Saw 2: Flesh and Blood Review

The Saw movie series has almost created a sub-genre of horror films on its own accord in the 20th century, with so called ‘torture porn’ being the new cool thing. Though quite what the allure of people dying in various gruesome ways is, I’ll never know. Call me old fashioned, but I have always demanded that my films have something in the way of, oh, I don’t know, a story? However, you can’t argue with the success of the franchise, although more than a few eyebrows were raised by the notion of a tie-in game last year when the original Saw hit the consoles. And considering Saw hardly set the console world alight with its first outing, it’s doubly shocking to see a sequel a little over a year later. Can the game go beyond being a mere slasher flick though and provide gamers with some genuine gameplay and chills? Unfortunately not.

Pig mask + syringe = bad night ahead.

Right from the get-go, Saw II follows the strict formula of the films to the letter; the obligatory outrageous traps and people who aren’t quite what they appear are the order of the day here. Saw has never tried to shy away from graphic violence and when your first challenge is to cut a key out of your own face, you just know that things are only going to get worse. Die-hard fans of the series will probably be more than familiar with some of the devices on show, and every effort is made to include more than a few nods towards the films.

The story primarily follows the trials and, bloody, tribulations of Michael Tapp – son of the rather obsessed Detective Tapp whose primary role in life was the stalking of the Jigsaw killer throughout the first film. It seems like the sins of the father have been passed onto the son, as Michael is hiding more than a few dirty secrets of his own. His task is to not only prove his own worth to Jigsaw, but also to help out some of the poor unfortunates that cross his path; all of whom seem to be mysteriously connected to his father in some way. Anyone who will have seen any of the films will know that there will be numerous twists and turns along the way, not to mention a few rather nasty traps to foil.

Sadly though, the story is a mere foil to the first film in the series and follows many of the same plot points with the new protagonist stumbling over pretty much all of the same clues and traps that people will have long since seen. Considering the fact that all of the main characters have one vice or another, it’s hard to become attached to any of them, or really care if they escape the traps they wind up in. It doesn’t help that Jigsaw himself is so sanctimonious either, ultimately meaning that you’re left with no side to root for. In any event, the game follows the same formula in every chapter, with Michael having to work his way through a bunch of minor traps before solving a more convoluted one to free his next source of information. As far as gripping storylines go, this one is far from it and plays out as a by the numbers affair.

The easiest "What happens next?" moment ever.

Unfortunately the gameplay doesn’t fare much better either, with the entire affair being nothing but a progression of drab mini-games and quick time events. In order to navigate the traps you uncover and snag key items, you will have to solve a number of puzzles, such as getting switchboards up and running, matching kaleidoscope dials, picking tumbling locks and solving twisting dials. All of which can be over and done with in a few minutes, but you will be expected to repeat the same tasks time and time again over the course of the game, with only the bare minimum of alteration. Even outside of the obvious puzzles, the whole game is merely an exercise in random button pressing. If you’re in a fight, dodging a door trap or escaping crumbling debris, then it all boils down to the same thing – quick time button presses. Hardly the stuff of psychological terror. There are a few clever puzzles that do make you think, but they seem to be few and far between when compared to the regular mundane tasks. Plus, having erratic, strung-out checkpoints can fuel your frustration, as you have to redo the same areas over again; not to mention sitting through the lengthy loading screens each time.

Even the look and feel of the game is nothing to write home about, and the tension that the game hopes to build is never actually present in any discernable way. The dilapidated surroundings are extremely rough around the edges, with each area looking almost identical to the last. Even the main characters are poorly realized and never aid the game in creating a sense of realism. It doesn’t help that some of the washed-out colours, dark corners and dubious camera angles can actively hinder your progress too – as it can render number combinations and vital clues frustratingly impossible to pick out of the scenery.

Shotgun vests are all the rage this year.

The achievement list is hardly the stuff of legends either. First and foremost, you’ll need to suffer through the story twice to max out your score, and considering the rather rushed ending either way, it’s hardly worth the effort. You’ll also have to solve all of the various puzzles as quickly as possible – but on both difficulties. A lot of imagination obviously went into that series of tasks. After that you have the usual mix of story related events and a whole host of collectables to find. Some of the collectables do add to the story somewhat, but even so, with over a hundred to find, it soon gets a little tiresome. An easy boost to your gamerscore no doubt, but one that is still dragged out even then.

The original Saw hardly set the world alight back in 2009, yet the unexpected sequel seems like a step backwards rather than a marked improvement. The subpar graphics and tired story fail to mask what is a fairly simple collection of mini-games; none of which are really clever enough to do the film series justice. Saw II in essence is a horror game that’s lacking in suspense, missing the key ingredient of drama, and there's a severe lack of tension, which means Saw II isn't worth wasting your money on.

Decent voice work helps make the story semi-tolerable, but the music is flat out awful and fails to heighten the tension at all. Instead, you have to suffer scratchy, discordant notes that soon grow tiresome.

Poor, especially if you try playing without the aid of a HDMI cable which causes the game to become a dark blurry mess. Even running optimally, you can’t help but notice shadows that pass through solid objects, terrible collision detection and awful lip syncing.

Plodding through dank room after dank room while solving simplistic puzzles – even for the fighting sections – is hardly going to keep players coming back for more.

For newcomers to the series, the story will either be intriguing or just plain weird, but veterans will have seen it all before. Chances are they’ll probably even be disappointed by the lack of impact the game’s shocks actually have.

A fairly tedious list, especially as most of the points are purely linked to the story, the mundane mini-games or annoying amount of collectibles. It’s also extremely annoying that you have to suffer through the game twice to get all of the points.

It’s hard to be disappointed by Saw II as the game never really promised too much, but a collection of mini-games linked by a plot most of the films fans will know about already, is hardly what we call value for money. There are far superior “horror” titles out there already and Saw II is scraping the bottom of the proverbial syringe filled barrel.

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