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Saw: The Video Game is a third person survival horror game and the first video game set in the Saw franchise. It was developed by Zombie Studios and published by Konami. The game launched on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, with a downloadable version released soon after for the Microsoft Windows platform. The game was first released on October 6, 2009, in North America and was released later that year in other regions. The Microsoft Windows version was released on October 22, 2009. Being a tie-in game of the film series, the game is set between Saw and Saw II.

Plot

The story revolves around David Tapp, who has been 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. This left Tapp mentally unstable and he was soon discharged from the Metropolitan Police Department. Later, Tapp was shot in the chest during his pursuit of Zep Hindle, who he believed to be the killer. Jigsaw eventually found Tapp and took him to the abandoned Whitehurst Insane Asylum, where he treated his wounds and concealed a key inside his body. Afterwards, he forces him to participate in one of his deadly games.

Some time later, Tapp wakes up in a bathroom with a Reverse Beartrap on his head and his introduced to his game by Jigsaw's mechanical ventriloquist puppet. He is able to free himself from the trap in time and begins to look for a way to escape the asylum. Thereby, Tapp learns that he is being hunted by other victims in the asylum who need the key inside his chest to escape their own games. In the medical wing, Jigsaw informs Tapp that there is a woman trapped in surgical theater who needs Tapp's help in order to survive. He quickly finds out that the woman is Amanda Young, who was interrogated by Tapp in the first film after being the first known person who survived one of Jigsaw's games. He saves Amanda from her trap and the two of them continue their way together. However, shortly afterwards, Amanda is abducted by a pig-masked figure, forcing Tapp to go on alone.

As he moves further into the asylum, he is captured by Pighead as well, who locks an explosive collar around his neck. Shortly afterwards, Tapp comes across Jennings Foster, a crime scene investigator who had once been responsible for a hit-and-run accident and framed an innocent man in order to escape his punishment. Tapp manages to free him from another trap, only to be abandoned by him as Jennings blames him for his abduction by Jigsaw.

Tapp moves on to find the next victim. Thereby, he is led to the grave of his late partner, Steven Sing, and realizes that the next victim is Melissa Sing, his widow, who began to suffer from severe depression and therefore neglected her son, Franklin, after Steven's death. Furthermore, she deems Tapp responsible for his demise as he didn't call for reinforcements when he and Sing entered the hideout of the Jigsaw Killer. Tapp eventually find her in another trap and saves her as well. However, she also abandons him, stating that Jigsaw gave her the option to stay with him or leave him behind.

Tapp starts to realize that all people trapped in the asylum are somehow connected to him and his obsession with catching Jigsaw. He proceeds to the next part of the building, where he finds Oswald McGillicutty, a reporter who purposely destroyed Tapp's reputation with his newspaper articles. He is trapped in a deadly contraption, which would break his back if Tapp failed to save him. Tapp manages to free Oswald as well. However, only minutes later, he is killed by a booby trap.

Jigsaw then leads Tapp to the asylum's crematorium and informs him about Obi Tate, the next victim he has to save. Unlike the other prisoners, Obi came to Jigsaw on his own free will as he desired to be tested by him. Tapp saves him from a large furnace before he is burned alive. Nonetheless, Obi is frustrated because he wanted to survive his test on his own and deems Tapp responsible for ruining his game. Feeling that Tapp is throwing away a gift from Jigsaw, Obi runs away.

Afterwards, Tapp reaches a theater, where he finds out that another former victim Jigsaw is trapped there. He soon realizes that it is Jeff Ridenhour, who was saved by Detective Sing from a trap during the raid on Jigsaw's lair in the first film. Since then, Jeff has become suicidal due to Tapp constantly harassing him and therefore was abducted by Jigsaw once more. Tapp saves him from his trap, but is abandoned again as Jeff still holds a grudge against him.

Since Jeff was the last victim Tapp had to save throughout his test, he is free to continue his pursuit of Jigsaw. Instead, however, he encounters Pighead again and engages in a fight. Jigsaw informs Tapp that Pighead wishes to surpass Jigsaw and sabotage Tapp's game, so he must be stopped. Eventually, Tapp kills Pighead in self defense and obtains a key from his corpse, which allows him to enter the library, where he has to face his final test. There are two doors with the words "Freedom" and "Truth" written on them. He can either choose the Freedom door and thereby leave the asylum and save everyone else inside, or he can continue his hunt for Jigsaw and choose the "Truth" door, thereby condemning all the other prisoners. Depending on the player's decision, there are two different outcomes to the story.

If the player chooses the Freedom door, Tapp escapes the asylum, while also freeing the rest of the people trapped inside. He returns to his apartment and reviews newspaper clippings which label him a hero by those who survived their tests in the asylum. Despite this, Tapp cannot overcome his obsession with Jigsaw and commits suicide, leaving Jigsaw free to continue his games. It was later confirmed in the sequel, Saw II: Flesh & Blood, that this was the canonical ending.

If the player chooses the Truth door, Tapp pursues a mysterious cloaked figure, who he believes to be Jigsaw. After catching and brutally beating the figure, Tapp realizes that it is actually Melissa Sing. An audio tape explains that Jigsaw had put her in charge of keeping Tapp alive and making sure he followed the rules of Jigsaw's game after Tapp rescued her. Jigsaw had kidnapped her son and had Pighead sew her mouth shut to prevent her from warning Tapp. In an attempt to run away from him, Melissa charges through a nearby door rigged with a shotgun, which kills her in the same way as her late husband. Tapp suffers a mental breakdown as a result of her death and is taken to another asylum, where he still believes to be trapped in one of Jigsaw's games.

Gameplay

Saw is primarily a third-person survival horror game with action elements. The player controls David Tapp, a former detective trapped in the Jigsaw Killer's asylum filled with traps. The primary goal of the game is to traverse the asylum and solve traps in order to escape. Tapp has several abilities in the game to fulfill his objectives such as searching things like toilets or corpses to find useful items, such as 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 certain victims.

The game's combat system allows the character to block, counter-attack and perform attacks to fend off enemies that are encountered throughout the asylum. Tapp is also able to curb-stomp. There are over eighteen different weapons, varying from lead pipes to mop handles, 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 in real time until they are rendered unusable. Also, as a way to avoid combat, Tapp has the ability to rearm or place certain traps. This 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 until Tapp either heals himself or dies.

Another important aspect of the game are several minigames. These include a searching game in which 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, placing rotating gears in a box and aligning steam valves. Finally, there are doors rigged with shotguns attached to pulleys littered all around the asylum. As soon as 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 use of light. Lighting plays a dynamic role in the game. The player has acess to several different light sources: A lighter, which illuminates the immediate area surrounding the player and is used to light Molotov Cocktails, a camera, which provdies short bursts of light, and Flashlight, which illuminates large areas ahead of the player. Certain puzzles require the player to turn off the light in order to discover certain clues painted on the walls and floors with fluorescent color.

Development

Prior to 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 was confirmed, they stated that the game would most likely release alongside Saw IV. Originally, Brash Entertainment was going to develop the game and co-publish it with Twisted Pictures, the producers of all of the Saw films. The game's plot was planned to follow that of the first Saw film with the player assuming control of various characters in Jigsaw's traps, but this was later changed as development progressed.

After the initial announcement of the game, 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 2008, on January 22, where a teaser trailer was played. The trailer showed franchise staple Billy the Puppet preaching to reporters about their wasted lives. Brash confirmed that Zombie Studios had taken over development of the game, leaving Brash to publish. The trailer also briefly showed some gameplay elements from one of the traps featured in the game. After the trailer, Brash also confirmed that the game would utilize the Unreal Engine 3 and be releasing on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows platforms. A poster for the game was released soon after at the 2008 Comic Con convention which depicted an amorphous gamepad in a pool of blood. The tagline "Dying To Play?" was also coined by Brash through the poster. The development team also 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 informing 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 owners of the Saw brand, Lions Gate, 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 the game up for distribution/development on February 6, 2009, after almost four months of uncertainty regarding the game's fate. The game, now under control of Konami, was redesigned to be a spiritual successor, or similar to, Konami's other survival horror franchise, Silent Hill. While key elements were retained, Konami did have a large influence in the developmental stages of the game. While full cast involvement was initially planned, the only cast member to reprise their respective roles from the films was Tobin Bell as John Kramer. Other cast members were replaced with other actors prominent in the video game voice over industry. 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 new character Oswald McGullicuty and Khanh Doan as new character Melissa Sing. Konami plans to use Saw for its visual intensity rather than traditional psychological terror.

Marketing and promotion

To advertise the game, Konami released a series of screenshots and viral videos prior to release. The screenshots depicted different areas of the asylum and victims in their traps. The videos demonstrated the first hour or so of the game and certain gameplay elements. While a few of the videos have contradicted themselves due to the developer making dramatic changes to the environment and gameplay, they still have maintained the general roots of the game and the storyline. On August 8, 2009, the Konami website had lost the entire section on Saw, including screenshots and information. The reason for this is unknown, but it is speculated that this is due to the Konami website being under construction. The site was soon 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, which gave Saw an 18+ and a MA15+ rating, respectively.

The game was originally intended to include an online multi-player offering, but was later canceled. Since the game was in early development stages at the time, no further details were released. On September 17, 2009, Konami released the full 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, with other countries and the Microsoft Windows platforms being released at later times in 2009. The Microsoft Windows version, which was released on October 22, 2009, was originally intended to be released exclusively through Valve's steam digital distribution service; This was later corrected when Konami 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 and later 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 slower parts of the game, a high pitched tune can be heard, which was used to make 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 the way. Because the tracks were meant to fit a video game, there are no vocals present on any of the tracks. In addition, the tracks are much shorter than typical songs and there are many more of them.

The game is the first piece of digital Saw media not to feature the series staple "Hello Zepp", a traditional piece composed by Charlie Clouser and used in every Saw film multiple times. Because of this, the soundtrack for the game is often miscredited to Clouser, even though it was clarified as early as 2008 that Guilbert would be composing, with no mention of Clouser. The soundtrack includes three bonus tracks, which extend the total length from 1:08:04 to 1:08:43. The tracks are the sound on the bonus features of the game, which include the Saw VI CGI trailer and the E3 2009 demo.

Reception

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

The game was nearly universally praised for the storyline and the two multiple endings the game presented. Critics also consistently mentioned the immersive atmosphere and environment as being true to the Saw series, while the quality level of puzzles were both praised and panned, depending on the reviewer. While the controls in general were not well received by many, the combat system was especially panned by nearly every reviewer. 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."

David Clayman, writer for IGN, gave Saw a 7.5 out of a possible ten, 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. Clayman even called the combat the Achilles' heel of the game. He went on to say that, "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 praised the soundtrack and stated that it was a high point of the game. He also stated that "The same sound effects and similar music and everything just sounds right". Qualls went on to compliment Tobin Bell's voice as a good addition to the music, as well as it adds to the environment. 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 absence of the track. They felt it was the game's only real flaw and that it was "[badly] ripped off near the end of the game".

While Saw received mixed reviews, a general consensus among reviewers agreed that fans of the film series would enjoy it. Reviewer for Xbox 360 Achievements Alan Pettit wrote that while he enjoyed the game, it was not an outstanding title. Pettit also commented that the game suffered due to the choice of Zombie Studios as the developer and that the franchise could be successful if a sequel was made with changes in developer and budget. Although he claimed it as repetitive, Pettit mentioned that, "If there was 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 a 74 out of 100.

Controversy

Akin to the films, Saw has been the subject of much controversy, often being classified as "Torture porn" by its critics. Its violence and visual intensity sparked many allegations that the main 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 for the claim that the aforementioned games violence served a some-what humorous purpose or had some type of 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 cut open 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." Konami had already received indefinite BBFC and ESRB ratings, so the game was released in all regions without any 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 due to controversial factors. Konami later stated that this was because the events that took place in Fallujah were real events that could cause offense to some while Saw was entirely fictional.

Trivia

  • The setting of an abandoned insane asylum as the location of Jigsaw's traps is reused in Saw 3D.

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