Konami went to some lengths to obtain the license for "Saw," which has become the highest-grossing franchise in horror movie history. It has a sixth film on the way, it's made ridiculous amounts of money, it can be politely described as "controversial," and now it has a video game. The developer, Zombie, has worked in conjunction with the films' producers to make the game just as disturbing as the movies.
Saw the game is set between the first and second films, and it represents the largest and widest-ranging experiment yet by the serial killer called Jigsaw. Jigsaw's modus operandi is to capture the guilty and punish them, forcing them to figure out how far they're willing to go in order to survive. In the films, a man was forced to crawl through razor wire to reach freedom; another was chained to a wall and given a hacksaw and a time limit; a young heroin addict was padlocked into a device that'd pulverize her skull, and told that the key she needed to escape it had been swallowed by an unconscious man in the room. Later movies amp the gore quotient and complicate the story a bit, but we're early in the plot for the game, so that gives you what you need to know.
You begin Saw as a nameless victim of Jigsaw, and the moment you start the game, you're already escaping from a deathtrap. If you get through that, you're stuck inside the halls of an abandoned insane asylum, accompanied by dozens of Jigsaw's victims. Some of them have refused to play the game; some are losing it; and some are, in their own way, winning.
Saw is set up to be one-third exploration, one-third combat, and one-third puzzle-solving. It's a throwback to a few years ago, before Resident Evil 4 changed the face of the survival-horror genre. Saw is about being stuck in a creepy place with a few dozen people who all wouldn't mind killing you, and asking yourself how far you'd be willing to go in order to live. Before you leave the first room, you'll need to figure out the code to a combination lock by looking in a mirror the right way, before fishing a key out of a toilet bowl filled with syringes.
Some of Jigsaw's traps are simple Quick Time Events, like a door that's rigged up to a shotgun, blowing the head off of anyone who opens it. Others are more puzzle-oriented, like an electrified fence that requires you to rewire a fuse box to open. Exploring the hallways thoroughly is rewarded with files, extra items and hints as to how to proceed.
The combat system wasn't really on display in Konami's recent demo, although you did find a rusty pipe with which to defend yourself. Jigsaw has set a few of the inmates of his asylum against one another, though, so you will have to fight in order to survive the experience. Some of them have been driven crazy by their experiences, and for others, you're the test they need to pass in order to survive.
There's a lot I don't know about Saw just yet. The combat system seems very simple, and I didn't play very much of the game. The protagonist is a big zero factor at this point, and the sound was mostly placeholder. There's room for tentative optimism, particularly if you're the kind of horror fan who doesn't like the turn that the genre's taken in games lately, but right now, Saw is firmly in wait-and-see mode.
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