grand Theft Auto game.‚ Instead of being boring though, The Saboteur makes up for its lack of realistic graphics with a uniquely stylized visual presentation.‚ For the most part, the streets of France are brightly lit and often full of colorful detail.‚ However, when Devlin enters an area inhabited by numerous Nazi soldiers, the color fades leaving the oppressed district colorless, dead and dry.‚ The only colors you see in these instances are black and white, with deep reds highlighting enemies and important quest points of interest.‚ It was seeing this unique, noir-esque feature in person that turned The Saboteur into a game that mildly interested me into a title that I am truly excited for.
The Saboteur also captures the action-adventure genre beautifully with its cinematic features.‚ Devlin embodies a character which every woman wants and every man wants to be (AKA he’s a grizzled, tough dude who has an accent), perfect for an action game such as this.‚ The women Devlin interacts with are all sexy and seductive, while the Nazi’s are evil and constantly scheming.‚ The Saboteur is full of explosions, blood and car chases, leaving players on the edge of their seat.
Helping contribute to the adventure-centric nature of the game was the use of the Odin Engine.‚ Odin allows Devlin to climb up, drive in, shoot at and interact with anything a player could possibly desire.‚ This permits gamers to approach different quests and tasks in many different ways, hopefully giving The Saboteur a diverse experience and significant replay value.
The Saboteur does not only stay true to the genre of a WWII action-adventure game, but to the era as well.‚ The developers did a nice job of finding authentic cars, clothing and weapons.‚ Even the in-game maps and loading screens have a 1940’s look to them, as everything seems to be displayed on fresh-but-rustic parchment paper backgrounds.
The gameplay in The Saboteur continues the unique theme to the game.‚ Obviously, the GTA comparisons are inevitable.‚ However, it’s the ability to climb and interact with almost anything that really gives The Saboteur’s gamplay a different feel.‚ With elements of both stealth and action, I think the best way to describe it is Grand Theft Auto meets Assassins Creed, which is not a negative description to say the least.
Unfortunately, not everything about what I saw from The Saboteur was impressive.‚ As I touched on before, The Saboteur didn’t show everything I was hoping for graphically.‚ Though I saw a lot of things that I liked (such as the detail of the foliage and a lot of the NPC and vehicle designs), I was left wanting more from the game.‚ The modeling of the streets as well as other important portions of the environments seemed overlooked and rushed.‚ Luckily, there are still a few more months until The Saboteur goes gold, leaving time for the devs to work out the remaining graphical kinks in the game.
One of the best things about The Saboteur is that it is headed by Tom French of Pandemic Studios.‚ Mr. French is a veteran of the video game industry who has incrementally moved up the ranks by contributing to such titles as Mercenaries, Icewind Dale and Fallout 2.‚ French was at the EA Showcase when I got my first look at The Saboteur and was beaming with confidence for his game.‚ During interviews, one could tell that French had put a lot of himself into The Saboteur, which a very good thing when coming from the Lead Designer of a game.
Overall, all signs are point to The Saboteur becoming a hit.‚ There are very few things not to love about The Saboteur, thanks to some creative developing, a keen game engine and a veteran game designer at the helm.‚ I think more great things are to come as the December 8 gets closer.‚ Be sure to keep an eye out.