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Saboteur is a racy imitator of other action-adventure series

December 19, 2009|By Pete Metzger
  • Sean Devlin battles the Nazis in The Saboteur.
Sean Devlin battles the Nazis in The Saboteur. (Electronic Arts )

The World War II-era action-adventure game The Saboteur may feature plenty of curvy burlesque dancers, but it doesn't quite measure up.

Its open-world gameplay and "go anywhere on a nice big map" features aren't as well done as in Grand Theft Auto. The wall climbing and "free-running" across rooftops aren't nearly as good as in the Assassin's Creed series (see the review below). Even the plot, cut screens and controls aren't as good as in most games.

But despite its lack of originality, The Saboteur includes a couple of key elements that make an effort to set it apart from its predecessors.

The story is set at the start of World War II, and the Nazis have invaded Paris. Irishman Sean Devlin has been drafted to help be a general pain in the side to the occupying forces. Fueled by revenge, Devlin sets out to cause a little mayhem. When he enters a part of Paris that is not sympathetic to the Resistance, the screen resembles a beautiful old movie in all its black-and-white glory. Once the area gets onboard, the screen gets bright and colorful -- a nice touch.

Then there are the aforementioned girls. In Grand Theft Auto, most of the nudity is implied. Here, it's on bold display before the game's title even appears. After all, Devlin's base of operations is the Belle de Nuit, one of Paris' finest burlesque houses, and the ladies who work there are, ahem, well-endowed. (As a way to protect younger eyes, gamers have to enter a code and download the ability to have a "nudity on" option. Though the code comes on a card packed with the game, getting online requires a credit card.)

It may not be the most original title, but it sure looks good.

Grade: B- (A copycat with more skin.)

Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $49.99; rated Mature (blood, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes, strong language).

A fun workout in ornate Creed II

Characters don't get more athletic than the main guy in Assassin's Creed II.

If he can see a building, he can climb it. Ledges, railings, windowsills, even protruding bricks offer a hand- or foothold for Ezio. Although it's not super-realistic -- can anyone really scale a building without taking a breath? -- the game is still amazingly fun to play.

Luckily for our hero, the setting is Renaissance Italy, with all its ornate structures and stunning buildings. Luckily for us, the game makers did a breathtaking job of re-creating the look and feel of the place and period with a ridiculous amount of detail. In fact, the city is the big star here. Beautiful, sweeping and grand, the environments are nearly flawless.

Yes, the open-world layout and "sneak up and attack" gameplay are pretty standard when it comes to games these days (see above), but the ability to befriend Leonardo da Vinci and use some of his designs as vehicles and weapons give Assassin's Creed II a brain.

Grade: A (A great place to visit.)

Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood, intense violence, sexual content, strong language).

Real thing beats Tony Hawk: Ride

After playing Tony Hawk: Ride, we're 93% sure it would be impossible to make a more realistic skateboard simulator. Using a life-size controller (included with purchase) that resembles a skateboard, minus the wheels and trucks, gamers maneuver the stationary board on their carpets while their video avatars do the work on screen.

That's the problem: Playing the game is so close to the real thing, why not just go ride an actual skateboard? You know, fresh air? Exercise? Oh, nevermind.

Sure, the cement environments in this virtual world are all ripped from skater's dreams, and pulling off the tricks looks a lot smoother on a TV than it is in the real world, but Ride doesn't have much else going for it other than point-based exhibition. (Where is the quirky plot of previous Tony Hawk games?)

Like other games whose controls mimic real-life actions (we're looking at you, Wii Boxing), this one gets tiring after a while.

Better to spend the $100 on a skateboard and helmet and head down to Santa Monica and work on your tan instead.

Grade: B (Nice deck, nice try.)

Details: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $99.99; rated Everyone 10+ (lyrics, mild suggestive themes, animated blood).

New Mario Wii can't compete

It's amazing to think that video games have been around so long that there is a whole generation of gamers who will play New Super Mario Bros. Wii and ask "Is that all there is?" After all, this game is nearly identical to Super Mario Bros. 3, which was released almost 20 years ago.

Graphically, the latest version is polished about as well as games polish on the still-not-high-def Wii. The controls and plot are basically the same as in the game's forefathers (the same directional pad, two-button input scheme and "help save the kidnapped princess" story line, respectively).

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