Thursday, January 07, 2010
Listen all y'all this is sabotage
My review of The Saboteur is up now at thephoenix.com. Given the unceremonious closing of Pandemic Studios, and my low regard for many of the developers' past games, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It shows the extent to which one good idea, well delivered, can often make up for rough execution in other areas. Criticizing a game's missions as the weakest part of the experience sounds a little strange, but I got a great deal of enjoyment from not trying to power through The Saboteur. Even though the story is pretty good, ultimately nothing beats blowing up Nazi machinery.
Playing The Saboteur after Assassin's Creed II made for an interesting contrast. They have much in common: open-world platforming, oodles of side missions, similar mission structures. ACII is probably better at the things it does well than is The Saboteur, and it is the more polished and ambitious game. But it's also so convinced of its own importance that long stretches of it are ponderous and dull. The Saboteur is more even-keeled, never truly great but never boring, either. In a way, that's better. This game knows what it does well and generally sticks to it.
In both cases, I'm glad to be playing more games with interesting settings, and not stock sci-fi or fantasy worlds. I've not truly been sold in the past on realistic renderings of modern-day cities, even as impressive as GTAIV's New York was, but Renaissance Italy and an impressionistic intepretation of Nazi-occupied France are both places I've been more than happy to spend time in. More like this, please.