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: