Ever since Dead by Daylight took the world by storm in 2016, asymmetric multiplayer games became a staple subgenre for survival horror. In 2017, Gun Interactive took things to the next level, introducing a game solely focused on one horror film franchise: Friday the 13th. However, as licensing rights and legal problems sunset Gun’s previous outing, the team that took Jason Vorhees from the big screen to your home console sought to take things a step farther with its new outing, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Though the premise is similar to other asymmetrical horror titles, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre shakes things up with a new team structure. Unlike Gun’s previous venture, the new game now sees three killers face off against four victims. Staying true to the 1974 film of the same name, victims must contend with a whole family of psycho killers, instead of just one.
Though some skeptics wondered if that change would be enough to make The Texas Chain Saw Massacre stand out in comparison to Dead by Daylight or Gun’s own Friday the 13th: The Game, the publisher’s new title does feel like a new spin on the popular survival horror subgenre. The new game also does well to serve as a love letter to the slasher franchise, with a faithful design that fans of the films will appreciate.
But does The Texas Chain Saw Massacre do enough to hold longevity? Or will its core player base ultimately jump ship back over to DBD? Let’s take a deeper look at the new game.
Rev up the chainsaw
The overall gameplay structure of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre should feel familiar to fans of asymmetrical multiplayer games. Players take on either the role of a killer or a victim, each with their own specific goals and objectives. Victims must work together to find a way off the property and survive; whereas, killers must, well, kill the victims.
However, the team structure of 4v3 matches shakes things up enough to make this game feel fresh. Though the added number of killers puts victims at an even greater disadvantage when compared to this game’s peers, the developers put enough work in to give survivors a chance. There are multiple escape routes on each map, and clever ways to evade pursuers that mean savvy players can reasonably overcome the odds.
On the killers’ side, there are five family members to choose from. However, one player must always select Leatherface in order for a matchup to begin. From my experience, it’s not hard to find someone to pick Leatherface—everyone wants to be him! I even had someone refuse to ready up unless I traded him characters, so he could be Leatherface.
Once a match begins, the victims start in the basement, impaled by meat hooks. After freeing themselves, the victims must work together to first find a way out of the basement, and later to find a way off the whole property. Though other family members spawn in upstairs or outside, Leatherface always starts in the basement with the victims, meaning the tension begins as soon as the game starts.
Who will survive? And what will be left of them?
As soon as a match starts, the victims are on a ticking clock. From the moment they detach themselves from the meat hooks, they begin bleeding out. Apart from serving as a time limit, the bleeding also increases throughout the game, leaving trails of blood, which family members can track.
Therefore, speed is key while playing as a victim, as you can’t waste too much time. However, moving too quickly also has its consequences. Primarily, performing actions too quickly causes you to make noise. In addition, there are traps, like hanging bones, that charging through can create noise as well. As you may guess, making noise pings your location to family members.
This creates the engaging challenge of balancing speed with stealth. Periodically, as the family feeds Grandpa blood, the NPC will be able to detect and ping your location from even the smallest movement. Victims only get a few seconds of notice before they must stop dead in their tracks to avoid detection. Although not moving is often inconvenient, as one would expect from a horror title. Therefore, this often creates a sequence where all three killers descend on a detected victim.
Each of the victims have multiple attributes and specific abilities to give them an edge. Their attributes fall into five categories: Toughness, Endurance, Strength, Proficiency and Stealth.
Toughness refers to the amount of damage players can take and their overall survivability. With higher toughness, you can not only take more damage, but you’ll also recover your health much faster.
Endurance deals with your stamina. Players with higher endurance will have faster recharge times, in addition to more overall stamina.
Strength deals with how effective a victim is when interacting with a family member. Higher strength can increase the sun effect for actions like sneak attacks, close encounters and bursting out of hiding spots.
Proficiency refers to how victims deal with skilled tasks like lock picking. Victims with higher proficiency can accomplish such tasks quicker and more effectively.
Lastly, the stealth attribute influences victims’ abilities to perform actions silently. The better a character’s stealth, the less likely they’ll be noticed by killers.
Now, let’s look at each of the five victim’s unique special abilities.
Connie: Focused Ability
Connie’s focus allows her to pick locks much faster without consuming the unlock tool. However, the drawback is that it affects her stamina and family proximity warnings.
Sonny: Heightened Sense
Sonny has heightened senses that allow him better situational awareness. This lets him detect noises, pinpoint their location and track their movements.
Julie: Ultimate Escape
Julie can utilize her Ultimate Escape to make family members unable to track her while also getting significantly reduced stamina drain for a short time.
Leland: Life Saver
Leland’s Life Saver ability allows him to bump charge and stun family members. He can use this ability to interrupt fatal clashes with killers for himself or other players.
Ana: Pain is Nothing
Ana’s Pain is Nothing ability significantly reduces the amount of damage she takes from attacks and falls. The added buff also gives her temporary immunity to poison.
Welcome to the family
The five family members players can choose from essentially operate as class-based villains. Each of them has a distinct feel with their own special abilities. For example, the hitchhiker can set traps across the map, and Sissy can poison consumables and key items. While Leatherface functions as a tank and always starts in the basement with the victims, the other family members start upstairs and outside and begin the match by securing the perimeter.
Aside from hunting down and killing the victims, the family members also must collect blood to bring to Grandpa. As I mentioned earlier, Grandpa works as an NPC who can detect victims for short bursts of time. To activate this ability and upgrade it throughout the match to last longer, players taking on the role of a family member must find and collect blood to feed Grandpa.
To do this, there are several blood buckets scattered across the map that you can draw from. In addition, melee damage to victims also collects blood. And if you execute a victim, your container gets filled, and you can quickly power Grandpa up.
Overall, the killers fall into three main attribute categories that serve their own purpose in gameplay. The Savagery attribute increases the amount of damage dealt with melee hits. However, as opposed to substituting simple strength, Savagery is a proficiency level best used in conjunction with Endurance.
Speaking of Endurance, the second attribute deals with your killer’s stamina. All melee attacks drain stamina, which in turn affects damage. Higher endurance means more stamina and a quicker recharge rate.
Lastly, the Harvesting attribute affects the amount of blood you gain for Grandpa when interacting with victims. However, this will not impact the amount of blood you gain from buckets around the map. Depending on your Harvesting stat, hits, grapples and kills will determine how much blood you collect from victims.
Although only three killers will be active during a match, the game offers five total family members to choose from. Each character brings something special to the table to suit a variety of different playstyles.
The Cook: Seek
The Cook has the Seek ability, which allows him to better hear and detect strange sounds. His perceptiveness allows him to focus in on noises and hone in on the location of victims.
Sissy’s Bane ability allows her to craft poisons from local plants. She can then use these poisons either directly in the faces of victims or to contaminate other items around the map.
The Hitchhiker: Trap
The Hitchhiker is phenomenal with laying traps to devastating effect. Using simple piles of bones, these traps can alert him of any unsuspecting victim caught.
Johnny can use his Hunt ability to stalk and track victims. Able to see fresh footsteps, Johnny can quickly locate anyone nearby.
With his trusty chainsaw, Leatherface can utilize his Maim ability to dismember any unfortunate victim in his path. In addition, Leatherface can also use his ability to destroy crawl spaces and barricades, leaving victims more wide open and unable to hide.
Grit, grime and horror
Aside from its core gameplay, one of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s greatest strengths is how it utilizes audio and visual elements to create a dreadful atmosphere. Visually, the game faithfully captures and replicates the iconic locations from the 1974 movie. You’ll especially notice this inside the Sawyer family’s house. Each and every room feels directly ripped from the movie with careful attention to detail.
Additionally, every environment you traverse carries the grimy aesthetic commonly associated with the original movie. Exterior locations will see dry Texas grass, dilapidated sheds, and locked gates. And the interior areas all bring the grungy, rundown feeling made famous in the classic film.
The sound design further immerses you into the world with tension in the music and ambient environmental noise. The soundtrack is triggered through what Gun Media refers to as the Apprehension Engine. This engine sees the music adapt over the course of the game, culminating in a heart-pounding score when only one final victim remains alive.
One of the most iconic sounds you’ll hear is that of Leatherface’s chainsaw. In fact, the developers used an actual chainsaw from that era when recording sound for the game to make the noises it makes as authentic as possible. Arguably more than any other aspect of the game’s sound design, it’s hearing the chainsaw humming in the background, gradually getting louder that creates the most tension and fear during a match.
There are other audio-based details that further the game’s immersion. One standout feature is how characters will talk to each other whenever two players walk by. Killers will acknowledge and greet each other. Whereas, if a family member sees a victim, they may proceed to taunt them.
It’s time to come home
However, the actual maps in the game are arguably the greatest double-edged blade in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. On one hand, the details are stellar and clearly show the developers have a keen understanding and appreciation of the source material. On the other hand, there are only three different maps in total: the family house, the gas station and the slaughterhouse.
Alongside the three maps are different time-of-day variations that determine the brightness. Essentially, you could end up playing two matches back to back at the same location, with the only difference being that one happens at night and the other at sunrise. While every map is expertly designed, both functionally and aesthetically, the lack of variety hurts replayability.
Another aspect of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that has both pros and cons is the lack of any single-player content. Although Friday the 13th featured single-player options, like playing against AI, the new game is multiplayer only. The developers did this intentionally, as slimming down the amount of content gave them more time to hone in and polish the details of the core multiplayer mode.
While the game is highly polished, limiting the game to only multiplayer has its drawbacks. The biggest complaint is that multiplayer-only games lack variety, and the repetition can sometimes shorten a game’s lifespan. All that aside, if Gun continues to support TCSM with updates and add-ons, the core formula is certainly fun enough to keep players wanting to return for more.
Upgrades that kill
One feature that elevates the replayability of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is how it handles progression. The metagame doles out XP both per account and per character. Essentially, this means that some skill points are universal. You could easily play as the hitchhiker, level up your account, then apply the skill points to one of the victims like Ana.
The skill trees in this game are also quite lengthy with many possible branches. However, sometimes choosing one branch over another blocks certain paths. So, you have to be strategic on how you want to build the characters.
Still, the game also offers the chance for you to respec, which resets all of your skill points. This makes it possible to reapply your skill points to try a different branch.
Another option you have to make your characters stronger is by enhancing their specific attributes. There’s a vast number of options to build and level up characters. For instance, you can increase characters’ durability or boost their endurance to let them run for longer periods of time. From solidifying strengths to buffing out weaknesses, the game offers many options to build your characters to suit your playstyle.
We need more victims
As strong of a multiplayer game as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, the one thing that concerns me is its matchmaking. Joining a public game is, in theory, as easy as choosing whether you want to play as a victim or family member, or simply choosing quick play to enter on either side. However, since you need seven total people to play a match, the game needs a large enough playerbase for it to function.
I played the game before it officially launched, and thus had some issues from time to time finding enough online players to get a game going. Multiple times, I timed out and disconnected from lobbies simply because not enough people were online.
Now, this should be resolved at launch when people get the game. However, Gun Interactive will need to continuously support the game to keep players coming back. The worst thing that could happen with this game is if people stop playing it and move on to other titles.
Concluding thoughts on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Overall, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the best asymmetric horror games I played. The 4v3 dynamic does enough to make the game feel fresh, even given the formulaic structure of the genre. Playing both as a victim or a family member is each fun in its own way, and all of the characters bring something unique to the table. Add on the deep and immersive skill tree system that you can use to level up your favorite characters, and this is definitely a game worth coming back to.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre also does an excellent job conveying the grimy and raw terror of the 1974 horror film it was based on. Though there are only three maps in the game, every environment, from the Sawyer family’s house to the gas station, feels ripped straight from the movie. And the sound design is truly immersive.
That isn’t to say the game isn’t without it shortcomings. Like most titles in the genre, the nature of asymmetrical horror games can greatly diminish replayability. And because there is no single-player content, the game’s functionality wholly relies on other people being active to play.
Still, if Gun Interactive keeps the game fresh with updates and add-ons, players will likely come back. The core gameplay is more than fun enough to keep players hooked (literally and metaphorically) on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This is truly a really good horror video game.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC. Thanks to Sumo Nottingham and Gun Interactive for providing us with a review key!