Why I Hate... The Saboteur • Page 2

"Like setting a rom-com in late-sixties Vietnam."

The main characterisation device is tasteless stereotyping. The Irishman - and this is enough to make any European cringe - is a foul-mouthed drunk who loves whiskey, fighting and blowing things up. The big baddie is a German race car driver who is also - wait for it - a butcher.

Then there's the deeply unsexy British female spy, who wants to sleep with Devlin for absolutely no discernible reason. Oh, except she's a woman in a videogame, so she must want to sleep with someone - or why would she even be there?

Not a single character in the game can keep their accent consistent, be they French, German, Irish or English. Not even the main character can maintain his intonation for five minutes. Sometimes he sounds vaguely Indian. It's like an episode of 'Allo 'Allo, except the comedy isn't intentional.

What really riles me is that The Saboteur isn't a horrible accident - it's stupid by design. Here's an example: some of the characters in the game speak German from time to time, but they speak ludicrously grammatically incorrect German in heavy Californian accents.

Someone, somewhere, decided the Nazis should definitely speak German, but didn't go far enough to suggest they should speak German which, you know, actually sounds anything like the real language. Instead we have, "ZERE IS ZE SABOTEUR! ICH WILLEN ER FINDEN!" It's just for effect, see.

Here's a quote from The Saboteur's lead designer: "We don't even really think of our game as a WWII game, it's the backdrop to our game which gives us arguably the best real-world bad guys of all time."

That's what the Nazi regime - one of the most terrible things ever to happen on our continent or any other, responsible for the worst genocide in human history - was to the people making the Saboteur: the best real-world bad guys of all time.

Occupied Paris? Hey, that's a cool place where you can race in vintage cars and blow stuff up and climb the Eiffel Tower! The developer's attitude to its own game confirms all my worst assumptions.

Why not engage with the history? Why do we so purposefully avoid doing anything intelligent with videogames? And why does The Saboteur think it can come and throw its own faeces against the backdrop of one of the most important historical events in European history?

If this were a film I think it might have been banned, not just slammed by critics. (Videogame critics, by the way, seemed largely unbothered by The Saboteur's insensitivity.) Just because this is a videogame, is it magically OK for it to be so dumb?

The Saboteur isn't an insultingly bad game. It's an insultingly stupid one. It makes game developers and gamers alike look like desperate thrill-seeking idiots, combing fascinating and sensitive areas of human history in search of things we can explode.

It embodies everything that depresses me about videogames at their worst. It's all here - the senselessness, the meaningless violence, the unapologetic stupidity. The lack of intelligence and absence of ambition. The tendency towards easy stereotypes and pre-pubescent humour, even in settings that not only lend themselves to a mature approach, but beg for it.

At least with Pandemic gone, there's no chance of a sequel.

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About the author

Keza MacDonald

Keza MacDonald


Keza is the Guardian's video games editor. Previously she has been the UK editor for Kotaku and IGN, and a Eurogamer contributor.


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