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Saw: The Video Game Saw II: Flesh & Blood

Saw: The Video Game is a third-person survival horror game developed by Zombie Studios and published by Konami. It was the first video game in the Saw franchise and was released on October 6, 2009.

Plot

The story revolves around David Tapp, a former homicide detective abducted by John Kramer, better known as the Jigsaw Killer. During the first Saw film, Tapp witnessed his longtime friend and partner, Detective Steven Sing, fall victim to one of Jigsaw's traps. Following his subsequent discharge from the Metropolitan Police Department, Tapp became obsessed with avenging his friend and continued the investigation independently. While doing so, he was shot in the chest by Zep Hindle, whom he believed to be the killer. Tapp survived, albeit severely injured, and was eventually found by Jigsaw, who treated his wound and took him to the abandoned Whitehurst Insane Asylum.

Shortly afterward, Tapp wakes up in a bathroom with a reverse bear trap on his head. He quickly pulls it off and ventures into the rest of the asylum. He is led to a medical wing by another victim of Jigsaw, only to be betrayed by the man. Tapp learns that he is hunted by other victims in the asylum who need a key sewn into his chest to escape. Jigsaw informs Tapp that a woman is trapped in the medical wing and needs Tapp's help to survive. The latter quickly identifies her as Amanda Young, a former victim who survived one of Jigsaw's games before. He saves Amanda, and she follows Tapp until a mysterious figure nicknamed Pighead captures her.

Tapp is forced to move on alone. Eventually, he is subdued by Pighead, who puts an explosive collar around his neck. Upon continuing his way, Tapp finds another man held captive by Jigsaw. The victim, Jennings Foster, is a former colleague of Tapp. Years earlier, he killed a homeless man in a hit-and-run accident. When Tapp insisted on investigating the case, Jennings framed an innocent man, causing him to be sent to prison. Tapp ultimately releases Jennings from his trap. However, the latter abandons him as he blames Tapp for his abduction.

The detective traverses the asylum and finds the grave of his former partner, Steven Sing. Tapp discovers that Jigsaw captured Melissa Sing, his late partner's widow. Following Sing's death, she suffered from depression and neglected her son, Franklin. Tapp eventually finds her in another one of Jigsaw's deadly traps. He saves her in time but is abandoned because Melissa holds him responsible for her husband's death.

Tapp continues his way and realizes that all the victims in the game are somehow connected to him and his obsession with apprehending Jigsaw. Shortly afterward, he learns about the next hostage, a journalist named Oswald McGillicutty. Jigsaw abducted the latter because McGillicutty deliberately destroyed Tapp's reputation after Sing's death. Despite his smear campaign against Tapp, the former detective saves McGillicutty from a trap that would otherwise break his back and limbs by bending them backward. However, Oswald dies when he enters a hallway and accidentally triggers a booby trap shortly afterward.

Forced to go on alone again, Tapp eventually makes his way to the asylum's crematorium. To his surprise, he learns that the next victim, Obi Tate, came to Whitehurst of his own free will as he desired to be tested by Jigsaw and put up a newspaper ad to contact the killer. Tapp frees him from a furnace but is scolded by Obi because the latter wanted to survive without his assistance. Obi ultimately leaves him behind, accusing Tapp of having ruined his game.

Tapp eventually reaches a theater where Jigsaw's next victim is held captive. He learns that the prisoner is Jeff Ridenhour, whom Tapp had previously saved from Jigsaw's lair on the night of Sing's death. As he became obsessed with Jigsaw, Tapp started harassing Jeff to get information about the killer. Therefore, Jeff unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide, causing Jigsaw to target him once more. Tapp saves Jeff from a deadly trap but is abandoned again.

The detective proceeds through the asylum to reach the end of his game and encounters Pighead on his way. Jigsaw warns him that Pighead tries to sabotage Tapp's game as he wishes to surpass his mentor. Tapp subsequently engages in a fight with Pighead and eventually kills his opponent. He takes a key from his corpse and enters the asylum's library, where Jigsaw confronts him in person and presents him with a final ultimatum. Depending on the player's choice, there are two possible outcomes. Tapp can either choose to let go of his obsession with Jigsaw in exchange for the freedom of all remaining victims still trapped at Whitehurst or decide to uncover the truth about Jigsaw and condemn all the other prisoners.

Truth: If the player decides to go after Jigsaw, Tapp has to pursue a mysterious hooded figure he believes to be the killer. However, when he catches and brutally beats them up, Tapp realizes that the figure is, in fact, Melissa Sing. He learns from an audiotape that Melissa was forced to play one of Jigsaw's games and put several obstacles in Tapp's path to save her son, Franklin. Melissa tries to run away from Tapp and charges through a door. However, she accidentally triggers a booby trap and is killed in the process. Following the traumatic events at Whitehurst, Tapp suffers another mental breakdown and is taken to a functional asylum, believing that he is still playing one of Jigsaw's games.

Freedom: If the player decides to let go of Jigsaw, Tapp escapes from Whitehurst and frees the rest of the people trapped inside. The newspapers subsequently declare him a hero throughout the following days, thereby redeeming his reputation. Nonetheless, Tapp cannot overcome his obsession and returns to his apartment, where he commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. This ending was later confirmed to be canonical in the sequel Saw II: Flesh & Blood.

Gameplay

Saw: The Video Game is a third-person survival horror game with action elements. The player controls David Tapp, a former detective imprisoned in the Jigsaw Killer's asylum filled with traps. The game's primary goal is to traverse the asylum and solve traps to escape. Tapp has several abilities to fulfill his objectives, such as searching things like toilets or corpses to find valuable items, like weapons, health syringes, or clues. Other items, such as case files and cassette tapes found hidden around the asylum, provide additional information about the asylum's past and background information about Jigsaw's victims.

The game's combat system allows the character to block, counter-attack, and perform attacks to fend off enemies. Tapp is also able to curb-stomp. Over 18 different weapons, varying from lead pipes to mop handles, are available to players throughout the game. In addition to standard weapons, Tapp may recover firearms or explosives along the way. Certain weapons may also be used for other purposes, such as cutting open a body to search it or breaking down a molding wall to reveal hidden paths. Weapons in the game deplete upon use until they are rendered unusable. Also, Tapp can rearm or set up booby traps to avoid combat. This ability includes electrifying water puddles or placing explosive mines created on one of Jigsaw's worktables. Tapp's health bar, once depleted, can only be restored by bandages, water bottles, or hypodermic needles, which can be stored in an inventory, along with other items. When losing health, the environment slowly fades to black-and-white.

Minigames are another vital aspect of gameplay. These include a searching game where an X-ray view is given to avoid dangers like razors or syringes and grabbing a key before a "Pain meter" fills and wounds Tapp. Other puzzle minigames include powering fuse boxes, connecting rotating gears, and aligning steam valves. Finally, several doors in the asylum are rigged with shotguns attached to pulleys. When opening such a door, the player must press a randomly assigned button before the pulley falls too far to prevent the gun from firing.

One of the more unique aspects of the game is the dynamic use of light. The player has access to several different light sources: A lighter, which illuminates the immediate surroundings and is used to light Molotov Cocktails; a camera, which provides short bursts of light; and a flashlight, which illuminates large areas ahead of the player. In addition, certain puzzles require the player to turn off the light to discover clues painted on the walls and floors with fluorescent color.

There are several characters that Tapp is required to save from deadly traps. These traps are mandatory to continue the game, and if the player fails to rescue them, they will die and the player would have to reload the checkpoint and attempt to solve the trap again.

Development

Before the release of Saw III, Twisted Pictures and Brash Entertainment announced they were planning to create a game based on the Saw property. Although no release date was confirmed, they stated that the game would likely release alongside Saw IV. Originally, Brash Entertainment was supposed to develop the game and co-publish it with Twisted Pictures. The game's plot was planned to pick up after the first Saw film, with the player assuming control of various characters in Jigsaw's traps. However, this concept was later changed as development progressed.

After the game's initial announcement, it was soon dropped from mention with no updates from Brash Entertainment. The only form of news came from a teaser site for the game, which was removed as the game moved further into production. The game resurfaced at the Game Developers Conference on January 22, 2008, where a teaser trailer was played. The trailer showed franchise mascot Billy, the Puppet, preaching to reporters about their wasted lives. Brash Entertainment confirmed that Zombie Studios had taken over the development, leaving Brash Entertainment to publish. The trailer also briefly showed some gameplay elements from one of the traps featured in the game. After the trailer, Brash Entertainment confirmed that the game would utilize Unreal Engine 3 and be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows platforms. Soon after, a poster for the game was released at the 2008 Comic-Con, depicting an amorphous gamepad smeared with blood. The tagline "Dying To Play?" was also coined by Brash Entertainment through the poster. The development team chose to bring in James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the creators of the first Saw film, to design new traps and write a new storyline for the game.

On November 14, 2008, Brash Entertainment held a press conference, announcing that they would be ceasing operations due to financial difficulties. It was further reported that since Brash Entertainment was publishing the game with Twisted Pictures, the game itself may have been left in a "possible state of limbo." Considering that the game was far into production, the Saw brand owners, Lions Gate Entertainment, considered publishing the game themselves. The idea was soon rejected as Lions Gate is primarily a film company and has no experience in the video game industry. Konami picked up the game for distribution and development on February 6, 2009, after almost four months of uncertainty regarding the game's fate. Now under the control of Konami, the game was redesigned to be a spiritual successor of Konami's other survival horror franchise, Silent Hill. While key elements were retained, Konami significantly influenced the game's development. Although full cast involvement was initially planned, the only cast member to reprise his role from the films was Tobin Bell as John Kramer. Earl Alexander, known for being the voice of Louis in Left 4 Dead, replaced Danny Glover as the voice of protagonist David Tapp. Rather than Saw icon Shawnee Smith, Jen Taylor voiced Amanda Young. Taylor is the second Left 4 Dead voice actor to be cast for Saw, although she is better known as the voice of Cortana in the Halo series. Other cast members include David Scully as Oswald McGullicuty and Khanh Doan as Melissa Sing.

Marketing

Konami released a series of screenshots and viral videos before the release to advertise the game. The screenshots depicted different areas of the asylum and victims in their traps, while the videos demonstrated the first hour of the game and certain gameplay elements. Unfortunately, on August 8, 2009, Konami's website had lost the entire section of Saw, including screenshots and information. However, it was restored within a few days with updated information, including the official ESRB rating of Mature 17+ for blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, and strong language. Other ratings were released later from the BBFC and the OFLC, giving Saw an 18+ and an MA15+ rating.

The game was initially intended to include an online multiplayer mode, which was canceled later. As the game was still in its early development stages, no further details were released regarding the multiplayer feature. On September 17, 2009, Konami released the complete list of Xbox Live achievements for the Xbox 360 version of the game. The game was first officially released in North America on October 6, 2009, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Microsoft Windows version, released on October 22, 2009, should be released exclusively through Valve's Steam digital distribution service. However, Konami later announced that Saw would also be available through another online distributor, Direct2Drive.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack for Saw was an original score composed by Alex Guilbert. The theme for Saw, a series of plunking piano keys joined by a bass drum and violins, can be heard during the menu screen and the end credits. At some points during the game, a quick tempo score, similar to the opening piano track, can be heard to increase suspense during trap and puzzle sequences. In addition, a high-pitched tune can be heard in slower parts of the game, making these parts more ominous. Variations or mixes of these tracks can be heard throughout the game. The game utilizes a minimalist approach to music tracks, with most of the ambient sound being provided by other victims screaming or taunting protagonist David Tapp along his way.

Reception

Saw received mixed reviews from game critics. The Xbox 360 version currently holds an average score of 59% on the game aggregator Metacritic, based on 35 reviews. The PlayStation 3 version has a 59% from 36 reviews. On another aggregator site, Game Rankings, the Xbox 360 version has a 60.89% score based on 27 reviews. The PC version holds a lower score of 47.50%, based solely on two critics. On a third aggregate site, GameStats, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions achieved a 6.4 and a 6.6 out of a possible 10, respectively.

The game was nearly universally praised for the storyline and the multiple endings the game presented. Critics also consistently commended the immersive atmosphere and environment for staying true to the Saw series. At the same time, the quality level of puzzles was both praised and panned, depending on the reviewer. While the general controls were not well received by many, nearly every reviewer especially panned the combat system. Official Xbox Magazine gave the game a 4.5 out of a possible 10, stating, "Whether you're swinging a pipe or a scalpel, the controls never feel responsive, and rotten collision detection will drive you mad before Jigsaw's twisted games even have the chance."

IGN writer David Clayman gave Saw a 7.5 out of a possible 10, earning it a rating of "Good." Clayman praised the unique take on the survival horror franchise and the omnipresence of Jigsaw but criticized the repetitive puzzles and the flawed combat system, calling it the game's "Achilles' heel." However, he went on to say, "Overall, Saw is a welcome entry in the horror genre that provides a good dosage of thrills. Depending on your tolerance for repetition, it's a good way to test your nerves and scare yourself silly during a dark and stormy night."

While reviewing the game, many critics pointed out Guilbert's soundtrack with acclaimed reception. Eric Qualls stated, "The same sound effects and similar music and everything just sounds right." Qualls went on to compliment Tobin Bell's voice acting performance. Reviewer Kadath Bird noted the absence of the "Hello Zepp" theme, though the review did not comment on the soundtrack itself. Another reviewer on Blogspot also noted the lack of the iconic track. They felt it was the game's only fundamental flaw and that it was "[badly] ripped off near the end of the game."

While Saw received mixed reviews, reviewers agreed that fans of the film series would like it. A reviewer for Xbox 360 Achievements, Alan Pettit, wrote that he enjoyed the game. He also commented that the game suffered from the choice of Zombie Studios as the developer and that the franchise could be successful if a sequel were made with changes in developer and budget. Although he claimed it as repetitive, Pettit wrote, "If there were only one thing the game did well, I'd say the puzzles that are put before you are excellently constructed, well thought out and best of all, difficult enough that you may not get it on your first attempt." The resulting score from Pettit's review was 74 out of 100.

Controversy

Akin to the films, Saw has been the subject of much controversy and was often classified as "torture porn" by its critics. Its violence and visual intensity sparked many allegations that the primary goal of Saw is to mutilate characters simply for the sake of doing so. It was compared to games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, MadWorld, and Manhunt but contrasted to claim that the violence of these games served a somewhat humorous purpose or had some moral reprieve. William Usher of Cinemablend wrote that Saw pushed the controversial boundaries and called it a "tutorial for sadists to get pleasure from." Usher also claimed that the lack of a moral message makes it even more controversial.

The game contains one scene that allows players to dissect human bodies and sift through their insides to retrieve a key. This area was a particular focus for critics, chief amongst them being Cinemablend. It was stated that this scenario was "sick" and "tasteless." However, Konami had already received indefinite BBFC and ESRB ratings, so the game was released in all regions without censorship. Robert Workman of Game Daily agreed with the sentiment that moral messages presented an issue to the game and included it in the "top ten controversial games of 2009." Mac World writer Chris Holt showed surprise that Konami would choose to release Saw but refuse to publish Six Days In Fallujah. Konami later stated that this was because the events in Fallujah were actual events that could offend people, while Saw was entirely fictional.

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