Saw (also known as Saw: The Video Game) is a third person survival horror video game with action elements that 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, a few weeks following the initial release for consoles. It is set between Saw and Saw II.
In Saw, the Jigsaw Killer has healed Detective David Tapp from his gunshot wound, and places him in an abandoned insane asylum to teach him a lesson of life appreciation. Obsessed, Tapp traverses the asylum and gathers clues along the way in hopes of finally apprehending Jigsaw. As he progresses through the asylum, he encounters several people with past and current connections to him, whom he must save. The asylum also has inhabitants who are in games of their own. Along the way, Tapp also uncovers the origins of Jigsaw and his motives behind his tests. The development team brought in the Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell to write a new storyline and create new trap designs exclusive to the game.
Upon release, Saw received mixed reviews. It was praised for the storyline and multiple endings, as well as the immersive environment being true to the Saw film series. The controls and combat system, however, were universally panned by critics. Since Konami purchased the publishing rights after former publisher Brash Entertainment went bankrupt, Konami had a significant input on the games' final outcome. They stated their plans to make Saw their next big franchise, as well as a spiritual successor to their other survival horror series Silent Hill. A sequel, Saw II: Flesh & Blood, was released in October 2010.
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 such things as weapons, health, 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 on certain victims.
The game's combat system allows the character to block, counter-attack, and perform attacks to fend off enemies that are encountered. 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 after disarming them. 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 heals himself or dies.
At certain points in the game, the player will be joined by AI teammates that will help Tapp in certain tests or areas. There are also many points in the game in which there are multiple paths that can be taken to avoid certain areas or uncover hidden items. Minigames are a major part of the game. 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, amongst others. 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 avoid the gun discharging. There are also puzzles called "environmental traps", in which Tapp must use different elements in the environment, the in-game camera, or go to certain locations to accomplish a task.
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. The lighter, which illuminates the immediate area surrounding the player, and is used to light Molotov Cocktails, The camera, which provdies short bursts of light. And the Flashlight, which illuminates large areas ahead of the player. Certain puzzles require the player to turn off the light in order to illuminate glow in the dark paint, to reveal clues to solving puzzles.
Mirrors are also prevelant to puzzle solving, as the player needs to line up paint marks on the mirror with inverted reflections to get lock codes.
Saw, like its film predecessors, is set in the fictional Saw universe, taking place in an unnamed urban American city. The overlying storyline follows that of a man named John Kramer. According to the back-story set in Saw IV, John encountered a series of events, including the loss of his unborn child and being diagnosed with cancer, that caused him to begin testing other people's will to live. These tests, which ironically killed many of his victims, and the fact that he symbolically carved a puzzle piece out of the flesh of his victims, soon earned him the alias "The Jigsaw Killer" from the press, namely Oswald McGullicuty. Due to the chronology of Saw, Jigsaw is still alive and his apprentice Amanda is still assumed to be a victim rather than an accomplice.
In Saw, Jigsaw had just concluded Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Adam Stanheight's bathroom trap, which had occurred at the end of the first film. David Tapp, a cop who had his throat damaged by Jigsaw's knife and was later shot in the chest by a suspect named Zep Hindle, was healed and brought to Whitehurst insane asylum, an abandoned sanitarium that was reputable for medieval tactics and frequent patient abuse. Jigsaw placed traps all around the asylum to continue his tests of will for Detective Tapp as well as his apprentice, Amanda Young, who monitors Tapp as the story progresses. The asylum itself has many areas, most of which contain a key trap scene for Tapp to solve. A large part of the asylum contains cells that held the criminally insane before it was condemned and abandoned.
The game revolves around the Jigsaw Killer and his test subject Detective David Tapp, the games' protagonist. Jigsaw, a serial killer who is determined to spend the remainder of his life making people appreciate their lives, gives clues to Tapp as he progresses. This is usually through series staple Billy, Jigsaw's puppet designed to deliver information to his victims. Tapp is a veteran detective for the local police force who was recently discharged for mental instability after the loss of his partner, Steven Sing, which led him to develop an obsession with Jigsaw. Throughout the game, Jigsaw attempts to teach Tapp to let go of his obsession and focus on surviving his game.
In addition to Tapp and Jigsaw, there are six other main characters who Tapp must save throughout the game. The first person is Amanda Young, a drug user who is now Jigsaw's apprentice. The second is Jennings Foster, a corrupt CSI who framed an innocent citizen for a hit and run he committed. Third is Melissa Sing, the wife of Tapp's former partner, Steven Sing, who blames Tapp for his death and has since become a neglectful parent to her son. Next is Oswald McGillicutty, a newspaper writer who coined the name "Jigsaw Killer" and the man who accused Tapp of being Jigsaw. The fifth victim laid out for Tapp is Obi Tate, an arsonist who seeks a test from Jigsaw to give his life a purpose. Finally, the last character is Jeff Ridenhour, the second survivor of Jigsaw's games who has become suicidal after Tapp interrogated him relentlessly about Jigsaw.
There are also minor characters spread around the asylum. Most of these people have instructions to kill Tapp in order to obtain the key that was placed inside his chest by Jigsaw and free themselves. While they vary, some of these attackers have the "Reverse Bear Trap" on them, some with the "Venus Fly Trap", and others with new and unique traps or no traps on them at all. While not an attacker, there is a masked figure called Pighead that pursues Tapp around the asylum and watches over Tapp's game as per Jigsaw's instructions.
The story centers on the kidnapping of Detective Tapp, by his alleged suspect, The Jigsaw Killer. During the first Saw film, Tapp witnessed his long time 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 police force. Later, Tapp was shot in the chest by Zep Hindle after chasing him in pursuit of Jigsaw. This caused Jigsaw to have him healed. Tapp was then placed in an abandoned asylum right before the events of Saw II. Upon awakening in a bathroom with the Reverse Beartrap on him, Tapp quickly pulls it off and ventures into the rest of the asylum where he is led to a medical wing by another victim of Jigsaw, only to be betrayed by the man. Upon this betrayal, Tapp learns that he is being hunted by other victims in the asylum who need the key inside Tapp's chest to escape their own games. From there, Tapp proceeds to the medical wing of the building, where Jigsaw informs him that there is a woman trapped in the area who needs Tapp's help to survive. He quickly deciphers that it is Amanda Young, whom Tapp interviewed after she survived her first test. Upon saving Amanda, she follows Tapp until a mysterious figure called Pighead captures her to pose her escape and keep her cover as Jigsaw's secret apprentice.
Unable to save her, Tapp is forced to move further into the asylum, where he is captured by Pighead and is placed in the Shotgun Collar, which is later used in Saw III. Still in the trap, Tapp travels to find a second victim is being held by Jigsaw. The victim, Jennings Foster, blames Tapp for being in his trap and thus harbors hatred for him. Tapp finds Jennings in a Pendulum Trap similar to the one used in Saw V. Tapp releases Jennings and he quickly runs away believing that Tapp would get him killed if he stayed with him. Upon releasing Jennings, Tapp moves on to find the next victim left behind by Jigsaw. He traverses the asylum and is led to the grave of Detective Steven Sing, his former partner who was killed by a Jigsaw trap when he and Tapp were in Jigsaw's lair. It is there that Tapp discovers that Jigsaw has captured Melissa Sing, Detective Sing's Widow, who has become a neglectful parent and is convinced that it is Tapp's fault that her husband was killed. Melissa is found in an Iron Maiden-esque trap with spinning blades that will mangle her body should the device close on her. Jigsaw informs her that Tapp didn't call for back up when searching Jigsaw's lair and that every one of the traps there could have been easily avoided by using standard police procedure, making Tapp responsible for his partner's death. Despite this, Tapp saves Melissa upon which she says Jigsaw gave her the option to leave Tapp, so she quickly runs away. Tapp, beginning to learn that these people all have a dark connection to him, proceeds to the offices of the building and finds Oswald McGillicutty in the next Jigsaw trap. Jigsaw felt that Oswald was preventing his message and so he was placed into a Folding Table trap which would snap his body in half if Tapp failed to save him. Tapp saves Oswald, but he is swiftly killed by a compacting metal slab before either have a chance to react.
Jigsaw then leads Tapp to the asylum's crematorium, where he informs Tapp that some people actually desire his tests, much to Tapp's surprise. This person is shown to be Obi Tate, an arsonist who had put advertisements in the newspaper seeking for Jigsaw to test him. Tapp saves him from a burning furnace but Obi is still frustrated because he wanted his own test that he could survive. Feeling that Tapp is throwing away a gift from Jigsaw, Obi runs away. Tapp then ventures through a theater to seek his last trapped victim, where Tapp finds evidence of a former Jigsaw victim being held there. He soon finds that it is Jeff Thomas, the man who was saved by Sing while he and Tapp were in Jigsaw's lair. Jeff has since become suicidal from Tapp's incessant questioning, causing him to be recaptured by Jigsaw. Upon being saved from a wall of spikes by Tapp, he is still frustrated and confused, so he runs away wounded from his trap. Upon saving the last victim left in the asylum, Tapp is left free to pursue Jigsaw, but encounters Pighead again in the process. Jigsaw informs Tapp that Pighead wishes to surpass Jigsaw and sabotage Tapp's game, so he must be stopped. Tapp then confronts and kills Pighead; Jigsasw rhetorically asks Tapp if he is a murderer, in order to get a key to proceed.
Upon killing Pighead, Tapp heads to the asylum's library where Jigsaw confronts him in person to present his final choice to conclude his test. Tapp chases Jigsaw, to no avail, but manages to recover the final choice key in the process. At this point, there are two possible endings depending on the players choice. Tapp returns to the library where he must choose between "Freedom", which would simply allow Tapp to leave without catching Jigsaw, and "Truth", in which Jigsaw promises Tapp that this choice would cost him but would also satisfy his obsession to catch Jigsaw.
If the player chooses the Freedom door, Tapp escapes from the asylum, freeing the rest of the people trapped inside. Tapp 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 conduct the rest of the tests as shown in the rest of the Saw films. Due to Tapp being shown as dead in the police memorial that takes place in Saw V, this is considered the canon ending to fit the films.
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, a victim whom Tapp had saved earlier in the game. A tape, found on Melissa, 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. This was due to the fact that her son was kidnapped by Jigsaw and he had sewn her mouth shut to avoid her spoiling Tapp's test. Attempting to run away from Tapp, Melissa desperately charges through a nearby door rigged with a shotgun, killing her in the same way as her late husband, Steven Sing. Tapp suffers a mental breakdown as a result of her death and is placed in a functional asylum where he still believes he is playing Jigsaw's games.
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 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. 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 Kahn 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.
The Saw: VideoGame alpha was a short demo shown at the Konami's gamers night in April 2009, which showed of features that would be included in the Saw VideoGame. Because of it being an alpha version and not a fully complete game, it was completely different.
The features from Saw the videogame it showed was:
- Getting bear trap of: It showed the player having to spin the analogue stick, while also pressing the B button when a red light flashed on the bear trap. This received some criticism since people didnt know they had to press B when the red light came on. Also, all the character done was wave his head around and his hands, instead of trying to get it of. This was changed in the final game.
- Numbers on the mirror: looking in the mirror and trying to match up numbers painted on the wall and mirror, thus presenting a code to open a cubical door.
- Toilet digging: digging in the toilet full of syringes for an item (in the demo a key) and getting it before the "pain" meter fills up. They use this to unlock doors.
- Use of weapons: the player was presented with a weapon (pipe) and uses it to smash down a wall and squeeze through it.
In this demo, it presented the player character to be a man dressed and looking familiar to Obi Tate from Saw II. It is unknown if Obi was intended to be the character players play. Obi is however featured in the video game as a victim.
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" theme, 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.
PC version of Saw includes Unreal Editor software, which allows user to create additional levels and modifications for the game. In order to launch it, SawGame.exe must be ran with "editor" command-line parameter. Unfortunately, the game was never advertised as moddable, and this feature is mostly unnoticed by the mod community. There is only one released mod, Truth, where the player controls Melissa Sing. The mod continues the game's story after the Truth ending.
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.
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.
Main article: Saw II: Flesh & Blood On April 9, 2010 Konami announced Saw II and released a teaser trailer. The sequel will be set between the second and third films, the protagonist of the game is David Tapp's estranged son Michael, who is seeking to find the cause of his father's death, leading him into conflict with the Jigsaw Killer. It was released in Autumn 2010 to coincide with the release of Saw VII.'
- The idea of using an abandoned insane asylum as the location of Jigsaw's traps is reused in Saw 3D.
Saw: The Video Game • Saw II: Flesh & Blood