Texas Chain Saw Massacre Review – One Sided Horror
It’s no secret that I am a huge Texas Chain Saw Massacre fan. More specifically, the 1974 classic from Tobe Hooper. So when the game got announced by Friday the 13th publisher Gun Media, I was beyond ecstatic, as they knew they had something special with the Friday the 13th game and transformed it into an enjoyable experience. The developer Sumo Digital has previously released multiplayer games like Hood: Outlaws and Legends and Team Sonic Racing. So I figured, worst case, it would be a mediocre asymmetrical multiplayer game.
When I finally started trying to jump into it last week, I was not prepared for what was in store when I launched Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
It’s clear from the jump that the team at Sumo Digital are big fans of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There is a lot of thought and love put into every iota of the game, from the sounds of the chainsaw reeving through the basement or every last ounce of detail put into the house.
There is no real story thread to Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it takes place before the original movie, and you are either a group of victims trying to escape or playing as the family trying to finish what you started. This would usually bug me a little as there is nothing pulling me forward. But mixed with the gameplay of TCM, it works.
There is a big difference in playing between the two, and unlike some other asymmetrical multiplayer games, the teams are not balanced. This would usually lead to a lot of frustration, and generally, it does, especially as you are getting a handle on playing the victims. But this creates a learning experience that puts you in the shoes of the victims straight or of a horror movie.
The only goal of the Victims is to survive and escape. You will always start tied up in the basement with another victim. After a mini-game of getting yourself down, the terror really starts because someone else starts in the basement Leatherface.
From there, the victims will have to scour the basement for first aid, bone shards, and unlocking tools. The tools are easily the most sought-after item, and thankfully they are all over the place. Once you find one, a minigame starts where you have to search a toolbox without alerting the family to your presence. This is where my biggest issue is with the game. These minigames are too frequent, take a bit too long, and would be made a lot more effective if the player was able to spin the camera around while doing the game to check their surroundings.
Once you gather the tools, the options open up, and you have the tools to escape the basement. After doing so, you need to find your escape from the property. Each exit has a different requirement, either finding the valve to slowly open a pressure gate, turning the power off to be able to run off the property, opening the gate, and lastly, finding the escape tunnel in the basement. Outside of escape, the big way victims can help themselves in Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the ability to stun the family. This is a great way to buy yourself a few seconds to escape or hide.
On the flip side, the family gameplay is a lot more simple. Your goal is to kill the victims. Where the victims are made up whole cloth for the game, the family is made up of three central characters and two created for the game. There is the Cook, who is the father of the family, the hitchhiker, who is the brother and the character the group from the film picks up at the start of their journey and finally, Leatherface, who needs no introduction. Then there are the two original characters made by Sumo, Sissy, and Johnny. While not much is known about these two, I hope they find a way to expand on their lore because Sissy specifically is a fantastic addition to the game.
As you play as the family, you will collect blood, either from little trays littered around the map or from hurting and killing victims. With this, you can feed Grandpa. The more you feed Grandpa, the more he levels up, and the easier he makes it to track the survivors. When he hits a new level, he will make the victims outline if they are moving when he does a growl. This is terrifying as a victim as it means you want to be still as can be when the roar comes, even if it means potentially giving your position away.
But playing as the family is very straightforward. Murder the victims and trap the exits to make it harder to escape. There is a big advantage to playing as the family. They have a speed a ferocity to them that makes playing as a victim feel very one-sided. But this plays into feeling the horror of it all, as when you are playing as one of the Victims, you are playing a very effective horror game. There is nothing like running around the basement and hearing Leatherface’s chainsaw revving up.
Each character, both Family and Victim, has specialized skill sets and are better at one aspect of the game. This makes for an interesting strategy for selecting characters in the games lobby. There is also a level-up system that lets you build up characters’ abilities and skills, from getting attribute points to raising your toughness or endurance to adding completely new skills like the ability to see exit points for 30 seconds as you escape the basement as a victim.
The lobby system is a worrying issue. Since it is a 3v4 game, if all spots are not filled, you get pushed out to the main menu. During the review period, this was incredibly frustrating. There was never a surge of players, and it always took upwards of forty minutes to get into a match. With every five minutes being kicked back to the main menu, it was truly disheartening. This won’t be an issue during launch month, but it has me worried if Sumo can’t hold retention in the player base because it needs seven players instead of five, which makes it much harder to get into matches. Hopefully, holding off on this review meant I could try it over the launch weekend when things were much better. Having seen it with a low player count does instill me a little bit of worry if it doesn’t click with the player base during launch month. But Sumo has made a game that I can not get over how much it makes you feel like you are playing through a horror movie.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about Texas Chain Saw Massacre. On the one hand, it is a genuinely fun game to play with friends. Being the victim nails that horror feel but does have a lot of frustration while learning the game. Especially if you are against seasoned players. Leatherface is easily the star of the game and the most fun to play. There were a few minor visual glitches, but nothing game-breaking. It’s the matchmaking issues that will make or break it down from being a great time. But Texas Chain Saw Massacre is trying new things, and for that, it deserves praise.