Remember “The Saboteur”? Released in 2009 by EA, and developed by Pandemic Studios, the game had you play as a tough talking, womanising, hard-as-nails Irish lad named Sean Devlin who is recruited by the French Resistance to kick the Nazis out of Paris during the World War II occupation. A rather unique art style coupled with fun game play mechanics and lovingly recreated virtual versions of Paris’ landmarks, the game offered a lot of enjoyable play and received fairly positive critic reviews. Unfortunately, the 1.5M multi-platform game sales were not enough to save the fates of (the late, R.I.P.) Pandemic Studios, which was liquidated shortly after the games release.
This was particularly saddening for me, as I was COMPLETELY hooked on The Saboteur at the time. From the moment I put the game into my PS3, I could not put it down. Overlooking the numerous glitches and paper thin story line, I found a gloriously enjoyable, open world, game to play. It was a complete time dump as I would spend hours climbing the sides of the Paris land marks, from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré Cœur, just for the fun of it. After 150+ hours of play, I managed to tear myself away and onto a different game….
Fast forward 2 years, and I am taking my lady friend on a romantic weekend vacation to Paris. After sampling some of the amazing food and strong beers, we decided to take a ride around Paris to see the sights and jumped onto the nearest tour bus. As we continued through Paris, I strangely felt myself imbued with knowledge of the landmarks that matched that of the tour guide. Although this mildly impressed my girlfriend, I had puzzled myself as to where I had magically learnt the name and brief description of almost everything we drove past. Even some of the buildings not pointed out on the tour seemed very familiar. Having not visited Paris before, this confused the heck out of me.
Racking my brain, It finally came to me! The Saboteur! All of those hours climbing all over virtual Paris’ landmarks had caused some kind of information osmosis and I was now completely familiar with the name and architecture of all the major tourist attractions. Apart from earning a few brownie points with my girlfriend (which is always a bonus), I took great delight in testing my memory of the famous buildings and how Pandemic Studios had portrayed them. Let me tell you, they did a good job. This inadvertently led me to have a better holiday.
This got me thinking. Having played through (and being very addicted too) Assassins Creed 2 & AC:Brotherhood, would I now have a better understanding of Venice and Rome? Would memories of The Getaway, the PS2 classic that re-created large portions of London, flash before my eyes when I travel to the English capitol? I hope so. Playing “The Saboteur” before visiting Paris was rewarding and I hope that more games can inadvertently teach me about locations I have never visited. Learning things while blowing stuff up has never been so fun!