Even though I’m a big slasher movie fan, I never really got into the burgeoning genre of games based on them, including Dead By Daylight, Friday the 13th, or Evil Dead. For whatever reason, the model didn’t really appeal to me, largely because I’m an old curmudgeon who doesn’t play that much online. With SUMO Digital’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, though, I found myself being won over very quickly.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the presentation, which gets all the little details from the original film just right. You can tell that the development team is intimately familiar with the nuances of the 1974 film that manage to worm their way under your skin. The opening narrative crawl (not sure if John Larroquette reprised his role here) and yellowish screen tinge immediately recall and make you feel as though you’re right in the film. Even the title and menu fonts are accurate, and those small details make you feel as though you’re ready to go toe to toe with Bubba.
As far as ‘asymmetric’ multiplayer games go, especially those of this genre, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a lot more symmetrical than most, especially Friday The 13th: The Game which features up to seven ‘victims’ being pursued by a single Jason. The approach in Chainsaw is that the sides are much more even – three Family members (Leatherface and two pals) against up to four survivors. The Family is far less powerful than Jason is as well, though they will absolutely wreck you if given the opportunity in a one-on-one confrontation.
Each member of the Sawyer family is faithfully rendered, and playing as, or against, them is both thrilling and genuinely a little terrifying. This is a game that could easily fall back on the ability to play as Leatherface, the family’s most (in)famous member, but there’s a lot of incentive via some unique special abilities to play as The Hitchhiker, Johnny, Cook, and the devious and deranged Sissy as well. While Big Bubba is a straight-ahead kind of cat, turning you into literal mincemeat with his faithful saw and barrelling through and destroying shortcuts, the other three are more crafty. Sissy can poison powerups and set traps that debilitate survivors if they fall into them, while Cook comes armed with padlocks to slap onto already-locked doors, requiring survivors to go through the lock-picking mechanic an additional time.
Then there’s Grandad, the family patriarch and the deadliest killer there ever was. The Family will need to keep this ghastly figure fed with blood from their victims or from pools around the environment. In return, Grandad tracks the survivors, making it much, much harder to hide when he’s at full strength. The introduction of this mechanic gives some capture-the-flag vibes to the proceedings, demanding that the Family coordinate to keep the blood coming to ol’ Gramps.
For their part, survivors have abilities of their own to elude their pursuers. Ana can neutralize Sissy’s poison, Leland has a shoulder tackle that can buy you a couple of seconds if you’re in a pinch, and Connie is adept and quick at lock-picking. There’s a definite thrill as you defuse a trap or skip just over the line to escape as Leatherface or one of his kin is right on your tail.
One thing – a critical thing – that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre achieves is the feeling of dread that feels plucked directly from the original film. When you’re hiding in the tall grass as Leatherface stalks around, revving the saw, and your controller vibrates just a little, it’s genuinely terrifying. I experienced something approaching panic when I was being pursued by two members of the Family and struggled to (and eventually succeeded in) unlocking a door. Not having played too many asymmetrical multiplayer games like this, I can’t say I’ve had those experiences before, and both took me back to the 1978 film in a very satisfying way.
I will say that a number of reviews of this game have brought up technical issues – clipping, glitching during multiplayer matches, and others – that I haven’t experienced myself. I would like a little more than the three maps on offer, even though each of them feels unique and layered. Once you’ve played a few games on each one, you’ll learn their nooks and crannies pretty quickly. Another criticism is the lack of a single-player campaign mode, which I’d agree is a bit of an oversight on the part of the developers. But new maps and maybe even a campaign can be added later via DLC, and what’s already included in this package has provided me with hours of fun, and perhaps has rekindled my interest in playing online. If you’re a fan of asymmetrical multiplayer games, stealth action titles, the Texas Chainsaw films, or all three, SUMO Digital’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has a lot to satiate your hunger. The question is if it’s got enough meat on its bones for a long-lasting experience.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Microsoft Windows from SUMO Digital and Gun Media. We reviewed the PS4 version.