At Konami's E3 Booth yesterday I got my first chance to play the video game adaptation of the smash hit horror film series Saw, leaving me questioning the limits of my violence tolerance.
What Is It? Saw bridges the gap between the first two Saw movies, placing the player in the role of Danny Glover's character, detective David Tapp. In the game, Tapp wasn't killed when Zep shot him in the stomach, instead continuing his pursuit of Jigsaw until he winds up in the state he is at the beginning of the demo: with an explosive bear trap attached to his face.
What We Saw The game can end as soon as it begins if you don't follow the on-screen prompts, rotating the left stick to undo bolts and then hitting the two release switches using button presses. It gets your blood pumping and serves as an excellent introduction to this twisted game.
After that first harrowing sequence I guided Tapp through darkened corridors, solving puzzles and interacting with some of Jigsaw's other victims, culminating in a fight and the revelation that after Tapp was shot, a key was sewn inside him that many of the other prisoners need to escape Jigsaw's asylum. Shortly after that I entered a room filled with writhing bodies strapped to hospital beds, and the demo ended.
How Far Along Is It? Much further along than it was when AJ saw it back in April, the graphics and textures have been vastly improved since Konami showed the title last. It's still scheduled for October 2009, to coincide with the release of the next film.
What Needs Improvement? A Few Tiny Glitches: I played through the PlayStation 3 demo, with missing textures and some missing sound clips. The Konami rep explained that the Xbox 360 version on the other side of the wall didn't have the same problems, and they had run into a few snags with the PS3 version that were being worked on.
Unwieldy Combat: One would assume a police officer have a little more hand to hand combat training. The fight I was involved in was a clumsy affair with relatively unresponsive controls. Needs to be tightened up a bit.
Shock Therapy: While the first Saw movie subtly built towards a brilliant crescendo, the second seemed more occupied with providing shock after shock after shock. Unfortunately the game is more Saw II than Saw I. There needs to be a little more suspense built between gruesome events to keep the player from becoming used to it too quickly.
What Should Stay The Same? Surprise!: While the shocks could benefit from better pacing, there are some generally creepy moments in the demo - moments that really make your stomach twist. Reaching into a toilet filled with syringes in order to find a fuse or walking on broken glass in bare feet...you can almost feel it, and it's a hideous feeling.
Alone In The Dark: While it may seem too dark at times, wandering through such a well-rendered, disturbing environment using only a Zippo lighter to find your way adds an exquisite level of tension to the game play experience.
Reedulls And Poozles: While some of the mini-game puzzles take you out of the action, they were nicely balanced, relying on tension to enhance difficulty rather than having the player have to pull themselves too far out of the story to concentrate on picking a lock or finding a combination.
Final Thoughts Saw is a genuinely creepy game, capturing the disturbing vibe of the film series, but is it too much? After finishing the demo I walked away feeling dirty, like I had done something wrong. It's one thing to watch these events unfold passively on your television screen, but actively participating? It might just be more than my usually strong stomach can handle.