It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does feel worthy of the name.
The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre film will always stand out in my mind as being iconic. Between the chainsaw-wielding cannibal named Leatherface, the overall grimy feeling of the setting and most of its characters, and just how scared people must have been watching it when it was released in theaters in 1974.
50 years after the film’s events took place, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre finally got a proper video game release that lets people see the insanity from a new perspective. The game is an asymmetrical horror title in a similar vein to games like Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th.
Each game match is set up in a 3 versus 4 scenario with players split into two teams. The killers team is known as the Family and the survivors team is known as the Victims. There are 3 maps (all of which have day and night variants) in total, and each one of them has multiple exits that the Victims can attempt to escape from.
All of the Victims start out each match tied up in the basement where they must find a way out as quickly as possible. Leatherface also always starts out in the basement with his trusty chainsaw and he must always be chosen by at least one player on the Family’s side.
He is the easiest of the Family to avoid since he can't squeeze through small passages like the Victims can. However, he can destroy some of these escape routes (and has a chainsaw), so don't assume he isn't a threat.
Victims only have a few items that they have to worry about during a match: unlock tools, bone shards, and health bottles. Unlock tools can be found in toolboxes and allow locked doors and padlocks to be picked and opened.
Bone shards are found in bone piles and help to silence chickens that are located in certain spots on each map that can make noise and attract Family members. They can be used to cut down bone chimes that make noise as well. The shards can even stop a Family member for a short duration with a good stealthy stab.
Health bottles heal wounds and come in handy when a Victim's health is getting dangerously low. If their health drops to nothing, they get one chance to recover. If they are caught during this state, they can be immediately executed.
Also, actions like looking through toolboxes can make noise if they are done with too much haste. There is a meter located on-screen during these actions that shows when a sound will be made if it reaches its peak.
If one of the Victims finds an unlock tool and picks the lock to one of the basement doors, a new threat is awakened: Grandpa. Grandpa is a stationary family member who can send out a sonar-style moan that can locate any of the Victims that are in motion. If they are located, this briefly shows all of the Family members where that Victim is via an outline around their character.
This always seemed to happen at the worst possible moments, but thankfully Victims can still continue working on unlocking doors and actions like that without being spotted.
Grandpa loves blood, and the Family members can feed him blood that they gather from either hitting or killing Victims, as well as from blood trays found around the map. This will make him level up and get stronger. Once he reaches level 5, he can find Victims with his moan regardless of their movement. The only way to bring his level back down is for a Victim to stab him with a bone shard. This will knock him down a level each time it is done.
The other Family members are The Hitchhiker, The Cook, Sissy, and Johnny. They all can cause trouble for the Victims in their own special ways.
The Hitchhiker was one of the killers I had the most issues with. He was fast, relentless, and could set traps made of bones or even squeeze through all of the tight spaces that the Victims could.
The Cook can listen closely to sounds around him and locate a Victim, revealing their location to the other family members. He can also put padlocks on a limited number of gates and doors, making escaping through these areas extra tough.
Sissy can throw poison gas at a Victim to slow them down. Even without the poison, she can still keep up a strong pursuit if they don't break her line of sight and hide quickly.
Johnny can track the footprints of a Victim and likes to cut up anyone he finds with his knife.
Thankfully the Victims aren’t helpless. They have special skills just like the Family members do.
Connie can pick a lock almost instantly. Leland can shoulder-bash a Family member and overall just be a total tank. Ana (who can also be a total tank) has the ability to have a short period where she takes significantly less damage, is immune to poison, and can take large falls like a champ.
Sonny can listen to sounds around him and track the movements of anything he hears, but the poor guy can be killed quickly if he gets caught. Last but not least, Julie can run for a brief period without making a sound.
Stealth is a huge portion of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and players who don’t adapt to that quickly are going to have a bad time. There were plenty of times that I was getting chased and I happened to break from a Family member’s sight and crouch in the tall grass or sunflowers.
Watching them run around endlessly in frustration trying to find me was satisfying because they would practically be running into me without knowing I was there.
Victims can also hide in places like freezers or lockers, but can only stay inside of them for so long before they start to lose it. Thankfully these also got me out of a pinch plenty of times while being chased.
After matches, both the Family and the Victims will gain experience. These add ability points that can be used to level up skill trees and also add attribute points.
Up to 3 abilities can be selected at once and each use during a match adds some experience to that ability and can level it up over time. Attribute points help strengthen areas where a character might be weak, like how stealthy they are or how many hits they can take before dying.
Special skills are also leveled up with uses, so it’s a great idea to be using those often. Being able to do character builds for both the Family and the Victims can add a good deal of depth to the game, and that’s a great thing.
This game's balance will be interesting to see in the coming months. Once both Family and Victim players really learn the game, high-level play should be wild. As it stands right now, it’s kind of a mixed bag.
While playing as a Victim, I had some matches where the Family members would camp the majority of the exits and place more pressure on us to outsmart them in order to escape. However, when the Family team had a good Cook player, there would usually be several hurdles to overcome in order to escape.
For example: having multiple gates to get through, each not only being locked, but also having a padlock on them. These can take a while to get through. On top of that, the final gate might be electrified, so another step would have to be done like unhooking a car battery or kicking a generator to stop the electrical current and escape.
Having to accomplish this while having a Family member after you is unthinkable. They can kill most of the Victims rather quickly, so getting caught isn’t something you want to do. This can make playing against a really good Family team feel impossible for a lot of players.
Another issue I had while playing was having players drop out before a match would begin. Some would quit randomly or get upset because someone else was playing the character they wanted to use.
This made filling up teams often take much longer than it should have. A lot of the time everyone would have to wait 2 minutes or more between matches because of either people dropping out or not readying up.
Another issue is that the game doesn't have a playable tutorial, it's only shown to the player in videos. Hopefully, this gets fixed in the future, it could help a lot of new players understand game mechanics before jumping into a match.
Playing with friends really helped elevate the fun and crossplay worked really well here (for the most part). Every 5 or so matches I would get an error about having "Invalid Credentials" and I would have to restart the game as a result.
Besides these gripes, the game really captures the essence of the Tobe Hooper film wonderfully. The basement was lined with all sorts of macabre imagery like body parts and skin strewn across tables and walls, and the "living" room had the iconic bone furniture straight from the film. Even the sunflowers in the front yard were there.
So, even though the gameplay loop can be a lot of fun, I worry about the longevity of this game's lifespan. With only three maps (that are all kind of similar) and the possibility of not getting much new content due to licensing issues between all of the other films in the franchise, the game might not be around for a long time. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Score - 7/10
Captures the essence of the original film wonderfully
Family and Victim characters have builds that can extend the gameplay variety
Playing with friends is a lot of fun
Escapes can be intense and exciting
Getting to stab Grandpa
Map variety is lacking
No playable tutorials might turn some players away
Steep learning curve
Long waits can occur between matches
A few technical hiccups
The reviewer played on PC.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is now available on PC, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S