Review: Ooh la la! Ze Nazis go boom, oui oui!
If there's anything that might... uh... sabotage The Saboteur, it's the controls, which tend to be either loose or tight depending on what's going on. The climbing mechanics in particular are heavy, weighty things, and make the effort somewhat useless. In a year when we saw inFamous, Prototype, and especially Assassin's Creed II show how to do climbing, The Saboteur seems old by comparison. It's no coincidence that I spent much of my time at ground level compared to those other three games, which most of the time was played from the rooftops. Alas, the times you have to climb in order to reach something can be a little awkward, and it's even more awkward when climbing back down. On the other hand, the combat controls are really solid. They're a tad loose at first, but with some time they become easy and responsive. The only knock would be the melee controls, which require you to hold the L1 button to engage them like you would press L1 to aim a weapon. It's... weird to say the least. But since guns are the core component, you'll be fine, and the subtle auto-aim will help with any issues. Driving around town is normally fine, except when in a race car, which are the intentionally loose and wild beasts of the day.
The Saboteur first made its waves thanks to the unique visual system of black & white oppression, with the only colors being the Nazi red and yellow lights, with the splendor of the Eiffel Tower in the background of almost every single point on the map (and quite ominous since it's in black & white until the end of the story). Naturally, it looks really good ? in fact the visuals tend to look better when not in color. That said, there's some really cool effects at work here, especially when the game seamlessly goes from b&w to color. It's an interesting sight, watching the terrain change colors instantly. That said, on a technical level the game is a mixed bag ? some things look good, such as the character models of the major players, which carry realistic facial expressions, eye movements, and the like. Paris and its outskirts are a little iffy though, as they struggle to shake any kind of comparison to the visuals from the PlayStation 2 era. To make up for that though, the framerate is steady and there's almost no slowdown, and the PS3 version has a very cool technique that almost completely rids the game of any kind of jagged edges. It's a smooth looking game despite its overall lack of HD-era shine.
The audio shines more than the visuals due to great voice acting, a great soundtrack, and tons of ambient sound effects. The voice cast in particular is solid; Sean is played by the same guy who did Atlas in Bioshock, just with a bit more Irish to it. There's some times when Sean says ?thank you kindly? which almost certainly was a nod to that game. The interesting thing about the cast is the vast array of accents and languages ? French, British, Irish, Italian, American, of course German... the whole shebang, and all are pretty authentic. Even Nolan North, the most prolific man in voice acting, has a role... as a French guy. You'd never tell he was Nate Drake. When traversing the city, you get an earful of many things ? the French lauding you for tasks, warning you if Nazis are nearby, letting you make out with them to avoid detection, etc. There's also a constant barrage of Nazi propaganda out of speakers all over the city (which you get to destroy if you want) to let you know that yes, join the Nazi Party, our leader is not crazy and won't kill himself at the end of the war to avoid being tried for his crimes against humanity. By the way ? there is almost no mention of Hitler in this game at all. A couple mentions of the Fuhrer, but no direct mention. This is a feat. The soundtrack is loaded with retro 1940's jazz, perfectly fitting the time period. Good stuff too, given they pulled Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone music into the game.