|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Zombie Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 19, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by James Trujillo
The Saw video game series continues with its second installment, bringing the Jigsaw Killer back to finish what he started. Saw II: Flesh & Blood has a new protagonist this time around in Michael Tapp, the son of David Tapp who was featured in the first game. If you're at all familiar with the movie franchise and its storyline, then you may recognize the Tapp moniker. David, portrayed by Danny Glover in the original film, was in a supporting role, but was given his own side plot just after the events of the first Saw movie. Now with his son involved in Jigsaw's twisted games, we're taken to the moments set in between the second and third films, and it's up to Michael to uncover the truth about his estranged father.
The movie series has been gruesome, and this game pales severely in comparison. It has its fair share of gore, but it is toned-down even in contrast to the first game. The overall sense of tension is a bit askew as well. It is riddled with poor scare tactics that would make my grandmother laugh out loud; and believe me, she frightens easily. In moments when you think something decent may actually happen, you're only left with a rat scurrying across the floor. For a survival horror game that, according to Konami, is supposed to be a spiritual successor to the Silent Hill series, they have an incredibly long way to go.
The combat in the first game was a big problem, and the developers at Zombie Studios decided to make matters even worse. Their "fix" to this issue was to make not only the combat but the entire game one long quick-time event. Aside from running and opening doors, essentially every action requires a sequence of multiple button presses. If you happen to run into an enemy, your only option is to stand there and wait for him to attack. It's an awkward scenario to say the least, but after he lunges, you'll string together a few button prompts to dodge and counter. It's the most unsatisfying thing you'll ever experience. It breaks up the gameplay horribly, albeit there's very little to be had in the first place.
The mini-games take an amateurish misstep as well. The lock picking is no more than a slalom run down a mechanical pipe. Normally lock picking in a game isn't all that great to begin with, but this just feels lazy. There are a few others ways to open doors that involve repairing circuits and pressing button panels, but they all feel like time-wasters within the overall experience.
The only thing that might keep your attention for a short while is the puzzle element, but even that comes with a price. Though the majority are fairly easy, some are still presented in a worthwhile fashion. Clues can be revealed by light sources leaving behind a faint glow in the darkness, while others require mirrors or other tricks to disclose. The better quandaries in the game are the ones that involve finding the optional Billy puppets scattered throughout levels. These puzzles require a bit more thought to solve, which should have been the normal requisite for progression in the game.
Aside from the Billy puppets, there are also case files and puzzle-piece collectibles to be found in the game. These are primarily for achievement/trophy purposes, but the case files can reveal a wealth of information. Along with the files, there are also audiotapes that grant more insight into the backstory of the game and give a great amount of depth to the franchise plot as a whole.
The story in Saw II: Flesh & Blood seems to be its only redeeming factor. It manages to intertwine itself well within the fictional universe of the films without feeling like a tacked-on sub-plot. The narrative will keep you guessing for the most part, and fans of the franchise will love the amount of thought they put into the canon's expansion. Unfortunately, even admirers of the series won't be given enough substance to warrant a playthrough of this game.