Sean Devlin is a jerk. He's the hard-drinking, hard-swearing Irish-stereotype you get to play as during The Saboteur, and in many ways he ruins the experience. Although this game is played straight up - with explosive action, nuddy ladies, and the occasional bit of torture - the plot and over-the-top characters are more suited to Dad's Army or Allo Allo.
The end result is a mess: a serious game with a daft plot and sub-standard action. Let's start with the positives, though. The way Pandemic uses colour in Saboteur is smart. The whole map - and it is quite a large playing area - is open from the start for you to explore. Nazi occupied areas appear in black and white, with certain objects (like the blue handkerchief of a resistance fighter, or the red of the Swastika flag) picked out in colour for effect. When Sean stops making crap jokes about drinking and liberates a sector of Paris, you see colour bleed back into the area making it really stand out against the grey. This gives occupied zones more of a sense of oppression, and liberated areas a feeling of safety and frivolity.
Another clever way the colour is used is to pick out items or areas of interest. Climbable drain-pipes appear in yellow, explosive barrels in red, and hiding spots have a green glow. Sticking with the visuals a little longer, the whole of Paris, from the twisting streets of the Marais to the undeveloped countryside outside Montmartre feels alive and busy - either with oppressed Frenchmen or oppressing Nazis. Even the cars, despite driving awfully, look realistic.
Sadly, the action can't back up the stylish looks. The game is a free-roaming adventure with story missions, side missions, and various other bits and pieces to keep you busy within the world. Want to progress the story? Drive to an NPC on your mini-map, chat with him, and complete the attached task (usually blowing something up or killing a high-ranking Nazi). Just want to tool about? There are races to complete, contraband to find, views to see, and hundreds of tactical structures to blow up: if you really want to find everything Saboteur could last you upwards of 20 hours.
However, the problem is, being Sean Devlin isn't a whole lot of fun. Shooting isn't as solid as Uncharted 2, the missions aren't as varied as GTA IV, the climbing is nowhere near as fluid as Assassin's Creed 2, stealth is poor next to MGS4, and the driving... well the driving is just crap. Cars stick to the road so tightly, and handle so skittishly, it's as if everyone in Paris drives with four flat tyres. This makes both racing and escaping from combat (which you have to do a hell of a lot) extremely frustrating. No va va voom.
Oddly, the destruction in Saboteur is also underwhelming. Pandemic were pioneers at causing mayhem in an open world (Mercenaries) but now it seems they've forgotten the crowd-pleasing art of blowing shit up. Bring down a structure in Saboteur and it falls apart into five or six jaggy lumps that bounce around before fading away. Disappointing, especially after Red Faction: Guerrilla let us smash up Mars up one hammer blow at a time.
Without spectacular action or stunning set-pieces Saboteur quickly becomes a grind; a game you play while you're dreaming of something else. There's little that feels broken about the way it plays, it's just that there's nothing original or 'best in class' here. So next to the likes of Uncharted 2 or Assassin's Creed 2 it has very little to offer other than the fact that it crams in so many gaming conventions into one experience.