Takes The Edge Off, This Does
Most games focus in the major elements. Tight gameplay, advanced multiplayer networking, user interface, player lobby story, and sound and art design make up the principle focus of its design. More rarely does a game focus almost more time on the little details than on the principal game. Despite some rough edges on the gameplay and animations, there's a substantial amount of polish on the details in The Saboteur.
The mood is very well set, not just by scenery, but by music. A careful blend of period music from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald's classic take on “Caravan” and the seemingly unofficial theme song of the game, Nina Simone's “Feeling Good”, to modern period-esque tracks like Anne Brun's title track with Koop, “Koop Island Blues”, and the great Django stand-ins from John Jorgenson and others make for a highly memorable sound-scape. In truth the music alone serves as a high point of the game, and the seeming non-release of an complete soundtrack is a huge disappointment.
In returning to the details, however, it's how this music is applied that makes all the difference in the world. We couldn't have a sandbox game without an effective means of fast travel. True to the form of form of the forefather of all sandbox games, you get around by stealing cars on the streets of Paris. While in the car, the music fades in with that classic, compressed, AM radio sound for a brief moment, before fading into full quality modern soundtrack mode. Upon exiting the vehicle, while standing nearby, the AM radio can still be heard, playing any number of catchy tracks.
In addition, the scale of the game is superb. Characters feel somehow larger than they do in most games...arguably, they can take far too much of the screen, but the sens of human realism lends a highly unique feel of the game. Buidlings and individual objects don't feel like the videogame counterparts they do in most games, but the true to life camera perspectives make buildings feel as vertical and imposing as they should, and cars, trees, barricades, and checkpoints all feel very natural.
All that said, realism isn't the goal of this game. The brightly colored world, graphic novel mood, and over the top Nazi antics on the order of an Indiana Jones move gone horribly wrong keep the world lively and exciting. In this game, climbing is not the end all. Despite it's similarity to our favorite assassin, climbing is a wary and only sparsely used mechanic. Most missions will be completed with both feet planted firmly on the ground. But climbing is there if needed. It's the kind of game that's difficult to describe. It's a sandbox...it involves climbing like Assassin's Creed, riding around town like Grand Theft Auto, and completing missions in the open world. It involves sneaking around, planting explosives like Red Faction: Guerilla, yet can't be directly compared to anything else. It has its own unique feel and charm.
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