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I admit that I was less than thrilled when I heard about The Saboteur. Another World War II game? Been there, played that. I've never been too much of a fan to GTA-like gameplay, as well. I appreciate the freedom and such, but he missions themselves tend to be repetitive and I become bored very soon.
Still, I had nothing else to play and decided I could give it a shot. This is a choice I do not regret, as I have finally found a game of this subgenre that excites me.
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The Saboteur offers nothing radically new in the graphics department. The models are fine, although they could have been polished a bit more, the lighting and everything else works, but doesn't surprise you. Basically, the graphics are solid, quite OK, but nothing spectacular.
That being said, the graphics work for creating the atmosphere and that, in my opinion, is most important. I really got the feeling that I'm in Paris at the middle of 20th century (although I haven't been there and my impression might be faulty).
Also, I have to add that there is a nice conceptual touch - zones still occupied by the Nazis are almost black and white, dark and lifeless in contrast to the colorful places where you have lifted up the spirits of the people and La Resistance has gotten it's hold.
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Now this is one part of the game that really deserves my respect - the music. Even more than graphics, the music sets the mood of the 40's very well. I'm not exactly a fan of this type of music, but in The Saboteur I quite often stop driving and listen to another perfectly picked piece of art that suits the situation and creates an authentic feel.
About other audios - dialogues have been voice acted pretty well, starting from main character's Irish accent and ending with people on the streets arguing about various things. Those street dialogues might get boring as they repeat, but mainly it helps creating a living, breathing atmosphere.
A side note: The dialogue is pretty rough and full of mature language, so even if it fits the Irish drunkard of a main character, it might not be OK with you, so be warned. It can also be a bit over the top, as the storyline is quite simple and exaggerated.
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And here comes, as always, the part of the game that calls for deeper analysis and is the hardest. The gameplay is in ways similar to GTA and other sandbox car stealing games: it's a third person action game, where you use the cars as means of getting to shootouts faster.
The shooting part is a bit awkward, but I got used to it and it is not actually worse than in any other similar titles where the shooting is just a part of the gameplay and not the main focus. Driving, another huge part, was quite easy for me. It did even feel a bit wrong that cars were so obedient to my commands. Typically, in a driving game, you struggle for the control with the machine; here, the metal beasts have been tamed and follow your commands almost without resistance.
That leads into another issue - the difficulty of the game, or lack thereof. The main character, an Irishman with the name of Sean and a nasty streak, seems to be made of metal and is able to withstand storms of bullets with ease. Cars are almost unbreakable, except when you drive straight into a gas tank or use a rocket launcher. That defeats the proposed stealth element of the game. You can still plot your way the safest route and sneak like a shadow, but it is actually easier to just charge in and let the gun do the job. That makes stealth unnecessary and while fine by me, it might not suit you if you are looking for an emphasis on sneaking.
The general conclusion about the gameplay: it's quite lightweight and simple. This game will not give you the challenge of being an invisible ninja or dying, but it does a good job if you want to simply ride around in a car accompanied by beautiful music and punish the Nazis with all your Irish fury. Sometimes it's all you want for a couple of evenings.