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The Corrente Review Of Games: Volume II, Number 10 (English Edition)

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The Corrente Review Of Games is published on the first Saturday of the month (holiday weekends possibly excepted!)
Posting is done in rotation by the following contributors:
Aeryl, BDBlue and danps.
Please contact any of us with submission ideas or feedback.

Review: The Saboteur (danps)

The Saboteur is actually a couple years old. It seemed to slip under the radar - I don't remember a whole lot of talk about it at the time - and gamers didn't make it an underground sensation. But twice in the last six months or so I've seen two commenters (I could have sworn one was at Corrente , but I couldn't find it after a quick search) call it one of the most underrated games ever.

It had a couple things in its favor right off the bat. First, it's an original. I like playing new franchises more than the latest installment of an existing one. There are exceptions of course (Skyrim countdown: 125 days) but I'm more likely to be jazzed by a new experience than a trip through a familiar one. The second thing was price. I ordered it new for 20 bucks. Holy crap, yeah? Getting it new isn't just about getting it while it's hot anymore, either. Studios have started putting one-time redeemable codes in games for pretty nice extras. BioWare has an armor code in Dragon Age and an arc welder in Mass Effect 2, for example. (For the record, arc welders are fun weapons and should be included in every game, including ones for young children.)

The extras in The Saboteur are boobies. The game is set in Nazi occupied Paris, and your initial home base is in an adult entertainment establishment. When you redeem the code the workers in the club become topless. It also unlocks three lap dances (seriously). Now I'd be lying if I said I objected to seeing them, but I happen to know the two other contributors on the masthead are women. Aeryl covered the issue of games "designed for the male gaze" in her review of Bayonetta, and her general impression seemed to be (correct me if I'm wrong, Aeryl!) that it was great to have a female lead who kicks ass, the cheesecake aspects of it kind of sucked, were probably inevitable, and didn't ultimately prevent her from really enjoying the game.

I don't think the Corrente Review is that exceptional either. Every few years a new study seems to show that the median age for console players has gone up a few years and skewed more female. Console gaming seems to have locked in with a particular generation, not an age group. Or: Console games are popular with people about my age and not, say, the 17-25 demographic. So the same people are playing them, and as they age the median age goes up. There isn't one group putting down their controllers as a younger group picks them up.

So I'm not really sure what designers are thinking with these kinds of decisions. Their consumers are getting older and more female, yet a lot of design decisions seem to be based on an appeal to teen boys. As I said, I enjoy looking and all, and given our ongoing cultural schizophrenia about sex and violence in video games it might be useful to include a certain amount of gratuitous nudity just to highlight the contradictions. But it could probably be done in a way that appeals to both sexes. It's been my observation that women generally aren't more prudish about that than men, they just aren't especially impressed when it's clearly not designed to try and appeal to them as well. (Again: correct me if I'm wrong, ladies!) But in any event, the extra skin it isn't driving my buying decisions - and I doubt it's doing that for either of my co-bloggers. So what's the strategy?

As for the game itself, it's quite a bit of fun. It has the wide open feel of Bethesda's games; you can pretty much go anywhere. On the down side, there isn't much to see. The places you can go are marked on your map, and you can't enter anywhere else. So you can't just start talking to the locals and picking up side quests. There are a decent number of things to do off the main story line, as well as perks you can get by, say, sniping enough Nazi soldiers. There are also perks you can buy, such as increased ammo and better support from the resistance. The one useful item you get with the redemption code is a knife throwing minigame that allows you to farm for money and win a bonus car. I've used both quite a bit, so I'd say consider getting the game new even if the prospect of T&A isn't especially appealing.

You have to go down a pretty straight line for a while before you can freelance. I had a hell of a time early on because I kept wandering off trying to blow shit up and I just didn't have the necessary firepower to pull it off. It's best to spend a decent amount of time beefing up your abilities before going all Red Faction: Guerrilla on the place.

Both the main quest and the side quest require a mix of strategies. Sometimes it's pure mayhem, sometimes stealth, sometimes a mad race through the streets of Paris. It's very well done, particularly the stealth parts. More than anything else, it feels like the lost, awesome sequel to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. It takes all the fun stealth from that game, adds some additional components, and does it in a new setting. Basically the opposite of what MGS designers did to suck all the life out of the Snake franchise. No interminable cut scenes, no huge array of weapons to sort through, no Byzantine plot or ultra-serious atmosphere. It's a World War II setting so it's not exactly frivolous, it just doesn't have the oppressive gravity that suffocates MGS.

I've been playing The Saboteur for a good long while now and am still in the first section, so I don't have much to report beyond that. That is actually a pretty good endorsement though - when a game keeps you engaged without speeding you through the plot, that's a very good sign. I don't know if it's the most underrated game ever or even a lost classic, but it's definitely worth taking a flyer on at its current price.

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Comments

Submitted by lambert on

I've also added a listing for the Corrente Review of Games to the sidebar. As long as you begin the headline with the formula "The Corrente Review of Games...." your post will be automagically added to the listing.

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Submitted by danps on

So now it's a thing. That's good.

While I have your attention, may I humbly request promoting #rebekahbrooks or #hackgate on the Twitter bar? Rupert's empire is under siege, and every extra stone we can sling at it helps. Phenomenal podcast here. Nick Davies joins the pantheon of great - honest to God great - investigative reporters.

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Submitted by Aeryl on

Buying decisions.

I may be exceptional, but I don't see much marketing for video games, and I don't prowl the gaming news sites to learn about what drrty goodies are gonna be in the next game to be released, so I can make sure to go buy it. I can't imagine many casual gamers do, so I guess word of mouth is about all it amounts to.

And, as you said, with the demographics changing as they have, it because more and more likely to turn off a customer base than turn it on. Perhaps, if it were more gender neutral, this wouldn't be an issue.

I honestly believe there is no strategy involved, it's just a bunch of unmature dudebro designers, who like BOOBEHS and can't imagine a world outside of their own, where that might not be the case.

Speaking of strategies...

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Submitted by danps on

For as much money as there is in the industry it's got a surprising lack of PR sophistication. "a bunch of unmature dudebro designers, who like BOOBEHS and can't imagine a world outside of their own" is a really good summary. Designers may just make decisions in their own little universe.

Yep, gaming's getting as over the top as movies and television now that graphics can actually show something attractive to humans. Thankfully we still have companies like Bethesda that makes games that do not rely on that to market their product. It is art in itself.

Submitted by Lex on

who suggested the Saboteur, as i have it and have really enjoyed it.

Of course, i didn't get a review of LA Noire in to you, and i apologize. As it turns out, it's summer and i work too much along with having outdoor/gardening projects. LA Noire is a great game, but it is not the sort of game you sit down with for 45 minutes to an hour at the end of your day and just unwind. It's a thinking game. So i've found myself letting it sit until fall or i'm driven inside with a week of rain.

Mostly i've been playing GranTurismo because it is perfectly suited to 45 minute playing segments ... and unwinding by trying to get a better lap time on the Nurburgring Nordschleife suits me quite well.

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Submitted by Aeryl on

We recently got Tiger Woods PGA 2007 and it's great for that.

We also downloaded Toy Soldiers, and its good for that as well.