One of the most interesting and character filled games I've seen around E3 so far has to be The Saboteur.
The game set in Nazi-occupied Paris offers gamers a real treat, a sandbox environment in which to cause havoc. According to lead designer Tom French (could he have a more appropriate name?), the team developing the game went at it with a 'quiet in, loud out' ethos. This mechanic allows players to satisfy two inherently different play styles, stealth sneakery and the all-guns-blazing approach. Sneak up and break an enemies' neck, steal his uniform and infiltrate? Or use a rocket-launcher to demolish a blimp? It's up to you.
The character of this revenge twinged storyline is an Irishman named Shaun, who's out to knock off some pesky Nazis in his own, ever-so-cool manner. After all, he is a race car driver when he's not busy with the ladies of the Red Light District. A 1940's rockstar approach has been taken with Shaun's character, which is reflected in the cover system used in the game. Shaun glides and ducks smoothly next to walls and behind crates, French was careful to outline his intention to make Shaun seem cool under fire, rather than a flailing slapstick joke. Completed a big mission? Shaun effortlessly flicks his zippo across a cigarette, leaving a cloud for anyone in his trail. Very swish.
A key feature of the game's style and gameplay is the Will to Fight mechanism, which sees presently occupied areas of Paris shaded in a greyed out, Sin City inspired shroud. By removing Nazi features from the landscape (by killing/blowing them up), Shaun replenishes the people's Will to Fight, encouraging resistance fighters to join in on the action. As the people's will returns, so does the vibrant colour of the cityscape. Trees become lush green, streets show pink tinged cobbles as women's red lipstick embellishes the signs atop burlesque houses. As French mentions, the Will to Fight acts as a city-wide visual progress bar. The more resistance you manage to stir up, the more vibrant the city becomes. A great idea put to use.
Across the game, you will be encouraged to interact with vehicles, run across a seamless net of streets and back-alleys, as well as explore the city's heights by climbing to rooftops. Players will find themselves using the city as a gameplay element, jumping from low laying streetside stalls to apartment buildings, even climbing the Eiffel Tower if you so decide. Factor in side quests and the rich storyline, and The Saboteur starts to look like quite a gaming experience.
It's early days yet, with the game scheduled to launch 4th Quarter 09 - but nevertheless, certainly one to watch.