We’ve had asymmetrical horror games based on Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead. Dead by Daylight has content packs for the likes of Scream, Halloween and a whole lot more. And now, we have a another multiplayer horror game based on Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s a strange one, given that it’s not the most popular horror franchise around. But you know what? It actually makes for an interesting multiplayer experience.
What sets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre apart from its peers is that the killer isn’t on their lonesome. Yes, the iconic Leatherface is the main foe that victims have to escape from here, but he’s also accompanied by two other members of his family. Players have the choice of the likes of the Hitchhiker, whose slender frame allows him to move through small gaps, and whose skilled at setting traps. Or there’s Sissy, who uses poison to cut down her foes. Needless to say, the four victims who begin each match trapped in a basement have their work cut out for them to escape.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a 4v3 asymmetrical multiplayer horror game, then, and you’ll actually need seven players to get a match going. That can be troublesome when some players are dead-set on being a particular victim or family member, even with crossplay enabled. You’ll frequently see players joining a lobby and then leaving if their preferred character is already taken, partly because they might have invested all of their skill points in them, giving them a boost.
If there aren’t seven players ready to start a match when the timer counts down, everyone gets booted back to the main menu which is a pain. Thankfully it doesn’t happen all that often right now, but as the player base starts to dwindle it might be more of an issue. We would say we wish there were bots to fill in the empty spots, but honestly, we don’t know how they’d really work with the flow of gameplay.
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As a victim, your goal here is to simply escape. You’ll always start in the basement of some sort, and to keep you on your toes from the outset, that’s where Leatherface starts, too. You need to sneak around, finding items that might be useful for your escape, such as a lockpick, before eventually making your way above ground. It’s here that your fight for survival truly begins. With each member of the family using their skills to hunt you down, you need to work even harder to move around undetected, finding a method of escape and enabling it.
The odds really do feel stacked against you, especially when you first start playing and don’t know your way around the game’s three maps. And there’s another thing to consider: the Slaughter family’s grandfather. All three members of the family hunting you down will accumulate blood as they slash and strike at the victims, and it can be found at resource points spread across each map, too. When fed to Grandpa, it increases the potency and frequency of his sonar-like ability, showing the location of each victim if they don’t keep still for a brief period. When at the height of his capabilities, there’s no hiding from Grandpa’s sonar either.
Still, it all makes for a seriously tense game whether you’re playing as a killer or a victim. In the basement, it’s genuinely terrifying hearing Leatherface’s chainsaw start up, its roar getting ever closer to you as you crouch in the darkness, hoping for him to pass you undetected. And above ground, the stakes are only raised thanks to the remainder of the family and their abilities, though they too can descend into the basement if they wish. Things are obviously less terrifying playing as a family member, but you’ll still be on tenterhooks anticipating the victims’ movements and trying to thwart their plans for escape.
There are some general frustrations with gameplay, though. Whether you’re playing as a victim or a killer, an abundance of contextual actions makes the game feel a bit messy at times. Effectively coming to a stop mid-chase as you initiate a move through a gap or other shortcut, your pursuer momentarily unable to take action, is awkward, for example. And as a victim, it’s not entirely fun trying to feel your way around a map when you have no idea where or how to escape. You also typically seem to get less experience playing as a victim than a killer.
Already there are signs that once players have learned every nook and cranny of a map, escaping becomes much less of an arduous task too. Even more so if certain perks are used, such as one that allows a lock to be picked almost instantly. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sumo Digital works to keep the game balanced going into the future. Players becoming familiar with maps must be something the development team has planned for, after all. Otherwise, an element of randomness would have been considered.
It’s safe to say that our time with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre so far has had its ups and downs. We’ve generally loved playing as a killer, using our various skills to hunt down and execute unfortunate victims. Playing as a victim, however, our feelings are more complicated. Getting slaughtered while having no idea where you should be going or what you should be doing isn’t particularly enjoyable, though thankfully things do pick up once you’ve learned the maps a little. The sometimes finicky contextual actions and troublesome matchmaking remain, though, and the latter is only likely to get worse. In any case, there’s lots of fun to be had here for multiplayer horror fans. We’re just intrigued to see how Sumo Digital and Gun Interactive plan to keep the experience balanced and interesting in the long-term.