Saw (Xbox 360)

Review – Saw

Survival Horror

You’ve wasted your license.

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Rich

So I hear that the Saw movie hexology isn’t happy with dying a slow death from apathetic ex-fans and is now troubling us gamers.  I want to play a game, says Mr. Jigsaw.  Apparently this can be done in one sitting with the game measuring in at around seven hours.  Well, I’m in the mood for something different and, for my sins, I like at least three of the movies.

Saw starts up with a menu screen of sinister DIY equipment and some patches of blood.  After a couple of button presses, you’re into the game.  An intro explains your situation.  You are Detective Tapp and you’re set up as the obsessive cop tracking Jigsaw’s every move.  Unfortunately, you’re always a few steps behind.

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'Hello... I'm Moira Stewart and here is the news.'

More and more people have died, subjected to Jigsaw’s sinister games (think Activision but with less aggressive marketing), and Detective Tapp has allowed the case to consume his life.  Leaving him with dead partners, wrecked relationships and a casefile decorating job in his apartment.  You’ve wasted your life.  Jigsaw hates that.

You wake up in another one of Jigsaw’s disused buildings, he’s got quite the portfolio for a chap with no job, terminal cancer and a penchant for customised giant saws and video cameras.  Third-person viewpoint, average but adequate graphics and rudimentary combat moves soon make themselves apparent.  Yep, it’s a fairly lazy license.  Up there, technically speaking, with the likes of Lost: Via Domus.

Everything is shrouded in a perpetual gloom which can be combated with either your lighter (weak but does illuminate things a little), a flashlight (next to useless as it has too small a beam to really be helpful) and a camera which ranks up there as one of the least helpful items in any game ever.  In any other game the effect of the camera’s flash would generally be from a flashbang being thrown at your eyes.   Obviously the darkness hides a multitude of graphical sins but it doesn’t mask the fact that every location looks the same.

The building turns out to be an abandoned asylum.  So far, so Silent Hill.  Instead of monged out nurses, your opponents are pricks who have explosive collars on their necks.  Jigsaw has sewn a key into your gut and it unlocks the collars.  That’s awkward.

A cheery location for you to visit if you fancy a few minutes away from the asylum.

A cheery location for you to visit if you fancy a few minutes away from the asylum.

They can be dispatched with various weapons that have been left lying around.  Pipes, shovels, scalpels and even a gun make an appearance and are all adequate matches for these condemned bastards.  You can even go barefisted at them, drop them to the floor and curb stomp their faces off.  Nothing says ‘I value life’ like a re-enactment of American History X.

After a while the plot gets going and you are assigned the task of saving various people connected with the case.  This invariably involves finding switches and solving puzzles.  It seems that Jigsaw spends a lot of his time playing Pipemania, as most of the puzzles are based on that or a shitty circular format that isn’t worth describing.  For the most part, rescuing people comes down to solving one of those puzzles against the clock whilst klaxons go off in the background.  It’s pretty tense and failure usually ends in the victim being squished, snapped, twisted or stabbed in the eyes or something.  Fairly gruesome stuff.

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Elliott

Secondary Review

Saw is a seriously flawed game in many ways, but the more I played, the less I hated it – at least for a while. Initially the puzzles are just challenging enough to be fun, and the creepy environments and character dialogue do a great job in capturing the atmosphere of the films upon which the game is based. Other plus points include being able to set Spy-vs-Spy style traps to take out your opponents which works nicely, and if you’re on a 360, the game literally spews achievement points at you.

Puzzles, traps, and points aside though, what really lets the experience down is just about every other element of the game! Chief amongst these is the combat which is truly awful. The controls are so unresponsive, that during an encounter, all of your frantic button mashing can result in not a single swing of the bat, and the NPC kills you easily! Also, item proximity activation is so poor that if you want to pick up that knife on the floor, you’ll need to be very patient – to the left a bit, to the right a bit, forward a bit, a bit more….a bit more…..got it – fuck me that was retarded!

Unfortunately the repetition of having to solve the same puzzle types over and over again eventually kills what little fun you might be having.

Ultimately it becomes a hard slog towards the end, and spending so much time lost in a never ending series of almost identical, poorly lit (often completely pitch black) rooms is disorientating, frustrating and joyless.

Secondary Score: 4/10

Once you’ve been introduced to the puzzles and the combat, there isn’t a whole lot left to see.  Some fun can be had with the shotgun traps in the game – although these tend to mainly be there for you to blindly run into – but they are a little too cumbersome to be truly helpful.  The same can be said for the stun, gas and explosive traps that you can manufacture.  These can stop any enemy stupid enough to run into a jar placed directly in front of them (all the enemies, basically) and might even kill some of the weaker ones.

Aside from that the combat is stripped down and unexciting.  Seeing your collar light up when another victim is nearby can make for some tense moments but only until you realise that you can still twat them in the face with a shovel and that your collar will calm down as soon as they are dead.

Aside from that, there is little to say.  This is a short game that doesn’t really have anything going for it apart from the license (and Tobin Bell’s spooky voice-acting).

Achievement whores will have it maxed out in a day or two though and if this isn’t half price by Xmas I’ll strap myself down and chew off my own face.  So if you fancy spending a little while with Jigsaw and chums, or if you fancy a thousand rather grubby gamerscore points, then hold on a couple of weeks.

Ultimately though, this is just like Silent Hill 5 but with the scares a little more upfront.  Nothing is really implied, it’s just thrown at you.  It has a little of that Manhunt grittiness and is sadistic enough to keep Saw fans interested but with its simplistic combat, repetitive puzzles and questionable production values this is just a little too blaverage to shell out significant money on.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 4/10

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