SAW II at Eurogamer 2010

For a game that relies on atmosphere to ramp up the fear factor, demoing SAW II in a room that’s thick with the sound of gun shots from the various shooters and failing to provide headsets seems a colossal balls up. What it means is that the only impression you can get about the game comes from the visuals.

The demo kicks off with you slicing your face open to get at a key, which will unlock the bear trap that your head is stuck in. Sounds gruesome, huh? That it is. And didn’t practically the same thing happen in the first SAW? Graphically, it’s a bit off the mark. Every time someone tried it out, the scalpel blade sliced the face in a different spot, sometimes through the stitches, sometimes beneath them, sometimes above. And the blood didn’t always seep from the incision. Not an overly impressive start. The graphics look weak all over the place. The character you’re playing, detective Tapp’s son Michael, glides around the horror house looking for all the world like he’s floating on a cushion of air. Given the fact that you’re in a decrepit house chock full of junk this movement feels completely out of place, its unwarranted fluidity exacerbated by the lack of creepy audio.

The bear/face trap is a simple puzzle to solve; bash the button you’re prompted to until you’ve cut your face open wide enough to dig the key out and the game will do the rest for you. Then it’s on to the puzzle solving. It is, of course, little more than an extension of the first SAW game – there are plenty of beams to fall from, lots of nasty ways to meet your maker and room after room of puzzles to solve and goons to fight. But judging from the response of many who tried it out, there wasn’t much to keep a player interested. SAW II was one of the few games on show at Eurogamer where punters walked away before they’d finished the demo. Admittedly, some of them walked away because they just couldn’t solve the puzzle and a few sloped off before they’d even sliced their own cheek up and not because they were too freaked out by it but because the overwhelming feeling this little gruesome titbit evoked was one of total meh.

Much of the game had a take it or leave it feel. Most people were up for leaving it because the queues never grew over one man waiting, and plenty looked for a bit and left. Moving from room to room, searching for the codes to unlock the next door, then solving the resulting puzzle did not elicit much excitement in those we saw play through. In fact, take away the gory nature of each problem and you’re not left with much. However, there were moments that yanked on the interest bone. Crossing those beams, or rather failing to cross them and falling to your death, was pretty cool. In real life those beams wouldn’t pose too much of a problem, but in SAW II it’s no easy task. Besides which, making Tapp fall into the void was much more fun than letting him get his face mashed up by 200 nails.

The one moment that actually caught me off guard, was when Tapp spies through a peephole in a door only to discover there’s a shooter on the other side, trained right on his eyeball (his eyes do come in for some rough treatment). Diving clear out of the way in the nick of time was a kick.

On the whole, SAW II comes across as a game that’s neither here nor there. Yes it’s violent, yes it’s sometimes infuriatingly puzzling, but for the most part it’s dull. Perhaps if it had been out in the main, all ages area of the hall there would be a steady procession of under 18s getting off on the violence; but in here, where everyone’s old enough to have digested a ton of horror movies, sitting with SAW II felt like being stuck at a party with the guy who’s only happy when he’s shocking people. Except no one’s ever shocked by his words, they’re just tired by them.

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Written by Neil

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