Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

DF15- First Blood

Long, Any excuse to say “arse” Review: The Saboteur- Video games and movies have ruined history for my generation. The second I see a Nazi in a lab coat my thoughts immediately jump to that he's either about to lay down some super science or he's going to raise some kind of demon. Saboteur is even cruel enough to hint at a developing supernatural plotline and then refuses to use it. If you can put that aside, Saboteur may be the very definition of a “mediocre”, “5/10”, “2 stars out of 4”, or pick the midpoint of your favorite arbitrary scoring mechanism. It does nothing horribly but does nothing all that new or great either. The character models are ugly, stiffly animated, and have some baffling lip synch issues. The game went the “if you can't be good, throw in some gratuitous nudity” route, but really, with characters that unappealing why on earth would you choose to make poorly drawn nipples your appeal? Thankfully, you can choose to turn the nudity off. The dialogue can be a bit... B movie at times and there's sooo much gratuitous cursing, but the latter is forgivable because of Sean's comically Irish accent. Nobody curses like the comically Irish. It's almost fun enough to just fling Sean off of buildings to hear him scream something or plead with you to stop. Unfortunately, the game has a severe penalty for dying outside of missions. If you're on a mission, you can just hop back to the last checkpoint, but if you're out on your own, you lose all your guns, grenades, ammo, and get sent back to a base that's almost always far away from where you were so you have to drive all the way back there. Spending fifteen minutes driving back and forth to objectives when you die because Sean gets stuck trying to climb a box three feet off the ground or he refused to grab onto a ledge or getting caught in your own explosion because he was stuck on a branch laying on the ground really taxes your patience. The load times aren't anything great either. Like in GTA, there's no loading when traversing to the world, but any time you die, move in/out of buildings, or complete part of a mission, you have to slog through long and frequent loads. It takes some work getting used to how cars handle but after a few hours, you'll probably get used to the speed, what hills you can't get up for no apparent reason, and you'll stop feeling remorse for running over nuns that think it's a good idea to cross the street while a race car is zipping down the road with a tank blasting away at it. The controls are unnecessarily complex (you have to hold down one button to enter a fighting mode even though the punch button does absolutely nothing in regular walking around mode and the climbing is slow and tedious. The game makes so much of its climbing and encourages you to stick to rooftops, but the mechanism has you button mashing as Sean slowly clambers up a building while you get shot at for doing so and you encounter countless situations where he refuses to climb something he's used before or he flails about and won't lift himself up. Instead of having to press the climb button every single time you want him to move, it would have been so much friendlier to the user to just have you hold down the button and then “steer” yourself to spots with the analogue stick. Saves you from button mashing, speeds up the process, and gives you the same feel without being so annoying. The camera is a mess and the game's draw-in rate is PS1 quality. You can see people, cars, and objects just pop into existence and fall out of the sky. Cars sometimes even spawn onto other objects and will explode after a few seconds. An enemy tank spawned inside a tree and blew itself and three soldiers up without me even having to lift a finger. This makes trying to escape when you've been noticed exceedingly difficult at times though. You'll be in the clear and heading outside of the search area when a truck full of Nazis just magics into existence and your escape starts all over again because they've spotted you. The game is just buggy all over. Enemies standing on air, ropes that don't connect to anything and hover taught in the air, moving through solid objects, teleporting, game freezes, I kept failing one mission with a message that an ally that wasn't even in that mission (and last I had seen him was in a base underground safe and sound) had died, trees that float above the ground, invisible boxes, and people that just fall out of the sky and die as soon as they hit the ground. Given how awful the AI is, whenever you're on an escort mission, it makes your stomach and brain hurt. You've spent the last few hours watching the NPCs crash their cars on almost empty roads, fail to make turns, run each other over, and drive off cliffs and the game sticks you on a turret on the back of a truck and you have to trust your AI driver to get you home (Protip: Give yourself a LOT of time to complete this mission because your driver is going to blow you up many, many times).You have to suicidally run head first into groups of enemies because your partners are just completely unaware of what's going on. Not only will she run up to troops with flamethrowers, but she will stand in the flames and not fire back. Another choice moment was seeing an ally I was supposed to be guiding get stuck in a dead enemy laying on the ground. My character could just walk over it, but the ally just turned into a twitching mass. It took me about five minutes to find a way to unwedge him and then to guide him around the body. I've griped a lot about it, but oddly, the game is just... fun. The missions have good objectives, it's nice to play around in a sandbox game that doesn't take place in NYC, and you're just a guy going around blowing stuff up. It's like Red Faction: Guerrilla, it just makes terrorism feel like a good time. And if you're riddled with ADD, this is the game for you. There are over 300 mini-objectives in just the first area alone. I beat the game and all the side quests, but I'm still enjoying myself running through France and causing massive explosions. There are really only three different kinds of objectives (blow X up, climb up Y, and find a box/item at Z), so after you've blown up your 40th sniper tower, it gets a little boring, but you find yourself making up your own little requirements and making it interesting again. Unlike oh so many sandbox games, they're actually kind enough to mark the objectives and collectibles on your map so when you're down to just a few, you're not spending hours searching every inch of the game for that one last supply box. Saboteur would have been a much better game if they had focused themselves. A smaller map and less free form missions (ditch the drop boxes, car collecting, blowing up speakers, and the stupid car jumps) would probably have given the time and resources to make what's there actually fun and to clean up all the glitches and bugs. It's a game with so much potential and that provides some stupid fun, but any time you get rolling, something always pops up and gets in your way. Just the game's use of color shows you that, at some point, somebody did care about the game. Areas where the resistance is strong have clear skies and are colorful, but Nazi controlled areas are stormy and in black and white but there are little accents that bring everything out. Nazi structures have a red glow or highlights, environmental objects and cues are yellow, and resistance members have a splash of blue. Just those bits of color in the black and white areas give you so much information and help draw you into the world. The soundtrack is also fantastic. The ambient music is nice and the songs that play on the car radios are all nicely done and there isn't nearly as much throw away music like GTA has. I'll actually delay a mission and sit in a car if “Feeling Good” is on the radio. That song goes to show just how epic and engrossing big band music can feel in a video game and how under used it is. Saboteur doesn't give any real weight to WW2 though. When you have a single guy blowing up a thousand Nazi strong points and killing entire armies of soldiers, it treats WW2 as just a "fun" backdrop. Pop in, have fun with terrorism, race cars, and snipe some dunderhead Nazis. Isn't war grand? As a player with the advantage of time, you know that the war is only just beginning so no matter how many Nazis you kill, towers you blow up, or people you inspire, the worst is yet to come. The final scene shows how terrific Saboteur could have been. The piano music, the setting, the way the characters act, everything inside that bar, and the final boss "fight" are all just perfect. If only the rest of the game was even halfway as good as the finale.
Sins Committed: Buggy, Bad controls, Bad camera, Ugly characters, Plot holes that will likely never gets a sequel to fill them
Virtues Acted: Good missions, Good music, Good setting, Crashing a booby-trapped car into a tank and taking out four soldiers, Crashing a booby-trapped car into a cow


Posted by Pip

First Blood Notes

Oooh, erg. That's not good. Greed brought just a wee bit too much attention to itself there and Labor was quite happy to respond with his big ass obelisk sword. “Obelisk' is an awesome word.
At least Pride has a defense similar to Sloth's: it's just not all that great to wail on something squishy. If you can't hear a bone break, where's the fun in it?
Obelisk!