Early thoughts: The Saboteur

Shane, your character in The Saboteur, is a dick. He’s not supposed to be, he just is. He’s probably the least likable main character in any game I’ve ever played. Take a stereotypical Irishman, add even more cliche, lump him with bad dialogue and a stupid face – that’s Shane.

Shane is a pre-teen boy’s idea of an Irishman, if he’d never ever met one. All Shane cares about is booze and women. Oh yeah, and blowing up Nazis. The sheer adolescence of the game is staggering. When talking about explosives, he mentions ‘handling a bombshell, who turned out to be married’. When asked how he learned to climb so well, he tells of climbing out of bedroom windows at 3am. When he returns from a mission with a female acquaintance in tow, the achievement unlocked is called ‘A Pint And A Shag’. I couldn’t make this up. But somebody has. And should be ashamed of themself.

Shane’s safehouse is in the back of a strip club. Meaning not only can you wander around scantily-clad girls in nipple tassels, you have to in order to save your game. The first time I put the disk in, a message popped up asking if I wished to download extra content for the game. The first item on this list of extras was “nudity”. Sometimes I am ashamed to be a gamer.

Outside of the horrible characterisation of Shane, the poor work on every other character so far, and the bad storyline, The Saboteur is actually a passable game. It is in some ways a Grand Theft Auto clone (open-world driving, car jacking). It also borrows Assassin’s Creed urban exploration, with Shane being able to climb a number of buildings.  The viewpoint on his climbing is annoyingly close, making it hard to tell if Shane will drop to a ledge below or slam into the ground.  The look of the game, a Sin City wannabee black and white with dashes of yellow and red, doesn’t work, only making the game look gloomy and many objects indistinguishable.

Plot wise, the game starts oddly, as well as badly. In a hammy scene, Shane sits at a bar drowning his sorrows (like a typical Irishman?). A Frenchman quickly convinces him to help blow up a Nazi fuel depot. After that the game goes into flashback, and we see why Shane was so sad and angry. Strangely, for a game ostensibly about stealth, there’s a lot on non-stealth moments. Particularly odd is a mandatory racing level. This makes sense in the story, but seems an odd choice for such a game. Luckily it’s not too difficult, because if I got stuck at a racing section in a stealth game, I’d be less than pleased.

I’ve yet to experience much stealth as of yet, but that’s down to my clumsy gameplay. What should’ve been a sneaky breakout of a Nazi stronghold quickly dissolved into me emptying a machine gun into every soldier I saw before racing home in a stolen truck, running down every enemy I saw to stop them shooting at me. The game seemed to allow me a number of mistakes before every guard was alerted, but that quota was surpassed within minutes. Here lies my problem: a love of stealth games, but a complete inability to play them properly.

I also drove through a cow. And there’s a good point to stop.

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