This week, we finally got a copy of konami's Saw. The game has been released here in Europe for about a week now so here are the first ten minutes of the game, along with another video that will give you a good idea of what the game is about. A third video will follow later because you're worth it. Update: The third video is now up.
I only got a chance to complete the first two chapters of the game but it's more than enough to see what the game has to offer. On a technical standpoint, the game uses Unreal Engine 3 and, though there is nothing to brag about, it gets the job done when it comes to rendering the dirty and decrepit atmosphere of the franchise. The textures are ok most of the time and the environments, though far from being original, are at least convincing enough. I wouldn't say so for the different characters though, they are poorly modeled and could have used some more work. The framerate is not very high (and yet tearing is still very much there) and the animations are way too stiff and definitely not up to today's standards. The voice acting is a mix of good with Jigsaw's official voice and cheesy with all the other characters who really sound like they're playing in an Ed Wood movie.
Most of the gameplay revolves around some puzzle solving sequences which require logic, address, speed sometimes - there are some time-limited puzzles - and a good sense of observation. In the first hours of play, it is rather promising in that area as the puzzles seem to be varied enough to prevent the game from getting repetitive. However, after a while, you realize that, once you have discovered all the different kinds of puzzles, you will be doing them over and over again. All in all though, they are not that bad, there is some good challenge for once and death is often around the corner if you're not careful enough. It helps build up the tension, especially when you are running out of time to save one of Jigsaw's prisoners. Death can also be very frustrating at times as starting all over does not mean you are going to do better the second time around.
Which leads me to one of the main issues the game has: the combat. Talking about frustrating gameplay, combat deserves the gold medal of the worst fighting system ever. It feels like the main character is ninety years old given how slow he gets when using a weapon. It soon becomes obvious that using his bare hands is far more efficient and less risky than trying to hit his enemies with, say, a pipe or a baseball bat. Also frustrating are the completely dark areas you sometimes have to go through and where you must you the flash of a camera to "see" something. If I can give you some advice, stick with the lighter you are given in the beginning, it is much more practical.
In short, Saw is not as bad as we might have feared but it still falls short from being a very good survival horror game. You can tell that there was some good potential but unfortunately, the development team did not quite nail it. The US reviews have been kind to the game whereas here in Europe, it is depicted as a horrible game. I guess I stand in between as I don't think the game is worth more than a rental but I also believe some players will have good fun with it provided they are not the demanding kind. It might even interest achievement/trophy whores as the videos will prove that Saw is very generous in that area. It's now up to you to see how far you're ready to go to satisfy your craving for scoring.