SAW PlayStation 3
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Zombie
SAW is a survival horror games based on the hugely popular horror movies of the same name. Essentially the films are focused on the often deadly trials that the psycho Jigsaw sets for his victims in his seriously twisted labyrinth. This isn't a game that builds up to the fear through interesting narrative, as in the Silent Hill games for instance. Rather it's a game that throws fear and intimidation at you from the game's opening moments. It's a game where your character will die quite a lot on the first play through and as a result there's a good dose of frustration mixed in with the fear.
The game is set between the events of the first and second SAW movies. Here you'll play as Detective David Tapp, who is trapped in Jigsaw's booby-trapped asylum (which is actually a decaying institution called Whitehurst Asylum for the Insane). The asylum is filled with Jigsaw's brutal traps and it's up to you to get Tapp through them and rescue others that are being kept prisoner by Jigsaw. The game begins with Tapp locked in a room and a hideous device attached to his head. You have to help him remove this device, within the time limit, otherwise it will crush his head. It's a hell of a start and one that shows you immediately how twisted and sadistic Jigsaw can be.
As you work your way through the asylum Tapp will come across a variety of Jigsaw's prisoners that he must rescue. During the process of attempting to rescue them you'll find yourself in situations where you are locked in a room. Essentially these are puzzles that require you to find items or solve clues that will enable you to reopen the rooms. You're usually up against a time limit and should you fail Tapp will more than likely come to a gruesome end. You might have to find a key, numbers for a combination lock or a fuse to get an electronic lock to open. You'll usually have to engage in mini-games too, such as the lock picking one where you have to adjust a series of tumblers, to open the door. The puzzle solving is one of the highlights of the game and really makes SAW feel different from other games in the survival horror genre.
Just to add an extra dimension to the fear factor, the asylum contains a variety of Jigsaw's victims who are trying to find their own way out of his prison. Jigsaw has left notes and recordings telling everyone that in order for them to escape they must find the key that has been placed inside your body. Needless to say then, there are plenty of residents in the asylum who will be glad to see your demise. With a lot of people ready to rip you open for the key then, you're going to have to defend yourself using either your fists or anything you can get your hands on as a weapon.
Seeing as combat is unavoidable in SAW, it's unfortunate that it's rather poor and frustrating. When faced with an enemy you'll hold down the L2 button to enter combat stance. Whilst in combat stance you can use the X button for a light attack, perform a heavy attack with the square button and block with the circle button. The problem with the combat is that it's so sluggish that if you get hit first, it's difficult to get the upper hand in a battle. The time it takes to perform a light or heavy attack when using most weapons is far too long and you'll take quite a bit of damage if you don't adopt a policy of hitting and then getting out of the way to avoid taking a hit in return. Attacking without a weapon is a little more responsive in these situations but you don't inflict as much damage on your opponents. To make matters a little more complicated, Tapp eventually has a collar fitted which will explode should he come too close to others who are wearing a similar collar. Given how inadequate the combat is, this is an unnecessary complication. Quite simply, the combat in this game is nowhere near as good as it could have been.
The survival horror genre is a genre that can be tricky for deaf gamers. It can be difficult to get across the full fearful ambience as most of this is created through the use of music or sounds (which aren't usually captioned). Nevertheless, SAW does a pretty good job of being a blood-chilling experience thanks to the use of a variety of visual effects that add to the tension. The quality of the graphics on the whole is actually quite good. Some frame rate dips are noticeable but they are never problematic.
SAW is subtitled and the subtitles are enabled by default. You'll be able to appreciate all of the blood-curdling messages you receive from Jigsaw, in the form of either television broadcasts, tape messages or written notes that you'll find scattered around the asylum. Most of the other speech in the game is subtitled. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. All tutorial messages are shown in text allowing you to get to grips with the game's controls without the need to look at the manual. As we mentioned earlier, you'll find yourself in situations where there is a time limit. Sometimes you'll have a visible counter and on other occasions (such as in the first puzzle) you won't. This is disappointing but if you work on the premise that you should do things as quickly as possible when trapped in a room, it shouldn't be too much of a problem (although it's far from ideal).
I don't think that SAW will appeal to every fan of the survival horror genre. Some might find the puzzles are not to their taste and the combat system will please no one. That said, there's no denying it can be thrilling having to solve puzzles against the clock and the game is a tense experience from start to finish. Fans of the movies will appreciate the game more than most but it's not just a game for fans of the movies. Anyone who wants a survival horror experience that doesn't follow the well worn tracks of the Resident Evil or Silent Hill series should definitely give SAW a look.