A New Take on WWII Action
July 29, 2008 – Though the long-awaited Saboteur has been one of the most anticipated games of 2008 by critics and gamers alike, developer Pandemic revealed last week that the game won’t see the light of day until 2009, as opposed to the expected Q4 2008. Made by the same people who brought you Mercenaries and Star Wars: Battlefront, Saboteur is the upcoming WWII title designed specifically for current-gen consoles and PC. It’ll be the first to introduce sandbox-style gaming with elements of third-person shooter and stealth to separate itself from the slew of WWII titles on the market.
While Pandemic is making sure not to release Saboteur prematurely, there’s a good reason why the industry has been buzzing about this title for over a year already. In the over-saturated genre of WWII games, Pandemic is making huge strides to make Saboteur completely different from the rest, while still offering the intensity and realism of true warfare. If you haven’t heard by now, the first major difference is in the game’s plot. It is the first WWII title of its kind where the protagonist isn’t a soldier. The star of this game is an average dude by the name of Sean, an Irishman with a bit of a rough side who definitely isn’t one to shy away from danger. The story is loosely based on the true events of a racecar driver by the name of William Grover-Williams who joined French troops once the Nazis took over France to become one of the greatest war heroes of WWII. The game begins with the murder of Sean’s closest friends by German soldiers in Nazi-occupied France, and as the expert car driver and bar-brawler looks to take things into his own hands, he sets out to avenge the death of his loved ones. Rather than joining allied forces, Sean sets out to single-handedly bring down the German empire by sleuthing around Paris and seeking out those responsible for the unspeakable murders.
Pandemic says the map will include the whole city of Paris, recreated to resemble the era as well as surrounding regions of France’s countryside all the way out to the German mountains. This will give players lots of area to roam around in and a wide variety of terrain and landscapes; from urban streets to more rural areas. And because you must go unnoticed by Nazi troops at all times, Pandemic has created lots of different routes throughout the city to avoid occupied areas. Sean will have the ability to scale rooftops via drainpipes and windowsills with ease, in a plausible fashion. The game’s stealth elements will have you sneaking around on rooftops to avoid being noticed by opposing troops. Splinter Cell-style, you’ll have to do lots of sneaking behind enemies to kill them in the shadows without making a sound or triggering alarms. Now, because Sean is not a trained saboteur, the gutsy Irishman will at first sleuth around much like a normal person would with limited skill. As you begin to do more stealth missions, Sean will improve, allowing you to penetrate more heavily guarded areas. Pandemic is strongly focusing on the average-guy-overcomes-great-feats theme of this game, comparing Sean to a John McClane type of character from the Die Hard trilogy. Fighting, however, is something Sean is definitely familiar with, and on-foot combat will allow him to grab people from behind, head-butt them, toss them aside, and beat them unconscious. While free-roaming the streets of Paris, you’ll be able to do many of the things other sandbox-style games allow. You can hop into vehicles, grab new weapons, and accept different missions throughout the map.
Accepting various missions throughout the city will have you performing driving operations and third-person shooting as well as a strong focus on stealth missions and melee. You’ll have to complete side-jobs to gain equipment needed for future missions, all the while decreasing the Nazi occupancy of the city. As a saboteur, your missions will require you to take out enemy vehicles and bases including zeppelins, railways, and camps. In some cases, you will find yourself fighting alongside allied troops even though you are not enlisted. The game will have a strong focus on uniform-swapping as well. You can re-use dead soldiers’ uniforms to blend in with allied troops, and even march alongside your enemies in Nazi garb.
But, probably the most talked about element to the game is what Pandemic is calling the Will to Fight mechanic. How you choose to play the game will have a great impact on the city of Paris, from the mood of local residents to the overall ambience of different areas. Using different color schemes, areas of the city heavily occupied by Nazi troops will become dark and overcast depending on how strong their presence is. In the most dangerous areas, it will become almost completely black-and-white, with some use of color for more standout objects such as bright red Nazi flags to add to the atmosphere. Developers used Sin City as a reference to the type of noir settings of the game, and you will be able to see and feel the changes in atmosphere as you enter deep into Nazi territory. NPC residents won’t be found outside, as the Will to Fight amongst locals will be lowest in these areas. Other areas less occupied by the opposition will be more colorful and brighter and filled with NPCs roaming the streets and even helping you in some situations. The overlying factor of Saboteur will be how you get rid of darkened areas and increase the Will to Fight of locals by killing Nazi soldiers and taking back the city. The more Nazis you kill in dark areas will restore the color to the area, and local residents will become happier, more prideful, and willing to help fight the oppressors who have taken over. As you help rid Nazis from heavily-occupied areas, they will be forced to stay closer to their military bases and headquarters, barracks, and police stations. The more you weaken the Nazi presence, the less submissive locals will become, which will be essential to your progress as the citizens’ Will to Fight will become key during points in the game, when you are met with heavy resistance from enemies and will require help from locals, the French Resistance, and the Maquis.
Developers are also putting a strong focus on the game’s soundtrack, which will feature period music and jazz to help create the atmosphere. During WWII, France was known for its eclectic jazz music, and Saboteur will feature lots of it to add to the ambience. As for other sound effects, vehicles, and weaponry, the developers have yet to reveal exactly what we can expect.
Pandemic is still keeping things fairly hush-hush about the game, though their track record has proven the company is fully capable of releasing excellent warfare action titles. Their decision to push the release date to sometime early 2009 may be disappointing to those looking forward to playing the game, though they are making sure not to rush anything, and one can only expect the outcome to be worth the wait. It’s slated for Q1 2009.
Most gamers will agree that World War II games have been pretty much done to death. How many different ways can developer repackage WWII to make it fresh? Lately the answer has seemed to be zero, as all of the WWII games have seemed to be generic copies of each other. Pandemic Studios, however, might be looking to change that fact with their latest announced game, Saboteur, which puts players in the role of the titular Saboteur, aiding the Allies against the Nazis from inside enemy lines. Saboteur is unlike most WWII games, however, in that it isn’t a simple FPS shooter. Saboteur, instead, is a blend of many different genres tying together to create a game that is hard to define and a World War II experience that isn’t a carbon copy of the dozens of games that came before it.
The game’s protagonist is named simply Sean, an Irishman in France who has recently lost family and friends to the Nazis. Before his loss, Sean wasn’t overly concerned with the Nazi presence, but the murdering of his family opens his eyes to their oppression, and he begins to resist their presence. However, Sean isn’t a superhero or a mercenary and will definitely need help, so he has to forge bonds with the Underground French Resistance. This story sets the stage for the game, as Sean attempts to avenge his family and friends’ deaths at the hands of a Nazi general.
The gameplay in Saboteur will be set up in a manner similar to other sandbox titles like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. Sean will be able to choose to accept one of various missions to progress. While story missions are self explanatory, free play missions will give Sean access to new weapons or areas to facilitate gameplay in story missions. Sean will also be able to use any weapon, vehicle, or outfit that he sees in the game. This means that the player can steal weapons and outfits from defeated foes and use them to their own advantage, allowing a stealthy player to knock out a Nazi foe and steal their outfit to blend in with the remaining Nazis. That its, of course, only if the suit is intact. A bullet riddled suit definitely wouldn’t pass inspection. There are a number of different suits to pilfer, all of which give access to different areas, since a low ranking Nazi wouldn’t have the same clearance as an officer.
Saboteur will be partially stealth based, although without the slow pacing of the average stealth based game. Stealth for Sean will come by generally acting normally. Sean only attracts attention when behaving erratically, such as running unnecessarily or brandishing a gun. When alerted, however, the Nazis will converge upon Sean, allowing him to engage them in fisticuffs or in a shootout. However, since Sean is vastly outnumbered, he’ll eventually have to retreat and hide. To do so, he’ll most likely use some Prince of Persia-esque climbing maneuvers that will allow him to escape to the rooftops until the alert blows over.
One of the most unique things about Saboteur is the use of coloring in the game. Saboteur uses a lack of coloring to symbolize the feel of Nazi oppression in an area. In a town overrun by Nazis, the game will appear only in black and white with slight color highlights (Think Sin City). As Sean successfully completes more and more acts of sabotage and decreases the Nazi population, color will gradually spill back into the scene. The color effect is especially pronounced when Sean crosses from a black and white area to a colored area, where there is a nearly visible and surreal line of demarcation showing the difference. In addition to the color returning to the area, more citizens are inspired by your lead and will make themselves known, actively resisting the Nazis. This unique approach to visually showing your progress and using color to symbolize freedom should definitely set this game apart from any game before it.
Saboteur is unquestionably one of the more interesting titles coming to next-gen systems. The game hasn’t officially been announced for any console yet, but hopefully will see a release in 2008. With its unique color approach, its blending of genres, and its original take on World War II, Saboteur looks like a game to watch for, especially considering that it comes from Pandemic.