One of the most iconic horror films of all time – and for good reason – Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an unflinching and harrowing viewing experience that has lost none of its power to instill raw terror. In the hands of developer Sumo Nottingham and publisher Gun Interactive, this terror makes its way to games consoles and the result is one of the finest horror games of all time.
The asymmetric multiplayer game plays similarly to others in its subgenre; echoes of Dead by Daylight are certainly felt, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does more than enough to establish its own chilling identity. Gameplay is, on the surface, simple – 4 players control survivors, and 3 control killers. What follows is essentially a cat-and-mouse chase as the survivors desperately try to evade the killers and escape. I won’t go into gameplay too deeply, because there will surely be plenty of more experienced gaming writers covering this in depth on other blogs. What I want to look at is the game’s cinematic qualities, and how it pays tribute to the original film. But it should be noted that there is a lot to get your head around in the gameplay, and a previous knowledge of these types of games is certainly helpful. While tutorials are thorough, the UI can be intimidating at first and the wealth of skill trees, upgrades, and the like can certainly appear vast at first glance. But you know what they say – quick to learn, a lifetime to master.
Here is a game that has been built from the ground up with a clear reverence for Hooper’s film, with the most authentic Texas Chain Saw experience imaginable. Every single decision has clearly been made in such a way so as to pay homage and respect to the film, allowing players to transport back to 1974 and into the gritty, harrowing world of the Sawyer family. Surviving cast member Edwin Neal even reprises his role as the psychotic Hitchhiker, here a playable character. What could have been a quick cash grab piggybacking off the success of other asymmetric horror games has evidently been lovingly crafted, with an absolutely stunning attention to detail. Much like publisher Gun’s previous title, the critically divisive Friday the 13th: The Game, the game often feels like a love letter to its subject as much as an adaptation. And that is certainly refreshing in this world of cash grabs.
From the chilling sound design (including Ross Tregenza’s eerie score) to the visuals – a film grain filter certainly lays on the authenticity – this is a game that is certainly uncomfortable to play, in the best possible way. Never has a horror game felt this immersive when playing as a survivor, capturing the unflinchingly chaotic energy of the film’s killer family and the terrifying experience of being trapped in their home. That raw terror found in 1970s slashers, and arguably perfected in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, has never been so well captured. To be dropped into it is something never experienced in gaming before.
Playing the killers is a different beast to survivors, with more of a focus on strategy and teamwork than expected – collaborating on traps is certainly key to victory. This 4v3 gameplay structure is possibly one of the game’s biggest USPs, with the majority of the game’s rivals like Dead by Daylight working with only one killer. Trying to evade 3 is harrowing, and adapting The Texas Chain Saw Massacre couldn’t work any other way. The film certainly differentiates itself from a lot of its contemporaries by focusing on a whole family of killers rather than a lone masked slasher, so for the game to capture this in this way is thrilling – and ramps up the horror for sure. When you’ve evaded 2 killers and think you’re home free and then hear the close brrrr of Leatherface’s chainsaw revving up, oooof. There’s nothing else like it. Chilling every single time.
Comparisons to Dead by Daylight are only natural, and it remains to be seen whether The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has the same longevity. Other attempts to piggyback of DbD before this – the aforementioned Friday the 13th and the recent Evil Dead – have faded into obscurity with dwindling player bases. But Texas Chain Saw feels different. There is a certain rawness here and a unique experience of terror that is hard to put one’s finger on, but inspires confidence that it will last. Even now, with only three playable maps and a simple gameplay loop, the thrilling feeling of unease has not dissipated on repeat matches. And while yes, there is a Texas Chain Saw DLC for Dead by Daylight, revisiting that just reminds you that it is such a simplistic alteration to their standard package – here is a game built from the ground up to live and breathe Texas Chain Saw.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my favourite films of all time, and so naturally I approached this game with a certain level of trepidation. I’m delighted, and relieved, to say that not one of my fears was met. This is an absolutely stunning piece of work that looks and feels true to the film while carving its own bloody identity as a must-play game.
With thanks to Evolve PR for providing me with a digital copy for review purposes.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE
Take on the role of one of the notorious Slaughter family, or their victims, in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a third-person asymmetrical horror experience based on the groundbreaking and iconic 1974 horror film. As a victim you must use your wits and stealth to stay out of the Family’s reach and find the tools you need to lead to your eventual freedom. Slaughter Family players must seek out, track down, and stop their guests from escaping. Players of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre can finally find out if they have what it takes to survive.
Experience the mad and macabre for yourself in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.