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Why I Hate... The Saboteur

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

When I first heard that someone was making a game set in occupied Paris, casting the player as a member of the French resistance, my imagination ran away with me. Like everyone else I've played a lot of World War II videogames, and I'm sick of brainlessly shooting Nazis.

I imagined a tense, slow-paced adventure game. I envisioned spying on the occupying force while under the constant threat of detection. Perhaps I'd even get to be a German soldier, questioning his country's role in the war and secretly helping the resistance? That would be brave. That would be something that games haven't done before.

This is my problem with videogames. I hope for subtlety, sensitivity, intelligence and creative ambition. What I get is tits, guns, swearing and dreadful accents.

The Saboteur takes a fascinating and tragic moment in European history and depicts it via the medium of a foul-mouthed Irishman, one who spends his time splattering thousands of Nazis across the windshield of his stolen car and blowing up radio antennae in between visiting strip clubs to have a look at some polygonal French breasts. The warning signs are there on the game's title screen, which shows the Eiffel Tower dwarfed by an enormous pair of female buttocks.

If games were people, this one would be a 13-year-old schoolboy ignoring the history lesson on Germany's invasion of France because he's too busy doodling dicks in his exercise book, doing swears and giggling at his own farts.

I hate The Saboteur. Most bad games are just a bit broken - sometimes you even feel sorry for them - but the Saboteur isn't especially terrible in a mechanical sense. That's not what's so insulting about it.

No, it's the brainless, sickeningly insensitive load of old nonsense that it dares to call a storyline. It's the brash, idiotic, tasteless way in which it treats the Second World War. The Saboteur is aggressively, wilfully stupid, taking a historically charged place in time and turning it into the backdrop for a dumb action romp. This game makes a conscious choice not to bother engaging with the setting or the context in any meaningful, intelligent way.

I don't insist on historical accuracy in my games (or any of my fiction, for that matter). There's nothing wrong with artistic license. I don't care that The Saboteur's version of the occupation of Paris gets its dates and events all mixed up (it does).

But this story is the worst, most disgusting load of dribble I've ever seen in a videogame. And I've played a lot of them.

Why tell a story about occupied Paris when you can tell the story of a drunk man trying to kill a big bad German who cheated him out of winning a race? The war is just the backdrop, see - this game is only set in occupied Paris so there are loads of Nazis standing around to shoot and run over. What fun!

The Saboteur doesn't engage with its setting at all. Devlin, the 'hero', is only recruited to the resistance so there's an excuse for missions where you blow up blimps. This is like setting a rom-com in late-sixties Vietnam - not just horribly inappropriate, but insulting to anyone with the slightest sensitivity towards the history of this period. I don't think a European studio could have made this game.

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About the Author
Keza MacDonald avatar

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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