The first Saw movie was pretty good. It had a certain atmosphere, it was exciting and reinvigorated the genre. A claustrophobic scenario that explored the limits of people and their morals. A movie that was filmed with a modest budget, but that still offered lots of creativity. Unfortunately the success of the first movie sets the infamous sequel beast in motion, and with it the creative spark went extinct.
Now six years after the first movie, we are getting a seventh and last (according to the hype machine) movie in the series. The series have strayed from its roots of suspense and terror, and become focus on the torture scenes, much like Hostel. Grotesque violence and lots of it. That this concept would some day be translated into a video game was inevitable.
The first Saw game appeared about a year ago, and to my surprise it was actually okay. Perhaps, not that strange. The plot of the movies is basically a blueprint for a linear game where you tackle difficult puzzles and lots of atmosphere. Saw: The Video Game was met with mixed reaction by critics, but most were applauded some of the puzzles and the way the game captured the atmosphere of the movies.
It wasn't a great game by any means. But still a small game that showed promise and a bit of creative spark. See what I'm getting at? Because with Saw II: Flesh & Blood it is clear that the infamous sequel beast has struck again. Saw II: Flesh & Blood lacks any ambition, and is such a rush job that someone should have stopped it from ever getting released.
You play as Michael, son of the Saw character David Tapp (Danny Glover). Chronologically the game is set in between the second and third movies and Michael is investigating the Jigsaw case. The investigation is soon a struggle for life and death as Michael is drugged and kidnapped by the Jigsaw apprentice Pigface. He wakes up inside a cage, and if he wants to get out alive he has to play by Jigsaw's rules.
But it's not just Michael who is trapped. As a critic I'm trapped in front of the screen having the suffer through the atrocities as part of my job. But rather than life and death, I'm struggling against passing out from boredom.
Where the last game managed to surprise the players at times and showcase a bit of good puzzle design, the sequel has distilled everything into a serious of quick time events. And terrible quick time events at that. If you fail at something as basic as designing quick time events, something that is pretty lazy game design to begin, then you haven't exactly given it your all.
The controls are completely broken, action aren't performed as you press buttons, the main character walks as if he was a walrus on a unicycle, and even the horrible combat from the first game is worse this time around as they also revert to quick time events.
I'm not really that opposed to quick time events, but they really kill any hope Saw II: Flesh & Blood has of scaring anyone. Nothing is scary, when you know it can't sneak up on you without buttons starting to flash on screen. It feels like riding the ghost train with all the contraptions broken. And if you happen to fail, you will just have to redo the quick time event again. Which is probably the scariest part of the experience given how awful the game is.
And as if this wasn't bad enough the same puzzles are repeated over and over again, which leads to even more boredom. And if you expect the traps to be filled with creative violence you're in for a disappointment as they are the lamest death traps this side of Tom & Jerry. A shotgun mounted on top of a door here, and broken floor there. And, don't get too excited now, a machine that impales people! Some traps from the movies have been added, but other than that it seems the folks at Zombie Studios just ran out of ideas.
Did I mention the fact that the game is butt ugly? It is. It's as if someone dropped the Unreal Engine in a toilet. The environments are just painfully boring hotel corridors, sewers, and rainy alleys without any trace of atmosphere. The developers have tried to mask this by giving Michael a flashlight so you only have to see the hideousness bit by bit. Something I appreciate.
Saw II: Flesh & Blood lacks any character or ambition. It's a nasty little game. A game that hides behind its license in the hopes that some poor Saw fans will stumble onto the trap laid in front of them and waste their money on it. The next time you wake up in a dark room as someone says "I want to play a game", pray that has something to with a bear trap rather than Saw II: Flesh & Blood.