It’s April 1973, blown-out hair and colorful fashions are all the rage and, appropriately, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, a song about murder in the American South, is the biggest hit on the radio. Just months before the events of the 1974 movie, another group of young victims goes missing in Muerto County, Texas, and this is where our The Texas Chain Saw Massacre review first finds us.
Sure, here we have another asymmetrical horror game based on a scary movie, but that’s no bad thing – especially not when Gun Interactive is involved. The Friday the 13th: The Game publisher knows what makes a killer multiplayer game, and the Jason Vorhees-led 4v1 was one of the best before its untimely demise. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre takes what was great about F13, adds the grit and beauty of the 1974 Tobe Hooper classic, and chucks in a couple of extra killers for good measure.
I’m an asymmetrical horror girly through and through – I play Dead by Daylight most days, and I miss the aspects of F13 that TCM successfully brings back – so I can safely say that, whether you’re a fan of the original Texas Chainsaw movie, Friday 13th: The Game, DBD, or the asymmetrical genre as a whole, you won’t want to escape this varied 4v3.
To truly honor the essence of the movie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had to be a multiplayer game featuring a family of killers. As a member of the family, you play as one of three predators, choosing from Bubba ‘Leatherface’ Sawyer himself, Hitchhiker, Cook, or new characters like Johnny and Sissy. Every victim so far is a new character to the franchise, each with their own unique skill.
Unlike other asymmetrical games, no character can appear twice in a match and Bubba must always be present. This intentional decision forces you to learn to play different characters, as opposed to ‘maining’ your favorite. If someone’s already picked your usual, you’ll need to suck it up and adapt – much like you would in a survival situation. While some might find this to be a negative, I actually think it’s refreshing, and it’s just one way the game offers improved replayability over its contemporaries. As I address in our TCM tier list, some characters might not initially seem as good on the surface, like Leatherface himself, but are great for teamwork.
Once you’ve picked your character, you’re taken to one of the game’s stunning maps, recreating familiar locations from the film – itself renowned for being equal parts eye-catchingly beautiful and unsettling. Once again, Gun and Sumo’s homage hits the mark. Whether it’s the sun setting over the Slaughter family house or Cook’s gas station at dark, the landscapes provide the perfect backdrop to hunt or be hunted.
As a victim, you spawn in Bubba’s basement, tied up from the ceiling by your ankles or wrists. Your first task is breaking free. With this, the initial 30 seconds of the match already feel more immersive than similar games. Rather than being dropped in the middle of a map, you’re waking up alongside your character, taking in your horrifying situation as they do. Your health then starts to deteriorate immediately. Other horror games can be pretty unrealistic in this aspect, and I often find myself frustrated by how easy it can be to survive what should be fatal wounds. Here, you must keep your health up with medication, meaning you can bleed out without ever coming in contact with a killer.
The compulsory Leatherface spawns in his basement too. Thus, as a victim, you always know you’re near a killer, and Bubba knows all four victims are nearby. Yet again, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does something unique here, removing any relative safety at the start of the match by spawning killers and survivors together. Other family members then turn up elsewhere on the map, ready to go on the defensive, securing the map’s multiple exits.
Speaking of the map’s exits, one of the things that made Friday the 13th a superior asymmetrical horror was the variety of escape options. The game required more technique, deeper thought, and greater planning. Rummaging through cupboards and drawers, you’d find fuses, keys, car batteries, and other items that made up part of just one escape option, and each map even had its own unique exits. Depending on what you and your teammates found, you might have to change your tactic. Dead by Daylight, meanwhile, offers little variation. Fix five generators, open one of two doors, and leave. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, while it doesn’t have cars or boats, is more like F13 in this aspect, and with a good variety of gameplay mechanics – as either a victim or killer – comes more replayability, dare I say more fun, and more fear.
Just to get out of the basement alive, you must find an unlock tool and flee to the ground floor. This maneuver immediately gives away your location, so you need to use cunning and stealth to remain out of sight. Once upstairs, you have a choice: locate a generator or car battery, ensure it’s off to avoid electrocution, and escape through a cattle gate, or find the valve wheel or fuse, fit it, and escape through the associated exit. None of these things are close together, either, so getting between them all without dying is a pretty tall order.
The basement itself is littered with easter eggs from the film, but once you make it outside, you’re greeted with beautiful flowers, dark corners, and multiple rooms and buildings. The sheer size of the maps simultaneously makes it easier to evade the family and harder to execute your escape. As a killer, keep your eyes peeled, as it can be easy to miss victims hiding among the flora and shadows. Some of my favorite moments so far have involved sneaking around within inches of a killer, like the time I crept across the back seats of an old car right behind an oblivious Hitchhiker before sprinting through an exit right before his eyes.
Playing as a family member, you’ve got more work to do than simply kill. Use your ability to place traps or listen out for survivors, and secure all exits by turning on generators or locking doors. You can even undo a victim’s hard work by, for example, turning the water valve back off while they’re on their way to the exit – it’s a huge blow to get cut off when you’re that close to getting out.
There’s another very important job for the family, because don’t for one second think that we’ve forgotten about the best killer of them all. Yep, the Slaughter family’s infamous Grandpa himself makes an appearance here, but not as a playable character. Instead, you can find Grandpa in his chair somewhere on the map, and the family must increase his powers by feeding him blood. Grandpa is able to detect victims, showing their aura to all killers, and this power grows stronger the more his thirst is sated.
Since there’s so much work to do whichever side you play on, teamwork becomes more essential than ever, another benefit of having a strong variety of characters in each game. Both teams have a range of abilities and perks at their disposal, which encourage teamwork. As the Cook, you can locate victims with your excellent hearing, but you aren’t very quick, nor can you do a lot of damage if you do catch up. Being able to tell Johnny or Hitchhiker where a survivor is hiding becomes invaluable, then. As a victim, communicating where a family member is could reveal crucial information about a clear exit, or you might want to tell your teammates that you’re about to open the pressure valve.
While still a positive, this is arguably also the biggest downside of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Thanks to the variety of items and methods of escape, as well as the various family perks, both teams benefit massively from good comms and it can be a little rough for the solo player. If you’re anything like me and are a little shy when it comes to donning the headset and jumping into the chat, you might find it slightly harder to escape the family as a victim. Similarly, having three family members naturally means your chances of success often hinge on communicating what (or rather who) you can see and where you are. That said, it can be done, as notifications regularly pop up to let you know when an exit opens up or when someone has escaped the basement. It’s certainly worth having that push-to-talk button at the ready though, just in case.
In my time with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre so far, no two games have been the same, and this is the TLDR of this review – for a match-based multiplayer game, the replayability here is like no other. If you aren’t sure what keeps players coming back to DBD time and again, you’ll find a more varied and immersive experience in TCM. My biggest concern might be how that longevity is matched by new characters and maps given the game’s sole IP, but Gun has reassured us that setting it outside of the events of the movie gives the team room to keep adding to the Texas Chain Saw Massacre canon for the foreseeable future. If you want to get a head start on your competition as you go into your next The Texas Chain Saw Massacre match, take a look at our beginner’s tips for getting started in the challenging game.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre review
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a killer game for fans of the asymmetrical horror genre, thanks to its beautiful maps, varied gameplay, and unique 4v3 balance. Faithful to the 1974 movie, this one is a pleasure for horror fans, but whether it can stand the test of time like the film itself remains to be seen.