There has been a lot of speculation but little information on Pandemic's Saboteur. In fact, it's still not certain which systems it will be for. Thankfully, Saboteur directors Trey Watkins and Phil Hong, spoke with us to finally shed some light on what is perhaps the largest and most promising undertaking of this independent developer.
"Making open world games for next-gen consoles is extremely difficult and it's required a huge amount of resources," Watkins said. Being such an overwhelming project, Pandemic has teamed up with BioWare, the makers of Halo, to help with the technical difficulties of such an undertaking.
Of the two companies' relationship, Hong said, "Its best characterized as a peer review. There's a lot of sharing back and forth." Though he noted that it is too early in the relationship for any heavy sharing of technology. Hong said that BioWare is teaching Pandemic a lot about storytelling and they're teaching BioWare about working on multiple platforms (the first hint we have that it will be on more than one console).
"The best thing we have going now," said Watkins, "is that we have someone to talk to that we respect just to give us a sanity check on the problems that we're facing as we both go into the next gen."
Despite being set in Nazi occupied France, Watkins and Hong stress that this is not another WWII game. "We're not storming the beaches of Normandy – this is not about beating the Nazis. The game is about this guy, and his personal story happens to be set in WWII. Much in the way people don't think of Indiana Jones as a WWII movie."
The story of Saboteur is one of revenge and a man who was just at the wrong place at the worst possible time: Paris on the eve of Nazi invasion. "In our research of that era," said Watkins, "we came across some amazing people who became larger than life that we can draw from, and we could craft our guy after." The end result was a character based on an actual WWII race car driver. Watkins promises that the fact he's a race car driver will play heavily in the game, as there are a number of chase scenes.
Stealth will play a big role as players have to be wary of Nazi patrols around every corner, and they'll have to keep their suspicion level low if they don't want a fight. One way to avoid them is to travel over the patrols' heads. The main character is quite nimble, and can shimmy up drain pipes and leap from rooftop to rooftop. Vehicles will also provide easy mobility. According to Watkins, Saboteur follows the mantra of "If you see it on the streets, you can drive it." That includes cars, bikes and even tanks.
Inevitably, whether the player turns around the wrong corner or simply doesn't want to play sneaky anymore, combat will ensue. And when that happens, like any good fighting Irishman, he uses his fists. “This is much more of a knock-down, drag-out bar fight style than it is anything else," Hong said. Depending on the situation, the Nazis will actually make sport of you at first, sending one guy to take you on at a time. Though, if they begin to feel threatened by you, they will stop playing around and use their guns.
The name of the game is Saboteur for a reason, and unlike most open world games, combat is not intended to be your first resort on missions. Whether you're stopping a weapons train or assassinating a Nazi leader at a rally, you will have to sneak into places, find the enemy's weak point and exploit it. Of course, there will be a number of powerful weapons and sabotage devices at your disposal for when you have no choice left but to run-and-gun your way out of a place.
The most outstanding aspect of Saboteur is the "world of light," a method for visualizing Nazi occupation. Inspired by "Sin City's" dynamic use of light and color, as players walk through the streets of Paris they can immediately tell the mood of the people by the color, or lack thereof in the neighborhood. By accomplishing missions that drive the Nazis out, the player will also part the clouds over the neighborhood and return color to the streets. People will also be more friendly and may even aid the player in those areas. Trey says this will provide a simple reference for the player to know what areas he needs to go and liberate. Music will also play an important role in the setting. While the style of music will be era appropriate, with a variety of jazz, bebop and swing music, they will all be modern takes on the genres.
Despite everything the creators told us, we still don't know some basic facts about the game, such as which systems it will be for, or even what countries it will be released in. What we do know is that is won't be out for at least another year. But from what we can see right now, Saboteur looks to be anything but just another WWII game.