Playing as Detective David Tapp, you're thrown into series anti-hero Jigsaw's "game" with little to no understanding of the events leading up to your capture. The game does an excellent job drip-feeding you information, as you navigate Jigsaw's warped world, escaping deadly hazard after deadly hazard.
It'll take players roughly 6-7 hours to see out SAW's single-player campaign.
SAW is not a pleasant game to play. It's dark, dank and tense. You'll actually feel depressed playing SAW, which is an impressive feat. It's not the game, but the franchise's atmosphere that invoke these emotions. The SAW movies are claustrophobic, and it's to the game's credit that the developers managed to create that feeling within a game. Because the atmosphere is so claustrophobic, the back-tail of the game can feel unbearable, as puzzles start repeating and the game begins to drag — but those initial three hours are very impressive if you're a fan of the movies.
SAW's core gameplay relies on moving room to room and completing puzzles along the way. The game often breaks down into mini-games allowing you to complete sub-puzzles. For example, you'll need to search for keys in toxic waste, disarm bombs before a timer runs down, and manually unlock doors with nails. The SAW game always has you searching one layer further. The find locked door, get key, find next locked door, complete puzzle, progress-formula can get a little repetitive, but again, it sticks to the source material well.
One of SAW's greatest strengths is the nature of just throwing you into this hazardous world. You're totally unaware of the events leading to your participation in Jigsaw's game; but the carrot is dangled just enough to ensure you keep playing. It's a neat set-up and something games often don't do.
The constant amounts of backtracking and repeating puzzle structures, coupled with the already depressing environment SAW is set in can lead to an unbearable final few hours. As the game starts to run out of ideas, your tedium can only be emphasised by the boring environments and dark tones. The game could have benefited from being shorter, or just having more ideas. Sadly, it gets quite boring fast.
Our personal distaste for the Unreal engine goes on. SAW is a weak game graphically. The game really lacks variety in its visuals. Sure, that's a direct result of the source material, but surely work could have been done to ensure that rooms actually look different. As it happens, SAW looks like one big arena of bad lighting and messy textures.
Occasionally in SAW you'll be asked to take out an opposing in-mate. You can attack by entering a Combat stance with L2 and holding the Square button. Sadly, the combat is straight up awful: it takes way too long to execute a move and the animations are abysmal.
SAW might like you to think you're free to explore a giant death-trap, but sadly, the experience is incredibly guided. Routes will be blocked until the game wants you to use them, sending you on constant goose chases for keys.
The most disappointing thing about SAW is how close it comes to being excellent. The game recreates the cat and mouse nature of the movies admirably, and introduces some interesting mechanics along the way. Sadly, it all lacks polish. If you're a fan of the movies, or looking for a decent horror game though, SAW is certainly worthy of your attention.