Before we dive into the meat of this article, let’s play a little game. I’m going to describe a video game, and I want you to guess which game I’m talking about.
This game is an asymmetric multiplayer title where the players are divided between a team of survivors and a killer. The goal for the survivors is to outwit the killer and ultimately escape the map to live another day. In addition, the survivors can choose how to accomplish this by using teamwork or by splitting up and completing separate tasks.
The killer in this game, based on a horror movie icon, must foil the survivors and stop all of them from escaping. Additionally, the killer has free reign to systematically hunt down and slaughter each of the survivors at will. The killer wins when all the survivors are dead.
What game am I talking about? Am I describing Friday the 13th: The Game? Or is it Dead by Daylight? Possibly, I’m talking about the upcoming Evil Dead: The Game. Or, perhaps, I’m discussing the recently announced Texas Chain Saw Massacre game.
What if I told you this was a trick question?
The real answer is I was talking about ALL of them. Yes, I know, that was a loaded question. And I know DBD offers original killers along with horror icons like Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. However, my point still stands: all of these games feel the same!
Trend by Daylight
Asymmetric multiplayer games date all the way back to G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike for the Atari 2600. However, even with successful implementations of the gameplay style, such as in Left 4 Dead 2, the genre didn’t really come into its own until 2016. And no, I’m not talking about the poorly-received Evolve.
That year, Behaviour Interactive first launched Dead by Daylight for PC. With its addictive hide-and-seek gameplay mechanics, DBD quickly grew into a cult hit. In addition, the game’s popularity only increased as horror movie icons like Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger joined the roster as playable killers. The game’s success paved the way for years of updates and console ports.
However, Dead by Daylight also paved the way for carbon copies like Friday the 13th: The Game. Developer/publisher Gun Interactive released their asymmetrical multiplayer slasher game only a year after DBD’s initial launch. Although it offered fans of the genre a fun alternative, Friday the 13th’s nearly identical gameplay did little to differentiate itself from DBD, apart from including Jason Voorhees as the sole killer.
Let me preface my argument by clearing the air on something. I have nothing against asymmetric multiplayer horror games. In fact, I actually think they’re really fun!
I don’t think every horror movie tie-in title needs to recycle that formula. My opinion comes both from my love of survival horror games, as well as my love of horror movies. Needless to say, when a new game based on one of my favorite horror movies gets announced, I get up and dance with glee. However, my devilishly giddy smile gets slashed away like a counselor at Crystal Lake the moment I realize it’s just another multiplayer game.
New game, same… you know what
And here comes the latest reveal that sparked my nerd-rant: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
With the legality of Friday the 13th rights murky to the point where Gun Interactive had to end any and all plans for updated content in 2018, it became clear the team would soon pour their efforts elsewhere. Sure enough, at The Game Awards 2021, Gun Interactive announced their latest efforts in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The cinematic trailer unveiled at The Game Awards does a horrifically beautiful job of faithfully capturing the visual and audio aesthetics of the movie.
Unfortunately, the trailer also makes it evident that the creepy cinematics showcased will not be represented in the final product. Although the teaser trailer doesn’t show off actual gameplay, the title reveal at the end reveals the game will be a solely multiplayer experience. In other words, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre will be a reskinned Friday the 13th.
Ultimately, the trailer only left me disappointed at the missed potential. The cinematics, the visual aesthetics and the sound effects all tease a terrifying single-player survival horror experience. However, the first red flag truly should have been that Gun Interactive is behind its development. What indication would I have that they’d try something new?
Will Evil Dead: The Game really be groovy?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre isn’t the only horror movie tie-in game trailer that left a sour taste in my mouth. At The Game Awards 2020, Evil Dead: The Game received its first official reveal trailer. All the way down to Bruce Campbell’s narration, the trailer captured the feel of Sam Raimi’s cult-classic franchise.
Although the game was originally slated to release in 2021, Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games ultimately delayed its launch to this February. However, the team behind the game didn’t leave fans completely hanging. Over the course of the year, the developers kept fans updated on the latest announcements and reveals for the upcoming groovy title.
While the co-op and PvP gameplay structure of Evil Dead: The Game was apparent from the first trailer, there remained hope for a campaign. That was until the gameplay trailer from last year’s E3 showed otherwise. Like every other horror movie tie-in game, Evil Dead will also feature a group of survivors fending off a killer.
Now, I won’t lie and claim this title totally copies the tropes of asymmetric multiplayer horror. It does feature notable gameplay differences. One major difference is the inclusion of AI-controlled deadites, along with the player-controlled Kandarian Demon. And the biggest difference is that unlike other similar games, the survivors fight back. I’ll also admit that using Ash’s trademark chainsaw hand and boomstick will be groovy.
However, that’s where the differences end. Every other aspect of the game practically follows the Dead by Daylight formula to a tee. Even what little single-player content will feature in the game will be limited to short side missions akin to Friday the 13th’s attempt at single-player.
Everything about this game screams missed opportunity. Knowing that the original actors from the Evil Dead series, including Bruce Campbell, will reprise their roles in the game only makes the lack of a story mode more frustrating.
It’s not like there’s never been a single-player Evil Dead game before either. Just look at examples like Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick and Evil Dead: Regeneration. They aren’t perfect, but they’re fun.
An isolated horror gem
Once upon a time, before the release of Dead by Daylight, there was a game that successfully translated a classic horror film into a single-player survival horror experience. No, I’m not talking about either of the licensed Saw games. In fact, nobody should ever talk about those games. I’m talking about Alien Isolation.
SEGA first acquired the license to make games based on the Alien movies in 2006. Their first game with the license was 2010’s Aliens Vs. Predator. The first-person shooter featured three campaigns for each race. Overall, the game received moderately positive reviews from fans and critics.
In turn, SEGA followed up with another FPS based on the Alien movies with 2013’s Aliens: Colonial Marines. Unlike the mixed bag that was Aliens Vs. Predator, however, critics and fans ripped Colonial Marines apart entirely.
All the while, developer Creative Assembly was hard at work bringing Alien back to its horror roots with Isolation. Although development began in 2008, Alien Isolation did not release until 2014, one year after the disastrous launch of Colonial Marines. However, unlike the game that came before, Alien Isolation thrived at providing fans of the movies a truly immersive gaming experience.
Alien Isolation captivated fans with its faithful interpretation of Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror sci-fi classic. The game successfully expands the story from the original movie by focusing on the journey of Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda. Alien Isolation’s story, set 15 years after the movie’s events, follows Amanda’s journey as she investigates her mother’s disappearance.
Additionally, the game stands apart on its own as a survival horror masterpiece by incorporating all the elements that make the genre work. With the limited resources and ammunition, it’s clear Alien Isolation favors evasion over combat. This results a true nail-biting experience as the horrifically intelligent Xenomorph hunts you down.
This town IS big enough for the both of us
It goes without saying that Alien Isolation is the best example of a single-player horror movie adaptation. It’s unfortunate that the game never received the sequel it deserves. Even more frustrating is the fact that no other developer ever attempted to recreate Isolation’s success for a different horror movie.
Just imagine if Gun Interactive took the time to incorporate a story mode for Friday the 13th that played similarly to Alien Isolation. And since it’s too late to do that, what if they delayed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to add those elements? The most frustrating part of these Dead by Daylight clones is the missed potential of using these iconic characters in a single-player survival horror game.
Once again, I’m not saying that asymmetrical multiplayer horror games are bad. And I wouldn’t eliminate the online multiplayer from any of the games listed in this article. My real point is that there’s room for both single-player and multiplayer in these games. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, look no further than Resident Evil.
Like Gun Interactive and Saber Interactive, Capcom also jumped on the asymmetrical multiplayer trend with Resident Evil Resistance. Unlike games such as Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, however, Resistance is included as an extra mode alongside the single-player Resident Evil 3 remake. While it may not be as polished or fluid as other asymmetrical horror games, it does show that developers can incorporate the mode alongside a single-player story.
As a fan of both horror movies and horror games, it’s sad to see iconic characters limited to a single cut-and-paste game mode. Over the years, video game adaptations of movies unfortunately received a bad rep due to lazy and rushed titles meant solely as cash grabs. However, Alien Isolation shows what developers can do when they take their time to craft a horror game that perfectly captures the feel of the movie its based on.
And for that reason, I ask again: Why does every new horror movie tie-in game feel like Dead by Daylight?