Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
August 18, 2023
Few horror films have garnered such a bloody and macabre reputation as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre series, so it’s only right that a game adaptation be just as terrifying. While fans are used to the plight of the victims in the movies, the game also lets players rev the chainsaw and become one of the dreadful killers that appear in the films. With roots in the horror asynchronous genre, many are quite familiar with the aim of the game, but how does an iconic IP make it it’s own? Give the trailer a rev below and I’ll tell you all about it after!
In recent years there’s been a rise in asynchronous games, specifically horror games. There’s something about the mismatched survivor vs killer dynamic that really appeals to players out for a challenge. It’s cat vs mouse in its most diluted form. Players seeking that thrill are drawn to the genre because not only is it really challenging but it also allows you to feel the thrill of running for your life in the game. It’s quite a scary concept, being pitted against another player whose goal is to kill you. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre understands this assignment well. Where other games have focused on one pursuer, this game adds more killers to really increase the game’s difficulty! Each game consists of four “Victims” and three “Family Members”. Victims must try to navigate the game avoiding the Family as they seek to escape which is a lot harder than it sounds. The Family are brutal. Their role in the game is to stop survivors escaping by any means necessary which leads to some pulse-stopping moments as they close in.
Much like other asynchronous games, Texas Chain Saw Massacre also employs a perk system allowing each of the characters to access to their own set of skills that they can use to gain an edge on the opposing group as well as an individual ability unique to them. The idea is that players build loadouts that aid them in escaping or killing the other side. This becomes the backbone of the game as it rewards continuous gameplay with special enhancements to the playstyles that further how you can navigate the game. The perk system is built gradually via an unlockable perk tree, allowing players to progressively add to their collection of buffs and enhancements.
There are currently five Victims and five Family killers for players to choose from depending on what side of the game they wish to experience. The majority of my time was spent as a Victim playing as Leland and Connie but when I was playing as the Family I found Leatherface, Johnny and Sissy the most satisfying to play.
The Victims are fairly agile but constricted by their surroundings, their health also deteriorates over the match. Much of their gameplay involves completing noise-based skill checks that could alert the Family if players aren’t careful. Noise becomes a beacon in the game that allows the killing side the ability to see where the noise was made. For those looking for a fight, they can attack the Family and even Grandpa but these are mainly just stuns that buy the surviving group time to put distance between them and the Family. The perks aid in their plight to escape by changing the way they approach the gameplay and each of the Victims’ special abilities further aids them. Due to a longer cooldown, however, this is less reliable in a pinch.
Playing as The Family is basically the tactile opposite to playing as a Victim. All of these murderous members aren’t to be trifled with and should be avoided as much as possible. While they aren’t typically as agile as the Victims, they don’t need to be. Much of your time playing as the Family is devoted to corralling Victims and weakening them over time until they are ready to be executed. Leatherface also has the added bonus of a chainsaw that functions as a tool to destroy your surroundings and make it more difficult for survivors to hide when you aren’t revving after a Victim.
“Much of your time playing as the Family is devoted to corralling Victims and weakening them…”
The Family also has an added goal which is to collect blood from either blood bags around the map or survivors which they can then feed to Grandpa. While Grandpa isn’t playable, he does become instrumental in finding and tracking the Victims due to his ability to see them when they move if he’s activated. Once he’s awoken at the start of a match, he periodically is able to mark survivors moving during his surveillance period, then after he’s fully leveled up, he can permanently mark the Victims. Considering Victims wish to stay hidden, this basically triggers the end game as there’s nowhere left to hide.
From the get go, tension is what makes a match of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Victims have to escape being tied up through skill checks while listening to one of their own fall prey to a chainsaw. Starting in a basement in each location, Victims have to first escape via several locked staircases on the map using tools found scattered around. They then continue overcoming barriers such as gates, locked doors, generators and even electrified grates as the Family stalks around after them. This leads to an ever-present caution where one needs to be constantly aware of their surroundings when playing as a Victim. One wrong skill check or poor hiding spot could lead to a chase with very bloody consequences. When the family does find you or comes very close, escaping feels exhilarating but not at all easy. Sometimes you just aren’t fast enough or your intended escape route is blocked. Dying in this game does feel high stakes too because you aren’t given multiple chances like the hook system in Dead by Daylight. Here, if you don’t get away quick enough, you’re gone. This also means that if you do escape, you’ll need to heal or else your wounds might be what stops you.
If you’re familiar with any of the films, you’ll absolutely adore the maps in the game that feel like the locations have come to life. The level of detail is incredible though you rarely get to take it all in as your attention lies elsewhere. If one has ever watched the movies and thought “Wow, I wish I could be chased by a family of homicidal cannibals!” then this is the game adaptation for you. The detail in the available maps also makes me hopeful that we’ll see even more locations from the franchise brought to life in the game such as Harlow from the Netflix adaptation, despite the streaming giant’s aversion to licensing.
“…without that grounding and explanation in a proper tutorial, it feels more convoluted than necessary.”
Where the game begins to drag is how it supplements the gameplay. The perk system, while fresh, is difficult to understand in how your choices will affect your build as well as the perks you collect. Much of my time was spent hastily redeeming anything after realising I’d amassed a horde of skill points from playing as the Victim. Similarly, the Family have a matching system that strengthens them, but without that grounding and explanation in a proper tutorial, it feels more convoluted than necessary.
It’s a familiar feeling that’s not uncommon in this genre. There’s a lot to learn and the game does include a written section dedicated to explaining the mechanics of the game but it lacks that playable representation. I found myself very overwhelmed early on with all the things I needed to do and then on top of that having to avoid the Family was a lot to manage. Personally, it’s only when players get to go hands-on with the gameplay that the concepts really gel. That trial and error in the first few matches isn’t very beginner-friendly and can be quite rough for new players. I would’ve appreciated the game having more of an onboarding experience, especially for players who have never played an asymmetrical game before.
I also feel that the game would benefit from a ping system. It was quite confusing at times when you’d see the notification that someone had escaped or a door had been opened with no idea where. While the game does function with voice chat enabled, working together with random players via comms never quite felt right. I’d suggest trying this one out with friends in an ideal situation.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to properly compare The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to other games in the asymmetrical horror genre. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this game isn’t just a reskin of Dead by Daylight for starters. Much of this game is informed by the same concepts but it’s taken them in a much different direction that I think Dead by Daylight could actually learn from. Skill checks and perks are present in both but again the comparison ends there. I like that this game feels fresh too and encourages you to try new things even when everything is hopeless.
I do feel I have questions about the longevity of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre considering how isolated it is from the IP it’s building on. Dead by Daylight always has new things in the pipeline but then they also have the advantage of being an original property that licenses iconic killers and recognisable survivors. I don’t see it as an issue for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I do feel the stream of new content to the game will be instrumental in keeping it alive for the community.
You can tell the development team has put the work in for this one. The game feels as much like a recreation as it does a love letter to one of the bloodiest franchises horror fans have ever known. I really appreciated the level of detail in each of the maps and the way the narrative threads through the gameplay. They’ve even included a special bonus section in the menus that showcases behind-the-scenes content from the films that really strengthens how this game navigates its rich source material.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre stands on its own but it’s proud of its parentage. For those familar with the genre, the game is sure to reignite that adrenaline. For franchise fans who haven’t dabbled in asymmetrical multiplayer, this one will take some work. It’s worth every bit of nostalgia as you run for your life, but without that rudimentary playable tutorial, you’ll stumble a few times for sure. Pace yourself on this one and take the time to learn about the perk system and how it fleshes out the game and just maybe you won’t end up on the wrong end of a chainsaw.
- A fresh spin on the asymmetrical multiplayer genre
- The maps feel like they've been lovingly pulled straight from the films
- The mixture of stealth and chase sequences provide heart-pumping action
- Each of the Victims and Family members have a well-implemented style
- Missing a playable tutorial
- Perk tree system is difficult to grasp early on
As asymmetrical horror games go, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre stands proudly on the shoulders of genre mainstays, providing an absolute ripper of an experience. Players are thrown in the deep end, which while frustrating at first, begins to make a lot more sense when you give it time. Seeing iconic locations from the films and racing to find your way out as a chainsaw swings behind you is quite the thrill. And whilst perks may initially be hard to understand, eventually the experience comes together as a really satisfying and macabre example of exciting multiplayer horror.