Angry Driver: The Saboteur Dated, Detailed

By John Walker on July 22nd, 2009 at 11:45 am.

We’ve not mentioned The Saboteur, the next game from Pandemic, so with today’s announcement of a sale date of 4th December it seems about time. It’s a game about the second Planet Earth War, during which you shoot a species known as “Nazis” in a country called “France”. It sounds simply ludicrous to us. Oh, but tosh and fipsy to my dreadful British cynicism, it’s not as if there aren’t splendid WW2 games. And non-ironic-cor, look, it’s a mainstream game that’s doing something interesting with colour.

Poor Pandemic seem to be a developer stuck in the 70s. Not the decade but the score bracket. Their games (Battlefront, Destroy All Humans, Mercenaries, Full Spectrum Warrior) are always decent, solid things. But they never catch fire. Will Saboteur be the one to see them hit their mark? It’d be nice. But John, what is it about?

It’s about being an Irish race driver, Sean Devlin, living in occupied France and finally have just about enough of those awful Nazi fellows, is what it is. He’s a sneaky, climby, explody special agent. Pandemic describe the action as “quiet in, loud out”, which, amazingly, is the RPS Code Of Conduct. Except we apply it to food. So Devlin can climb up the sides of buildings (and not in that silly Assassin’s Creed way where it does it for you, but with you choosing a realistic path and pressing a button, like games should occasionally involve), sneak along rooftops, sneakily snipe, and blow shit up. All with a careless disregard for accuracy (although not quite to the degree of Mercenaries 2).

It’s an “open world sandbox game”, which presumably means you’ll be able to tackle liberating France in the order you wish, triggering various events and missions at your wish. This is where the colour comes in. France isn’t in a very positive frame of mind, and their “Will to Fight” isn’t up to scratch. This is represented by a greyscale world, with the only colour the splashes of red on the Nazi flags. A sort of reverse-Schindler’s List. As you perform acts of sabotage on the enemy, the locals are inspired by your ways and their Will to Fight kicks in, bringing colour back into the area of the city, and the possibility… sniff… of hope.

This rather interesting idea is somewhat undersold by a press release that begins, “Enter the seedy underground world of The Saboteur, where the women are sexy, the action is epic and revenge is sweet.” But let’s ignore that. It’s apparently “inspired” by a true story. The story of William Grover-Williams, who was indeed a former Grand Prix driver and remarkable war hero who helped inspire the French Resistance.

The Saboteur looks interesting, by which I mean it literally looks interesting. Something I strongly wish more games would dare. I think black and white is a woefully under-used palette in gaming, and the goal of reintroducing colour to the world may be a fairly sellotaped-to-the-end-of-a-shovel-swung-at-your-face sort of metaphor, but it’s one I’m really intrigued to explore. Let’s hope Pandemic find the magic to make this all come together and be something special. Here’s the trailer:

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106 Comments »

  1. Flyboy says:

    Looks sweet. Really sweet.

  2. Dominic White says:

    I really hope this is good. The art style is exellent, but Pandemics last bit title, Mercenaries 2, was – to put it lightly – unfinished. Red Faction: Guerilla came along later to do everything right that Mercs 2 got wrong, so here’s hoping that Pandemic are taking notes from the competition.

  3. Bobsy says:

    Er. Is that a WW2 helicopter? I suspect alternate-future shenanigans.

    Speaking of which, can we have a game based on Robert Harris’s Fatherland?

  4. Über Nerd says:

    Just when you think you saw every iteration of WWII games…

  5. techpops says:

    I’m in.

  6. Edib0y says:

    Somebody should make WW2 Death Camp Tycoon! I think that would be something new…

  7. wiper says:

    Faintly bemused that they based it on a French hero, then made him /Irish/ of all nationalities, considering their position in the war. I guess it’s for the benefit of all the Irish-Americans out there.

  8. Azhrarn says:

    Bobsy said: Er. Is that a WW2 helicopter? I suspect alternate-future shenanigans.

    From some of the E3 trailers I’ve seen there are also plenty of airships (with giant search-lights) around, which were getting kind of rare at the time.

    So it seems they took some artistic license with the era, which is absolutely fine in my book.

    Games don’t need to have perfect historical accuracy, as long as they’re fun to play and have a nice story running alongside it.

  9. Dante says:

    Wow.

    I heard about the black and white thing yonks ago, and it sounded fairly interesting, but actually seeing the screenshots makes it even more so. Just lovely looking.

  10. The Hammer says:

    Wow, this game has changed a lot since it was first announced! Seems they’re taking a leaf out of Prince of Persia’s book with the gradual changing of colour, and that DOES look lovely.

    I just hope this “based on a real story” angle isn’t as stupid as what Velvet Assassin was. Ew.

  11. Okami says:

    @Edib0y: No it wouldn’t be something new. There actually was a death camp tycoon game for the commodore 64 (and I guess a whole lot of other systems as well)in the 80s, which was about killing as many Jews as efficiently as possible while making as much money out of it as possible. The game featured no graphics (think Kaiser) and had pretty awfull gameplay from what I’ve heard.

  12. zombiehunter says:

    game looks good… just don’t like the stipid placement in WW2..

    ohoooo a hitman/slintercell where u kill nazis! now thats inventive -_-

  13. KBKarma says:

    @wiper: The article says the guy was English never mentions the guy’s nationality. Where’d I get English from? Half-English, half-French, so the point stands.

    What I’M interested in is: will they get an actual Irish person to voice him, or get “the next best thing”, ie someone who can do an Oirish accent? I have no idea why the nationality-swap, though.

    It looks interesting. Let’s hope it pulls it off.

  14. N-Al says:

    I quite enjoyed Pandemic’s Destroy All Humans 2 (indeed, more than a 70-percenter, actually); if Saboteur is anything as good as that, that’ll do me.

  15. Lugribossk says:

    Black and white are the new grey and brown?

    At least it’s a different take on WWII and open-world city games.

  16. Solario says:

    Looks really interesting, but I sincerly hope the nationality-swap isn’t due to any stupid stereotypes (in the audience or the developers) like “French people can’t be war heroes. Because they’re cowards! And they eat cheese!”

  17. LionsPhil says:

    Edib0y: Great, I’m now imagining the Theme Park advisor in full Nazi regalia. “1,000 people visited your park last month, and none of them left unhappy!”

  18. Optimaximal says:

    Er. Is that a WW2 helicopter? I suspect alternate-future shenanigans.

    Looked like a blimp too me… A particularly agile & manoeuvrable one at that!

  19. Toby says:

    ^

    *slaps own face in despair*

  20. Cian says:

    Looks like a proper Limerick knacker, though mystifying what he’s doing over there dallying with foreign wars.

  21. LionsPhil says:

    To be honest, after the endless downpour of “realistic” WW2 games, one that goes a bit Indiana Jones with blimps and other such Rule of Cool almost-anachronisms is fine by me. As long as we don’t end up with clockwork night-vision goggles.

  22. CakeAddict says:

    Looks like my type of game, but I don’t have the best experience with pandemics games though.
    Lets it hope it won’t be some port.

    And “Meh” at the black and white thing I would prefer more collor but I doubt it will have much less compared to many games of this Genre.

  23. SlappyBag says:

    This looks like it has a mountain of potential, lets hope Pandemic fills that.

  24. damien says:

    i never understand the kneejerk backlash to “WW2″ settings. while a particular viewpoint of that period (“gruff american he-men in shit-kickers saving the world one more time”) has been mined to death in games, its still a rather massive backdrop for an agile story-teller to get to work in.

    (without the moral hazards of the 20th century’s other, less “splendid”, wars too.)

    game looks interesting, but i’m a sucker for sneak + slaughter games so i’m probably easy.

  25. Big Rocks McHuge Nuts says:

    and not in that silly Assassin’s Creed way where it does it for you, but with you choosing a realistic path and pressing a button

    Um, isn’t that how AC does it? You press a button and push your character in the right direction.

  26. Bumble says:

    Have to say, I’d missed this one totally and whilst after seeing that I do certainly have high hopes for it, that was by far and away the slickest, most stylish and elegant trailer I’ve ever seen.

    More power to Pandemic’s elbow and here’s hoping it’s as awesome as that trailer.

    And yes, it was a Zeppelin Gunship.

  27. Larington says:

    Colour me VERY intrigued. However, lets hope they don’t overdo the sexiness bit to the extent they did in such a short ad.

  28. Boyd H says:

    @ Big Rocks McHuge Nuts

    Actually, pushing is enough..

  29. Larington says:

    Also, they should insert an unlockable gratuitous blurring feature into the game, to make it more like the ad. I mean, jeeze, blurring out a part of a stature?

  30. Gap Gen says:

    Battlezone 2 was great.

  31. feighnt says:

    it sounds like an interesting idea, and has got my attention, but the ad was fairly disappointing to me – i was hoping for a slightly more dramatic, serious, mature thing, but the ad makes it look a bit too… james bondsy for me.

    still, no judgments till i see more of it! hoping for the best.

  32. Physalis says:

    Yeah, that blurring was bizarre… in an 18-rated clip, too. Just how dangerously intriguing were those 2-d signboard bottoms?

  33. DK says:

    “Poor Pandemic seem to be a developer stuck in the 70s. Not the decade but the score bracket. Their games (Battlefront, Destroy All Humans, Mercenaries, Full Spectrum Warrior) are always decent, solid things.”
    You forgot their Battlezone – a quite awesome above 70 game.

  34. LionsPhil says:

    I’m hoping that that’s down to the usual action bias of trailers, as they have to grab you by the balls in the shortest time possible, and making things explode while people run about is an easy way to achieve that.

  35. Some Guy says:

    I’m getting daja vo about another game that sounds exactly the same exept with a female main character, cant remember the name.

  36. Azhrarn says:

    I recommend watching the “walkthroughs” on Gametrailers (linked here: http://www.gametrailers.com/game/the-saboteur/4577 )

    This is E3 gameplay, so I’m not sure how close it is to the game now, but it still looks pretty close.

  37. Paul Moloney says:

    Wonder is the “Devlin” surname a nod to Donald Sutherland’s character (bad Irishman!) in “The Eagle Has Landed”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liam_Devlin

    P.

  38. Über Nerd says:

    “I never understand the kneejerk backlash to “WW2″ settings.”

    Perhaps because more time and effort has been spent on making WW2 games then actually waging a World War.

  39. Alaric says:

    No.

    Just… No.

    I don’t care if it looks cool. I don’t care if the gameplay is good. I don’t even care if the story is good.

    I refuse to take any studio seriously that lacks creativity to such a degree that they jump in a decaying pulp (of what used to be a dead horse) of WWII setting. Basically at this point if you resort to WWII – you fail at what you do, plain and simple.

  40. Wirbelwind says:

    There were helicopters in WW2, though not that big. Pretty sure it’s a zeppelin.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_helicopters_used_in_World_War_II

  41. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Nice trailer, liked the music (haven’t heard that particular version of Feeling Good for years), made it look interesting. I hope the game itself is as good as the trailer but I won’t hold my breath. Really like the colour scheme, hope it works out.

  42. Grandpierre says:

    Hey, the first Mercenaries was a solid game, if a bit dated in its transparently swapping North Korea for Iraq. Had the war between the factions been a little more fluid, it might have been one of the greats of sandbox gaming.

  43. sigma83 says:

    One of my favoritest most favorite songs evar. EVAR.

  44. sigma83 says:

    Which version is it?

  45. Smurfy says:

    @Edib0y: Me and my friends have a running joke about “Auschwitz Tycoon” that I bring up whenever we talk about a highly inappropriate game such as Velvet Assassin.

  46. Vandelay says:

    Alaric said:
    “No.
    Just… No.
    I don’t care if it looks cool. I don’t care if the gameplay is good. I don’t even care if the story is good.”

    The preposterous anti-WW2 games continues unabated I see. It looks like they are doing something novel with the setting, so if the game is as enjoyable to play as it looks like it maybe I will be getting it regardless of the setting. No one seems to be up in arms about Tarintino making a WW2 film. How many of those have we seen, surely there are far more WW2 films then games! Judge something on its own merits, not on what has gone before.

    Quite a nice trailer, although not really sure why it needed to be so sexed up. Great choice of music too.

  47. Smurfy says:

    WTF? Devlin? He was the helicopter pilot in Mercs 2. Also Irish.

  48. Smurfy says:

    And they shouldn’t have made the “colour comes back throughout the game :)” thing so big, it should just have been there, so at the end you’d be like “Wait, wasn’t this black and white when we set out?”

  49. sigma83 says:

    Perhaps a relation? Direct descendant?

  50. Alaric says:

    @Vandelay

    Preposterous? I beg to differ. What is preposterous, in my opinion, is the complete and utter lack of imagination on the part of the developers.

    World War II was a very significant event. Granted that. It was a central event of the past century. Granted that. Naturally it has been used as inspiration for various art forms, from literature, to cinema, to games, to sculpture. I don’t see anything wrong with it as such.

    But by now it has been grossly overused. Especially when it comes to games. Cinema too actually. Nine times out of ten there is absolutely no reason to use this particular setting.

    Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps you could explain to me what exactly is the reason to set this game in WWII. What is it about this particular war, that is necessary in order for the game to work?

    As far as I can tell this is a game that focuses on sneaking in, shooting enemies, blowing shit up and getting out. Why can’t it be WWI, Korean War, French Revolution, Russian Civil War, or the Boer war?

    All those wars had guns, explosives, soldiers, buildings, etc.

    As for the color thing, it’s just a gimmick and can be applied to any setting, unless of course you are able to persuade me that the loss of hope, etc. is unique to WWII German occupation of France.