Saboteur isn't your average World War 2 shooter. If anything, it's the antidote to the WW2 malaise that has been setting in since Call of Duty 3 highlighted how generic the genre has become. How so?
Saboteur puts a new spin on old themes, making them feel fresh and different. It's something that's threaded through everything from the game's stylish art-direction to the genuinely deep and interesting lead character and backstory.
It all starts at the concept stage. During our exclusive look at the game, Pandemic lead designer Tom French explained that instead of looking to the usual suspects like Call of Duty and Saving Private Ryan the team found inspiration in quirky French film Amelie, the Indiana Jones movies, and the Parkour-lead game Assassin's Creed.
Check out the game's website (www.pandemicstudios.com/saboteur) and there's a gallery of images labelled 'Influences' which include pictures of WW2 objects like Zeppelins and barbed wire, mixed with arty shots of hands cradling whisky glasses and ladies in lingerie.
Sensibly, Pandemic made the choice early on to shun historical accuracy in favour of slick gameplay and a great story. The lead character, Sean Devlin is half based on William Grover-Williams - a real life war hero - and half on John McClane from Die Hard.
And although the game is set in a recognisable Paris, it isn't a faithful representation of the French capital. As you play through, you'll meet Nazi storm-troopers kitted out with beyond-WW2 weaponry, and unfeasibly hi-tech Zeppelins that chase you across the rooftops. Realistic? No. Fun? Yes.
The colours and the shapes
However, the most striking part of Saboteur is the visuals, and the way the game uses colour. All the Nazi controlled areas of the game are rendered in black and white, whereas the liberated regions all buzz with vibrant colours. When Devlin liberates a section of Paris by completing a specific mission the colour will bleed back into that district as the Nazi oppression is lifted.
The action itself is a pleasing mish-mash of Freedom Fighters, GTA and Assassin's Creed. For the most part, Saboteur is a shooter, and Pandemic has confirmed there will be 24 weapons in the finished game, including run-of-the-mill armaments like MP40s and Lugers, through to more unusual items like flamethrowers and specialist sabotage explosives.
There are elements of stealth and melee, but they take more of a backseat - there's nothing as complex as, say, Splinter Cell's light-meter system. A shame really, because the stealth sections in the demo saw Devlin creeping up, snapping the necks of guards and throwing them off balconies - much more entertaining than the generic shooting sections.
Where Saboteur lifts itself above the common shooter is in the freedom it hands you. Although this is a Pandemic game, it doesn't run on the same engine as Mercs 2 - the emphasis is on using the environment instead of detonating it, so the up-close detail is more impressive.
When you're in Paris, you can climb any building and race across the rooftops. You can even scale the Eiffel Tower. Climbable ledges are highlighted in yellow (very Mirror's Edge), and the animations, as Devlin scales brick-faces like an Irish spider, are seriously impressive.
Grand Theft Tank
The mission structure's more focused than most open-world games too. We were shown a demo of Devlin escaping from the Doppelsieg factory. It started off linear - Devlin shooting guards from cover and running down corridors.