If there was ever a time to elevate the radiance of the ever-fruitful world of asymmetrical horror, it’d be right now—during a time where the likes of Dead by Daylight, Friday the 13th, and Evil Dead: The Game all hold oversized bargaining chips that single-handedly dethrone just about every other online multiplayer subsidiary on the network. True to their word, developer Sumo Digital finally cashed in on the celebrated blueprint and brought old Leatherface to his rightful place—atop a bloodied and bruised throne furnished by the foundations of the cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise. And boy, what an entrance that was.
Of course, like a lot of ongoing asymmetrical horror games that rely on seasonal events and patches to keep their framework intact, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is sure to receive a number of add-ons and other nifty upgrades as time marches forward. Until then, I can only really comment on what’s already alive and kicking, which just so happens to be a vigorously tough multiplayer experience that packs an equal amount of bite as it does bark. No complaints there, all things considered.
So, having spent a solid year of waiting to taste the blood of the iconic basement chambers and finally having the opportunity to do so, what can I say about the faithful video game adaptation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Well, here’s how I got on with the Sawyer family, and not to mention the many, many survivors that fleshed out the basement wards over my countless stints in the family’s infamous grasp.
Welcome Back, Meatbag
Before we go diving into the specifics, let’s go ahead and break The Texas Chain Saw Massacre down into tiny pieces. What is it, and how does it work? Well, to give you a clearer idea of how it operates, it’s best to put it up on a pedestal alongside Dead by Daylight. Fact is, its structure is more or less the same, as it comprises a series of episodic tales in which two sides fight for completely different goals and results. There are the survivors, who are tasked with escaping a basement and locating a secure exit point, and there are the killers, who are made to impede their progress and ultimately slaughter every last survivor before they follow up on their escape plans. Nothing particularly new there, then.
What sets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre apart from Dead by Daylight is the killer-to-survivor ratio; there are three killers, and only four survivors. At first glance, anyone would think that this was a recipe for disaster — and they’d be right in thinking that, too, as there’s definitely an immediate advantage for those playing on the same field as the villains. It doesn’t help, either, that the killers bear abilities that can single-handedly butcher a survivor in a heartbeat. So, as far as a balanced playing field goes — Texas Chain Saw Massacre doesn’t necessarily have one. On the contrary, it’s incredibly lopsided, and thus a real struggle for those looking to dab their feet in the latest fruits of asymmetrical horror. And yet, in spite of everything, and knowing that my odds as a survivor were next to non-existent, I still felt the urge to press on.
You’ll Never Escape
Each round in Texas Chain Saw Massacre begins within a starter area—a basement, being the most common one, in which four survivors must collectively work together to unlock doors and search for the safest exit. Not that the survivors are given a great deal of time to make headway on their quest, mind you, what with the killers having the ability to barge into your “safe zone” after just twenty-plus seconds of freeing yourself from the noose. No issue, though — so long as you’re able to remain quiet and collected.
The ultimate goal in each match (as a survivor, at least) is to locate an escape route. Each character on the roster comes tied to a unique ability, which can either make your time in the basement and other locations slightly easier, or just a little less, shall we say, cumbersome. For example, one character has the power to pick locks faster than others, whereas another can decipher noises a lot quicker. Regardless of who you choose in each game, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the overall team, as most survivors are often out for themselves right from the get-go, anyway. And honestly, they have every reason to employ such a self-centered mindset, as safety in numbers doesn’t really mean a whole lot when it comes to fending off three unfairly overpowered villains. Not that this is an issue for the killers, of course.
But If You Do
Basements and other starter areas aside, the bulk of the experience tends to happen on the outside—in a manor, for example, that houses an abundance of crawl spaces, crates, and other conveniently placed areas that survivors can use to hide from their captors. If (and it’s a strong if) survivors can breach the first set of doors, then Texas Chain Saw Massacre winds up becoming all the more invigorating, and not to mention the adrenaline-fueled cat-and-mouse chase that Sumo Digital fought tooth and nail to conjure. What’s sad here is that, due to the game being overly biased towards the killers, not a whole lot of people will get the chance to see what lurks behind the other side of the basement, or even the exit doors, for that matter.
Flip the switch and cast an eye on the other side of the fence, however, and it’s easy to see why so many have praised Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the two, three days it’s been on the chopping block. Straight up, the most fun you’ll ever have in the latest venture is in the thrill of the hunt itself, and not, for example, the fear of losing for the umpteenth time. And don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to play both sides and shake up the algorithm every once in a while, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing more enthralling than actively searching and mindlessly butchering the poor folk of Slaughterhouse. Nuff’ said.
Which You Won’t
Playing as one of the killers is just a joy in itself, truly, as the sheer power that just one of them can bring to the table is enough to make even the most able bodied survivors quake in their bloodied boots. Sure enough, there’s Leatherface—a villain that, quite frankly, needs no introduction. And then there are four other sadistic drifters, all of whom possess undying qualities that can either make the odds appear questionably unstable, or downright ludicrous. Again, this makes playing the bad guy the preferred choice—and something that, in all honesty, 90% of frequent gamers will no doubt agree on.
There’s Grandpa, too—yet another unplayable villain that serves as the killers’ wild card during matches. His purpose is simple: detect noise, and with it, alert every other killer on the map of the survivor’s whereabouts. As if playing the survivor wasn’t tough enough already, eh? Of course, Sumo Digital had to go and throw that one in there as well — because why not?
There’s still a lot to unpack with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and definitely a lot more we’ll want to tap into as Sumo Digital continues to iron out the creases and patch up the framework. For what it’s worth, though, the game in its current state performs to an exceptionally high standard, with very few technical glitches to capsize a genuinely solid blueprint. Sure, it’s a little difficult in places, and not to mention borderline impossible for survivors to get their hopes up against such unforgiving odds, but it’s still stupidly entertaining all the same. The only thing I can really say is this: how long will it be before that endless losing streak finally pushes less experienced online gamers to the brink of permanent defeat?
As there are only three maps to romp through, and only ten playable characters on the roster to choose from, chances are we’ll be seeing another expansion for the base game at some point in 2024. Until then, I’ll just continue to do all in my power to keep my head above water — preferably away from the split blade of a Texan chainsaw and the monstrosity that wields it. I’m not getting my hopes up on that one, though. Thanks, Sumo Digital.
As for what comes next for the asymmetrical horror is still unclear, as Sumo Digital has yet to reveal its plans for the future of the newly appointed kingpin of online horror. Whatever the case may be, there’s still plenty to bite into for the time being — no pun intended. So, if you are after a faithful tribute to one of the most beloved horror classics in the history of cinema, then look no further — the Sawyer family will see you now.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Review (Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 & PC)
Easy to Taste, Difficult to Digest
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre delivers a fresh new coating to the unmatched world of asymmetrical horror by bringing one of the most beloved cult classics to the forefront of online gaming. Sure, it’s a little difficult to grasp, and questionably biased towards one particular faction — but it’s incredibly entertaining nonetheless. I died — a lot. That said, dying at the hands of my newest enemies for the umpteenth time never stopped me from coming back for another bite, so to speak.