When I found out there was going to be a game based on one of my favorite horror franchises, I was excited yet nervous; as we all know the track record of video games based on movie licenses. Konami brings us SAW the videogame and its release almost coincide with the new SAW VI movie, yet they have completely different storylines.
The SAW game is its own storyline but plays into the whole story arch of the franchise to almost serve as a back story of sorts. SAW takes place after the first film and before the second. You play as Detective David Tapp (Danny Glovers character, though not voiced as him) which is interesting in itself because at the end of the first movie, you see him lying there believed to be dead.
Jigsaw has revived Tapp to life and set him in an abandoned asylum to awake with the iconic reverse bear trap strapped to his head. As he wakes the standard Jigsaw video plays telling him what he needs to do to survive and this sets in motion many other events.
When Jigsaw saved Tapps life from the shotgun wound inflicted in the movie; he also happened to sew a key inside of him which is the only way out for the other people in the asylum which forces the player to kill and defend themselves against multiple enemies that just want to escape.
Jigsaw plays more videos for Tapp and soon tells him that there is a woman trapped nearby that needs his help to survive and it must be done within a certain time limit. As you arrive you realize its Amanda Young (the woman who survived Jigsaws trap and then went on to try and be his protégé) and once you save her and get split up you are ambushed by the infamous Pighead (although we know its Amanda and shes keeping her cover) and are set in another area of the asylum to wake up for your next set of tests.
As you awake for the second time, you have the shotgun collar around your neck that was made famous in Saw III and this is not only for nostalgia, it has a sinister purpose. Some of the other inmates in the asylum also have a shotgun collar around their neck and if you come within a certain distance of them for too long, your collar will discharge. This means you want to get into range so that the collar arms on the enemies side and then keep your distance so that only theirs goes off (They need to get the key inside you to get it off).
I wont spoil any of the other characters you come across, but some will be known from the series and you will see how everyone has a dark connection to Tapp. I really enjoyed having some back story to some of the characters (even though saving Tapp from a shotgun blast is a little far fetched) and it really did make a few things make sense in the overall grand scheme of the movie plots.
As mentioned above, everyone else in the asylum is after Detective Tapp to kill him so that they can retrieve the key that is sewn inside of him for their own escape. Because of this mechanic, there are many enemies that will be after you and you need to defend yourself by killing them by any means necessary.
Almost anything can be used as a weapon such as knives, or pipes or even syringes, but every item has a different delay with the controls and was substantially quite more difficult to actually hit someone with when compared with my bare hands. You need to hold down the L Trigger to initiate the combat stance and from there you can either attack or block; problem is blocking really doesnt do anything and I guarantee on your first few enemies, you will become very frustrated trying to just get a single hit in.
There is a large delay from the button press to the actual attack and it does take quite a few enemies in to get the hang of, but eventually youll just bypass weapons all together and use your fists as its the quickest weapon. Its a shame, because there is an achievement for killing people with each type of weapon too.
The controls for fighting may be some of the worst Ive ever experienced; the only way Ive been getting by is using bare fists and swinging early to hopefully land that first hit (because when you do, you can basically spam the attack over and over again).
What made SAW so appealing were the traps and puzzles that it portrayed onto the main characters, and this is no different in the game at all. Many rooms will lock you in and have a time limit for you to figure out and complete before something very bad will happen to you. Sometimes theses puzzles are simply finding a fuse to put into the break box to unlock or disarm a door, and other times youll have to play a minigame style of puzzle (that do repeat many times in the game).
One of these minigames is a cabinet that has a moving gear (the start) and you need to get the second gear (the end) to move by placing 3 different sized of gears between them so that they fit onto specific pegs. The puzzle itself isnt too terribly challenging on its own, but when you know you have a limited amount of time and the pressure of seeing a trap about to go off, it can mess with your mind.
There are a few other types of small puzzles, but one of the others youll encounter many times is essentially a circuit board with wires and electricity that you need to match up so that all the connections are in place simultaneously. Again, on its own its not too difficult, but its the ticking time that throws you off your game.
Even doorways can be deadly as some are rigged to shoot a shotgun into the face of whoever opens the door. Luckily as you open doors, if its a trap door, youll have a single moment to press the correct button to disable the hairline trigger, though there will be times when you dont press it in time or the wrong key and thus get blasted close range.
Sometimes to save people (or yourself), youll need to figure out or disarm one of the traps that Jigsaw has laid out. At the start of the game you need to get the reverse bear trap off of your own head by rotating screws and specific button presses when prompted. Other traps will have you attempting to save others such as a blade slowly lowering about to cut someone in half, and you need to do 4 of those gear-type minigames to stop it. Some of the traps and puzzles really do take some thinking and once you realize what the solution is, you wonder how you never saw it before. It honestly had me intrigued as the movies for some of these sections; its just a shame that the remainder of the game is filled with horrible combat mechanics.
There is a constant overlying tenseness while you continue to play and the settings look exactly like they would in the movies (other than the random people trying to kill you). Tobin Bell voices himself as Jigsaw and sounds as menacing and gritty as ever. Unfortunately Danny Glover wasnt cast for his voice as Tapp, so this has been given to Earl Alexander who voiced Louis in Left 4 Dead. Amanda also doesnt voice her own character and this has been taken over by Jen Taylor who youll recognize as Cortana.
SAW isnt scary in essence, but it does a great job at being creepy and keeping you nervous. Theres nothing drastically graphic that you would find in the movies to make you possibly squirm somewhat due to the very low quality of graphics.
I was honestly expecting a little more from the title, but to be honest, for being a movie based game, its not entirely terrible. Luckily Konami is no stranger to the survival horror series and maybe thats whats keeping it held together by a thin thread.
The best thing I enjoyed was the choice you get at the end of the game; much like given a choice in the movies, Jigsaw gives Tapp a choice to make; find the Truth at a grave cost or Freedom and forget your obsession. Both endings were pretty interesting and gives you an insight to what actually did happen to Detective Tapp.
Obviously this game is meant for fans of the series, and they do cater to them as they know who the audience is going to be, its just such a shame that the majority of gameplay is a broken combat mechanic and puzzles that repeat themselves.
Unfortunately it doesnt feel like any of the traps are sophisticated enough to truly be made by Jigsaws brilliance and the combat alone is more torture than any of the traps themselves. While the spirit of the series is here, the execution simply needs to be refined from the ground up; hopefully soon we will have another SAW game that is actually in Jigsaws caliber.