by September 26, 2023 @ 11:23 am
Reviewed on Xbox Series S
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the most influential horror movies of all time. It’s a film that paved the way for the slasher genre — along with Psycho — and it was a groundbreaking example of guerrilla-style independent filmmaking. It’s a cherished classic among countless horror fans, so it only makes sense that it deserves a quality video game adaptation.
Developer Sumo Digital and publisher Gun Media (who was also behind Friday the 13th: The Game) are clearly fans of Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s exploitation horror masterpiece. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a lovingly crafted tribute to the 1974 film. It’s gritty, it’s bloody (bloodier than the movie, actually), and it’s a great deal of fun to play. To say that this is one of the best online multiplayer horror games in recent memory would definitely be accurate.
The Saw Is Family
Taking cues from games like Dead by Daylight and last year’s Evil Dead: The Game, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a player-versus-player horror game. What separates this game from those titles, though, is that it’s not one player as the killer hunting down multiple survivors, but rather three players as killers versus four players as victims.
If you’re the aggressor, your team consists of Leatherface and two of his family members. You’ve got Cook, Hitchhiker, Sissy, and Johnny. If you’ve watched the first TCM movie, you’ll remember Cook and Hitchhiker, but Sissy and Johnny are newcomers to the gang. That said, original co-screenwriter Kim Henkel gave some input when these characters were created, so there’s some old school Texas Chain Saw DNA there.
As the killers, or family as they’re referred to in the game, you’ll hunt down four victims. Each killer has strengths and weaknesses. Some are stronger with less stamina, so they make great attackers. Others are pretty quick, which makes them great for chasing victims. You can also set traps and lock doors to make things extra difficult for those pesky victims. Then you’ve got the thinner characters like Hitchhiker and Sissy, which can fit in smaller spaces that normally only victims would be able to use to get away from the family.
You’ll gain experience for everything you do. This can be used in the metagame to level up your family members and grant them special perks like increased damage. It’s a nice touch, and it adds a bit of progression to the game. Not to mention, it lets you customize the killers to fit your playstyle.
Grandpa is another family member, though he’s not playable. Instead, the 124-year-old elder sits on a chair waiting for Leatherface and the rest of his kin to feed him blood. The more blood you feed Grandpa, the more he’ll level up, which grants the family certain advantages, including temporarily seeing any moving victims. Once Grandpa reaches level five, there’s nowhere for the victims to hide as they’ll be fully visible. Thankfully, if you’re playing as a victim, you should know that leveling up Grandpa takes a while, so the family won’t be able to exploit their way to victory.
You Like Head Cheese?
Set in 1973, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, for all intents and purposes, a prequel of sorts to the film set just before the events that Sally Hardesty and her friends experienced. As such, the game follows a different set of survivors, though aesthetically, they look like they came right out of the ‘70s, which is pretty cool.
If you’ve played titles like Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead by Daylight, you know the drill here: You basically have to figure out a way to escape death at the hands of gruesome cannibalistic killers. Where Dead by Daylight very explicitly requires you to power on multiple generators to escape, though, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre offers you a few different options for escaping. You’ll have to shut off electrified traps, lockpick gates, and use pressure valves to open certain doors. Things can get intense, but playing as a victim is so much fun.
While I’d still give the edge to Dead by Daylight in terms of polish, I love how The Texas Chain Saw Massacre creates truly horrific scenarios for its victim players. These types of multiplayer horror games are at their best when they make you feel like you’re actually in a horror movie, and that’s exactly what Chain Saw does here. You’ll find yourself sweaty-palmed and holding your breath while trying to make as little noise as possible as you lockpick an underground gate to escape Leatherface’s lair.
You’d think that putting four victims up against three family members would massively tip the scales in the killers’ favor, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is actually nicely balanced. As a victim, you’ve got a life bar that enemies have to deplete to actually kill you. You can fight back, stun enemies, and heal, so you’re not just fighting an uphill battle at all times. You’ll let out a sigh of relief after wrestling away a killer, running and hiding somewhere, and seeing as they run past you, completely oblivious as to your whereabouts.
Just like the family members, you’ll also earn XP when you play as the victims. This can be used to increase your stamina, health, and strength. You can also upgrade your lockpicking, stealth, and other attributes to give you a better fighting chance against Leatherface and the rest of the family.
After Almost Five Decades… the Buzz Is Back
Graphically, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre looks about as good as other similar horror games. And stylistically, it’s right in line with Hooper and Henkel’s movie, which will provide folks who loved that film with plenty of nostalgic fan service. This game is definitely less about wowing players with super technical visuals and more about recreating setpieces that look like they were pulled from the movie it’s based on.
The sounds of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are loud and terrifying, as well as ambient and unsettling. While the sound design isn’t as creepy as what was accomplished in Evil Dead: The Game, it’s still really good. Voice acting is top-notch across the board — kudos to Edwin Neal for reprising his role as Hitchhiker and providing voice work for the deranged character, by the way — and there are all kinds of slashy, splattery sound effects, too. And that chainsaw revving is just divine… in a morbid sort of way.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre succeeds because not only is it a wonderfully faithful homage — it’s also incredibly entertaining to play and captures the spirit of both horror games and horror movies. It’s a tight and polished experience, and it’ll sink its hooks deep into you — kind of like if Leatherface grabbed you, picked you up, and tossed you onto a big ol’ meathook. Either way, this is easily the best online multilplayer horror game since Dead by Daylight, and it’s a proper tribute to one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
Score: 9 out of 10
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