In a constant search for quality multiplayer experiences, I found that few things hook me as much as asymmetrical titles. There is a level of unpredictability that makes them special—all they need is the right set of tools for the players to create unique, intense experiences with each other. Somewhere in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre these tools exist, they are just currently really tricky to get a hold of.
Though several horror franchises have attempted to make their own game in this style, few of them are even around right now. There are several reasons for their lack of longevity, be that limited material or limited gameplay, but each new one, I thought, showed more promise than the last, adding complexity and fresh ideas. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from Sumo Digital looked to me like the one to finally figure itself out, despite a relatively contained world the movies have created.
In the interviews, the creators explained how they wanted to get every detail down, from the right birds chirping to the type of flowers that would grow in the part of Texas the movie took place in. There is also the idea to use the other members of the Sawyer family rather than just Leatherface to create a 3v4 game, where the big guy and two supporting killers would hunt down the survivors. This set of principles made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre stand out from its contemporaries. Right off the bat, it feels like it truly is the culmination, or rather the logical extreme of previous games’ efforts. Booting up The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I naturally headed to the tutorial section. I always like being somewhat prepared before jumping straight into a game as complicated as an asymmetrical multiplayer title. Let it be known, I spent a total of an hour and a half in-game watching the tutorials.
Now, admittedly, this is with a small break or two, but most of it was just watching the tutorial videos or rewatching them because I missed something and they can only be started over again, not rewound. The issue here is ultimately not the complexity of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it is the presentation. They have a lot of repeating information and the sheer length of them is confusing. There is also no reason for them to not just be a text one can open from the menu, maybe with a looped video on the side, as they are not voiced aside from one for each side: the family and the victims. If the player has to read them regardless, why do they have to do so at a set, painfully slow pace? It is a rough first impression, and it was pretty clear in my first few hours that people simply refused to go through all that.
In order not to replicate the same experience, I will not go over the mechanics much. Ultimately what someone looking to buy The Texas Chain Saw Massacre should know is that the killers want to kill, and the victims want to escape through one of the four escape routes. It is a treat for the fans of the franchise, but like other titles of its kind, it is not much of a horror game, more so a playground for people to create experiences in. There are a lot of ways a round can play out. Also, likely a lot of time will be required to get into the more fun lobbies.
The best way I can explain the initial few games are chaotic, but not in a good way. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has a few mechanics you need to watch out for, such as some doors having locks on them, If a player does not know how to open said locks, or that a killer they can set them back up after closing the door, the overall experience for everyone involved will suffer. First impressions are so important, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fumbles them hard.
What did not help was the amount of time the game did not start, something I chalk up to playing it before it was released with a relatively small player base. It is, however, kind of unfortunate that in my 19 hours of playing, I only managed to go through 31 games, and a few of those ended prematurely, be that due to disconnections, or several server failures and crashes, I experienced.
And that is a possible issue for players who wish to remain in a round. In games where the players are split 1 vs many, if one person disconnects it is usually not that big of a deal; a game either ends or the others can carry on in hopes of winning. Here, I noticed that if one player is gone, it often totally ruins the intricate experience The Texas Chain Saw Massacre provides.
But it is not just about disconnecting, this kind of game works best when everyone is aware of the rules, and if someone fumbles their role it leads to rather unsatisfying experiences. Each character has their unique abilities, and if one victim does not protect the other, or if one killer does not remove certain obstacles or chase people others cannot, the whole thing falls flat on its face.
Aside from not knowing the rules, however, many players will simply get lost in the labyrinthian basements of the Sawyer properties. Though there are several locations, some more open than others on the outside, one thing remains the same: the underground is a confusing mess. Killers will often run into complete dead ends at first, and survivors will struggle to find workbenches where tools used to open doors can be found.
And it’s less about the tension of not knowing where someone is or the sense of struggle, it is more so about the feeling of letting your team down or your game ending way too soon. These maps are tiny, and though the basement is convoluted, if the Leatherface player (who is the only killer to spawn down there) knows what he is doing, he can gun straight for the closest survivor spots and kill someone in a second. This ends the game of a player in about 30 seconds. I know this because there is an achievement, which I received. Loading into a game only to die in 30 seconds is not a great feeling, to say the least, and it does not feel all that great for the killer either. The victims need to spawn further from Leatherface, or they simply need more time to get going.
Once a few players get out of the basement, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre becomes a lot more enjoyable. It widens the search area for killers and widens the possibilities and adds new challenges for survivors. I would say that this experience is quite enjoyable, but I do want to stress that sacrificing one or two players’ experiences just so that the others can have a good time is an issue that will need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Past that point, and when everything clicks, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is actually enjoyable. It feels like the care shines most when above ground, and there are many impressive things about the game that allows for some incredibly memorable experiences. Perhaps the MVP of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is grass. Yes, grass. The tall greenery litters the premises and allows the players to very effectively hide when crouched. This allows for some excellent jukes and some beautifully tense moments of the three killers walking around trying to find you until some other noise lures them away. I cannot say I have ever been as impressed with grass (or more specifically grass’ ability to hide something) as I have in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It is an actual work of art.
The game is generally quite pretty, and though you do not have much time to stand still and appreciate it, they nailed the feel of an offroad Texas location. Furthermore, the models look great and the lighting and shadows enhance every aspect of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, to the point where turning lamps on or off can be the most crucial aspect of staying hidden. The game also ran absolutely perfectly, aside from one or two crashes in the beta build I had no hitches with the performance.
The multiple escape routes add a lot to the flow of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and each round and character feels unique. I would find myself in wholly new situations on both sides during each game. I have seen my friend pull off some very fun sequences using survivor abilities, and as a killer, I had some fantastic reads to slash someone just before they managed to open the escape gate.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is simply good once it gets going, but the time required to get there is likely to be a turnoff for so many people that it will be hard for the game to break out into the mainstream. I suppose it is up to the people dedicated enough to spread the word and successfully explain the rules to others, but if you have ever played a board game, you know how hard that can be.
There are also a few things complicating the experience between the games which would likely take the longest to explain. There is an EXP system and a skill tree for each character, leveling up their abilities and providing perks that may shape a player’s strategy. Some are strong, some practically meaningless. For some reason, there are also attributes, the points for which fill up most of the skill tree. A few things make me groan as hard as adding +3 to a stat, but they can be a noticeable buff. The problem with the system as it stands is that after player level 10 I simply stopped getting points from most of my games. It takes way too long to gain EXP to level up everyone. Thankfully, the spent points can be refunded, but you do lose out on all the acquired perks in the process. Nothing is ever perfect with systems like these, which is why I rarely like them.
I can see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fostering a dedicated community, but it is hard for me to imagine how much can be added to keep things fresh over the years and not disturb an already careful balance achieved with the current mechanics. If that does happen, or if the barriers of entry can be lowered, everything else is already in place. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre should be a good time for anyone curious enough to put in the work. The game just needs to meet the players halfway sometimes.
Mateusz reviewed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on PC with a review code. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.