The video game company called Pandemic Studios created one great game after another for 11 years -- Full Spectrum Warrior, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans!
Game-maker Electronic Arts bought Pandemic in 2007 and closed it down a few weeks ago, laying off 200 workers. Among those gone are Pandemic founders Andrew Goldman and Josh Resnick.
Did EA buy Pandemic, a one-time rival, just to close it? Was it sabotage? No. It's a recession, some game sales weren't great, so EA said it needed to "improve our cost structure." This was another sign, I think, of how corporations in the fat-economy years overextended themselves only to end up retreating.
Pandemic Studios was shut after it delivered its last game for EA, the Dec. 8 release The Saboteur -- a very good, Grand Theft Auto-type "sandbox" game.
In fact, Saboteur is basically a GTA set in Paris during World War II. You portray an Irish racecar driver who works in the French Resistance to kill Nazis, hijack cars, blow up Nazi anti-aircraft guns, and do all kinds of other violent missions.
So, for instance, one timed mission to blow up a depot might make you climb quickly up buildings, jump across rooftops, all the while shooting Nazis left and right with machines guns, sniper rifles and... a rocket launcher. Oh, and I can't fail to mention the flamethrowers. They burn flesh.
You can climb just about anything, including the Eiffel Tower. You can blow up just about anything, including zeppelins, which catch aflame and sift-soot downward, looking similar to that old footage of the Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity.
Nazis are mean snakes. You might be driving down the road when you see Nazi soldiers executing people in the face.
This is prettily illustrated. Parts of Paris that you and the Resistance have overpowered appear in full color. Parts of Paris under massive Nazi rule appear in gray, black and white.
As you liberate the Eiffel Tower and other neighborhoods, those areas turn colorful again.
Downers: Like all GTA rip-offs, there's too much driving across long roads to get to mission starts. And depending on which difficulty setting you choose, you can either feel as if you're never in any danger, or in too much danger.
Your character is full of vengeance for the death of someone close to him. The game itself feels like a fantasy revenge against Nazis, in the vein of Quentin Tarantino's film Inglourious Basterds.
In real life, revenge against Nazis came only after the killings of millions of people. And there is yet no revenge for Pandemic employees, presumably cashing unemployment checks and looking for work.
But vengeance isn't called for in times like corporate layoffs. Sadness is, and saluting is. Gone from the world is a great game company that brought much joy. Pandemic is dead. Long live Pandemic.