Windows Central Verdict
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre presents a distinctive virtual house of nightmares unlike any of its asymmetrical contemporaries. Every match feels like a bite-sized, three-act horror flick packed with gripping tension, genuine scares, and gratuitous murder. Technical problems and limited content variety put a damper on the overall package, but there’s ample twisted fun to have with friends and foes in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Outstanding match pacing that captures the essence of a great horror movie
Beautifully crafted maps that offer thoughtful gameplay dynamics
Robust skill trees and progression for all characters
Powerfully effective soundtrack and sound design
Technical performance on PC leaves something to be desired
No AI or training modes for new players
High-level play can feel notably one-sided
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Fans of asymmetrical horror multiplayer titles are feasting right now. From recent releases like Evil Dead: The Game and Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed to established juggernauts like Dead by Daylight, the iconic subgenre is more in demand than ever. After partnering with developer IllFonic to publish Friday the 13th: The Game, Gun Interactive has reentered the asymmetrical horror multiplayer arena with the upcoming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
As a massive fan of the subgenre and the legendary film franchise, I’ve been incredibly eager to see what Gun Interactive and Sumo Digital can deliver based on the gruesome source material. I got my first taste of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre last October. I walked away enthusiastic about the game’s potential. Almost a year later, the final release is here. I’ve spent the last week murdering and getting murdered in an array of deceptively gorgeous Texas locales.
After sharing the bloody sandbox with fresh and seasoned players alike, I found The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to be a fascinating asymmetrical horror game dripping with personality and cleverly calculated gameplay dynamics. However, the onboarding for new players and the general pool of content available at launch is severely lacking, which has me concerned about the retention of casual audiences. Thankfully, despite limited modes and technical issues, horror fans will undoubtedly savor the juicy morsels of twisted fun in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible thanks to a PC and Xbox review codes provided by Gun Interactive. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – The Pros
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Gun Interactive
Genre: Multiplayer horror
Playtime: 15+ hours
Release date: August 18, 2023
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Windows PC
Reviewed on: PC and Xbox Series X
The highest praise I can offer The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is that it effectively and convincingly supplies the quintessential three-act structure of fabled horror films in a digestible video game format. Playing as a victim potently provides a familiar sense of tension as you navigate the limb-strewn environments in this seven-player horror title.
Each match starts with four unfortunate souls captured and bound by cannibalistic family members. The victims must desperately search for tools, makeshift weapons, and escape routes. Meanwhile, three players act as Leatherface and 'The Family' to hunt down and execute the would-be escapees.
While there are obvious differences between stages in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, every match focuses on three primary locations; the basement starting point, the main level (typically a house or similar large building), and the perimeter, which contains the exit points for victims. The ebb and flow of hope, despair, and sacrifice in this multiplayer offering relinquishes outstanding pacing and heaps of memorable moments.
In standard horror movie fashion, sometimes the only play as a victim is to heroically sacrifice yourself to Leatherface so your friends and loved ones have a chance to flee. On the flip side, players can also enact their morbid cannibal fantasies and coordinate vicious executions that involve jugular mutilation as characters like The Cook, Sissy, and Leatherface. Even if you're eliminated early in the match, witnessing these film-worthy moments unfold is endlessly satisfying.
Gorgeous and gruesome environments
Another praiseworthy aspect of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is its stunning, meticulously crafted maps. Vividly ripped straight from the infamous 70s film, locations like the Gas Station, Slaughterhouse, and Family House are all intricately designed to deliver unique and engaging gameplay experiences. Map awareness is fundamental to your survival as a victim and essential in stopping survivors from escaping the property as The Family. Day and Night variations present worthwhile atmosphere changes to the stages as well.
Playing on the Family House map during the day perfectly represents the elegant gameplay dynamics in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The basement is shrouded in darkness, and players are surrounded by the corpses of victims, unable to overcome the seemingly insurmountable terrors. However, if you can achieve the impossible and break free of the basement, golden rays of sunshine softly peak through the upstairs windows illuminating a sense of optimism. And finally, if you can outwit The Family and escape, you're treated to a gorgeous sea of glowing sunflowers.
Deep character progression
Like Dead by Daylight, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre features a dense series of skill trees with branching paths for every character. You can unlock new active and passive perks that fundamentally alter how you engage with the game. For example, Connie's active ability is Focus, which allows her to rapidly pick locks. This can be combined with a passive skill that highlights the location of lockpick boxes once Connie frees herself from her restraints at the start of the match. Experimenting with these possibilities provides worthwhile character progression.
To ensure even more gameplay variety, The Family members all possess notable pros and cons. Leatherface is a towering brute that can decimate victims with ease. He's also incredibly bulky, making it impossible to navigate crawlspaces and tight corridors. Sissy has a lower damage output because of her small blade but lays poison traps to inflict devastating pressure on victims. These character nuances combined with unlockable stat points keep matches from feeling overly repetitive.
Soundscape of horror
Convincing sound design and tense soundtracks are crucial components of immersive horror, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre passionately manifests these principles. From rooting around in bone piles to creeping across chicken feather-covered wood flooring, the game celebrates subtlety and makes every misstep a terrifying crescendo. The heavy, distorted soundtrack also sustains a constant feeling of apprehension. Again, much like the best horror films, you dread the moments when the haunting score escalates.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – The Cons
My time with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was spent on PC, and unfortunately, I was confronted by numerous graphical and technical problems during my play sessions. For the most part, in-game performance with DLSS 3 enabled ensured a respectable framerate, but FPS and resolution weren't the noteworthy issues I encountered in the game. Hitching when loading into matches, performing executions, and occasionally interacting with key items or traversable objects was frequent and frustrating.
Additionally, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre hosts an array of strange bugs. In the character select screen, I would have my character models replaced with a gigantic black bar or the same character repeatedly, regardless of who I chose. There were also instances of our squad members losing control of everything but the camera during matches and numerous game crashes. None of these problems were game-breaking, and they certainly didn't occur often enough to deter me from playing. There's potential for a pre-launch or day-one patch to address these problems, but it's something to be aware of with the PC version.
I had the opportunity to try out a handful of matches on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on Xbox Series X as well. My testing with this version wasn't as thorough due to review codes coming in much later for console, but the hitching and strange graphical bugs appeared to be less prevalent.
While The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does feature a dense collection of tutorial videos within the game, the onboarding experience could be better. There's no gameplay tutorial or modes with AI to ease players into the relatively involved core loop. Players are tasked with either studying a host of pre-recorded videos or relying on friends who already understand The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. For audiences comfortable with asymmetrical horror, this probably isn't a dealbreaker. However, I worry less studied players won't bother with the hurdles.
Ultimately, my most significant concerns with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are the balance of high-level play and the game's ability to keep the community engaged. From a player count perspective, asymmetrical multiplayer titles are inherently imbalanced, which introduces many gameplay balancing problems. Early matches are exhilarating because everyone is disoriented and struggling to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately, as our groups grew to understand the maps and mechanics better, things quickly became one-sided.
Skilled victims with impressive skill trees would rush to escape locations in a matter of minutes, leaving acclimating opponents without any recourse. Conversely, pro family trios would sprint toward the basement and murder victims before they even had a chance to explore their surroundings. In my experience, playing against teams at a similar skill range resulted in compelling and unpredictable matches, where The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is at its best. Time and the community will eventually shape the meta of this multiplayer horror game, and I'm interested to see where it lands three months out.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Should You Play?
Much like its infamous source material, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is unapologetic in its design philosophies. Gun Interactive and Sumo Digital set out to craft a video game that pays tribute to the legacy of one of the most beloved horror properties of all time. In many ways, that's precisely what they achieved. We're in the timeline where passionate teams are empowered to take creative risks and reimagine established game mechanics. That pursuit is one I'll always champion.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre poetically embodies a transformative moment in horror cinema through a modernized online multiplayer vessel. It might be a little rough around the edges in some regards and lack an extensive suite of game modes, but the core experience is undeniably Texas Chain Saw. I can't wait for more players to dive into the gorgeously detailed environments and get swallowed by the dense auditory walls of tension in this atmospheric horror title. Its day-one addition to Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass will also make its horrific package even more enticing.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is scheduled to launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS4, and PS5 on August 18, 2023.
Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.