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What I Played This Week - The Saboteur

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Pandemic Studios between 2007 and 2009, with the financial power of Electronic Arts behind it, produced iconic games left, right and center. However, its final project went unnoticed by many but has become a ‘cult classic’.

The Saboteur was Pandemic’s final overture, following a symphony of wondrous games that defined the transition from PS2 and Xbox to the next generation. It had created 3 of the most celebrated games series of the time; Star Wars BattlefrontDestroy All Humans and Mercenaries. Yet at its prime, the recession hit hard, ending this meteoric rise with a hard crash to earth.

Resultantly, The Saboteur was overlooked by many as the game that killed the studio or the gases simply escaping the deceased body. It was anything but that though.

Set in Nazi-Occupied Paris, the story follows Irish racing driver, Sean Devlin, as he seeks revenge against the unstoppable Nazi war-machine. His story is not one of heroically rescuing Parisians but overcoming his self-serving lust for revenge against the man, an SS officer, and racing driver, who crossed him.

The huge open-world map of Northern France and Paris is full of details and contains several hundred free play targets. So when Devlin isn’t pursuing revenge, he can take to the alleys and rooftops of Paris as he sabotages bases, supply lines and the tools of oppression with dynamite and an armory of weapons. All with the help of the French Resistance and an array of bizarre, somewhat stereotyped, French characters.

To this day the sheer scale of the game is impressive with so much detail and thought put into the world but also how one can interact with it. This is best demonstrated by the ‘inspiration’ element of the game. As Devlin destroys Nazi targets the city goes from black and white to full of colour; a perfect metaphor for the shadows cast across Europe in this period that drained the life from people.

Such brave game design paid off as the game is beautiful in black and white with only blood character’s irises and the Nazis’ symbols afforded colour, making for a beautiful, poetic neo-noir landscape. For Pandemic, this was a perfect swan song, a reminder of the incredible game engines they could make but also how well they could pull together a story.

In 2009, Velvet Assassin was released with a similar game play and story set in World War II but it could never rival The Saboteur. What Pandemic had created was a launch pad for a new series; bringing Assassins Creed, Battlefield, and Wolfenstein into one with mechanics that rivaled many contemporary games.

Something totally original had been given birth to and has passed the test of time with flying colours. Whilst this game may be hard to come by now, eBay being the only place where one can find it, there is no doubt it is still worth every penny and is a sad reminder of the demise of Pandemic.

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