The survival horror game Saw (AKA: Saw: The Video Game) based on the well-known horror movie franchise had been released back in 2009 for PS 3, Xbox 360 and Windows, and has globally not been sold on Steam for about three years. However, it is still sold on various third party sites as Steam keys and also gifts are traded.
The release was met with controversy. Critics like William Usher for Cinema Blend panned it as a “tutorial for sadists to get pleasure from“. The release in censorship heavy regions like Germany or Australia was met with surprise:
Interview with John Williamson, producer and designer at Zombie Studios
Much to my surprise, the original Saw was released in Germany and Australia. When I was told they were going to submit it, I thought, just based on everything I always read online, that it would never get through, but it went through on the first pass.
I think they reviewed the game based on everything that was in it, not just on a couple of minutes of it, just like the Saw movies themselves aren’t really pure torture porn. If you pay attention, there’s actually usually a big twist in them.
However, it is publicly almost unknown (cf. Schnittberichte, OGDB, Wikipedia) – based on Konami’s apparently misleading press statements– that the game is censored in North America and Germany as console versions but also as the wide-spread RoW Steam version (RoW = Rest of World).
In the censored versions (USK, ESRB, RoW Steam (“Saw Comp”) peaks of violence are removed in regards to the Saw typical traps and in some cases slightly different camera angles and more frequent fade-in effects might have been used. A specific example is the first trap where IV needles are injected into the victim’s eyes if the riddle is failed. This sequence does not exist in the censored version and the related part of the apparatus has been removed (Imgur album as documentation, shows also the second trap). In general the cuts are considerable. However, regular combat remains unaltered with for example decapitations by tripwire shotgun traps.
The ESRB version (North America) received the same cuts as the USK Version (Germany). It is plausible that the cuts were made to prevent an AO rating (Adults Only, 18+) by the ESRB, which is very rarely given for violence (e.g. Manhunt 2 (censored for M rating) or Hatred), and limits sale options in practice.
Also, it is very likely that the uncensored version would have been refused a rating by the USK and deemed (severely) harmful to minors. It was never put on the index of media harmful to young persons by the BPjM though, this might just be explained by how unknown the version differences actually are, and by not submitting the complete version to the USK in the first place. The USK’s database lists the version as “SAW – Deutsche (US) Version”. The German localized version was released with a few months of delay; apparently even the classification of the modified version was surprising.
The Australian Version received the former highest rating for video games MA15+; back then the rating was more often refused for violence (e.g. Left 4 Dead 2). According to the ESRB drug usage is referenced. This however, might have been justified by context and did not prevent the rating in Australia. It remains unclear though whether the Australian version was censored in terms of violence.
With certainty uncensored are the retail BBFC (UK) and also probably PEGI versions (rest of Europe) which have “UNCUT VERSION” printed on their back covers unlike the other. On Steam the package for UK with an additional depot (“SAW UK Version Comp”, “SawDepot-UK”) is likely uncensored; it is no longer possible to determine in which countries it was sold.
We’ve reached out to Konami for a statement.
Thanks to sanmay for indentifying and testing this information.