Appropriately enough The Saboteur snuck into the Appstore with zero pre-release hype or fanfare. A stealthy adventure set 1940’s Nazi occupied France, the game puts you in the boots of Sean Devlin, a sparkly-eyed Irish renegade intent on waging a one man war against the ze Germans. Of course (almost) single-handedly felling The Third Reich isn’t a task to be undertaken lightly, but Devlin, a graduate from The Solid Snake School of Sneaking, a dab hand with knives and guns and an explosives expert, does seem like the man for the job.
This iPhone iteration of the reasonably well-reviewed console game eschews the open-world mechanic of that title and instead follows the altogether more linear trail blazed by Hands-On Mobile’s recent java effort, albeit with enhanced graphics and tailor-made touchscreen controls.
Level one starts with a bang as Devlin escapes an exploding cargo ship, picking off patrolling SS troops as he goes. It’s an action-packed opening to the game and allows you to get to grips with the basics of movement – an onscreen d-pad – combat and stealth.
The isometric view offers an ideal perspective for The Saboteur‘s blend of crafty killing and gun-fights. Being able to see a good distance all around you allows for a tactical approach to butchering your way through the maze-like environments, and means you can observe the enemies’ patrol routes, weighing up whether to go in all guns blazing or ninja-like.
The stealth aspect is quite well implemented, with silent kills being pulled off by approaching goons from behind and sticking it to them with your trusty blade. Obviously though when cornered (as frequently happens), it’s time to switch to something with a little more oomph.
And weapons wise The Saboteur is fully loaded, its impressive arsenal including rifles, trip-wire mines, and explosive charges. You start out armed only with a knife, but can scavenge more powerful weaponry from your victims’ corpses as needed.
The auto-targeting system that kicks in during gun-fights is unfortunately a bit flakey, sometimes locking onto baddies, other times not. This makes for unpredictable and frustrating gameplay, as often, through no fault of your own, Devlin will end up twitching in a pool of his own blood. So much for the luck of the Irish, eh?
However this imprecise targeting system is hardly a deal breaker because the game is far more enjoyable when you drop the Rambo act and stay out of sight, avoiding confrontations when possible and sneakily dispatching foes before they get the chance to raise the alarm.
But what does potentially throw a spanner in the works is is the fact that, despite its graphical overhaul, The Saboteur still “feels” like a cell-phone game. Linear progression, repetitive levels and a plot that leaps from one action set-piece to the next with a disregard for atmospherics or storytelling, means that the title lacks the sophistication and polish we’ve come to expect from the recent wave of iPhone actioners.
That said, if you’ve been craving an old school stealth ’em up on iPhone and don’t mind that the game looks as if was made in the 1940’s as well as being set then, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Personally, once I’d come to terms with The Saboteur‘s shortcomings, I had a blast stalking my way through its 12 levels (ranging from a creepy cemetary to the winding streets of Paris), crossing achievments off my checklist, and tearing asunder the Nazi war machine piece by piece.
iFanzine Verdict: The Saboteurlooks and feels like a classic Metal Gear game, but with a full blown Splinter Cell lurking just around the corner, is that enough to satisfy hardcore stealthaholics?