In The Saboteur's sandbox world it's up to you to support, arm and fight alongside the resistance - simultaneously bringing colour and the sound of birdsong back to patches of countryside and city. Much as in the Mercenaries games there are countless places to visit and destroy - fuel dumps, sniper nests, AA batteries (everything Adolf holds dear) - while you can also break up street executions should you come across them in Paris and rig Nazi cars with explosives. Successfully fight back in an area, restoring colour and normality, and the resistance will set up shop, holding out the Nazi threat and helping you on your travels should you pass through with a Panzer or two on your tail.
With story missions, however, the mantra being followed is that of 'quiet in, loud out': having Devlin sneak into danger, but not punishing the player when cover is inevitably blown. To aid in, for example, the lacing of a wooden railway bridge with explosives you can steal a Nazi uniform, but behave out of character by clambering up and over its struts and the enemy perception gauge will start to climb. If you continue to behave oddly and the perception ticker hits its limits, a whistle will be blown and bullets will start to fly. It's a less refined Hitman disguise system, essentially, mixed in with hiding spots around the play area (sheds, brothels etc.) that you can dash to if you don't want people goose-stepping after you for a while.
This particular bridge mission though is an intriguing one, and also something that highlights Pandemic's desire to get away from 'kill these five guys' mission objectives. Having driven to the bridge with sexpot Skylar (not the most authentic of 1940s names - what's wrong with Hilda or Margaret?) and secured the bombs, Devlin must do all sorts of exciting things on a moving army train before it reaches the bridge and tumbles into fiery calamity.
For a start, he's got to sneak into the train station and battle his way on board, but he's also got to fight his way to the back of the train to knock out the comms station at its rear, battle Nazis on the train's various carriages and in the nearby countryside, reach the front and jam down the throttle and rescue someone before the train explodes. All because the defecting German scientist loves Milk Tray. It's a rip-roaring mission that's made all the better for the gun-turrets that allow you to take out the more notably Nazi parts of the scenery. You only hope The Saboteur's other missions can match it. Standing next to the wrecked train as colour bleeds back into the scene and the birds start chirping through the speakers is an excellent reward for a job well done.
There's been a spate of turgid World War II action games since Infinity Ward decamped to modern times, most recently Codemasters' baleful Fall of Liberty and the similarly 'loosely based' premise of Velvet Assassin. Even World at War wasn't really up to sniff if you look past the zombies. So it's refreshing to play a game with a different approach to Nazi-blasting, alongside that vital cheery lack of respect for historical detail. It's Allo' Allo' the game, and for that we may be called upon to celebrate.
The Saboteur is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 4th December.