I do like a horror film, it has to be said, and one of mine and my father’s guilty pleasures years back was to watch these films together. Dawn of the Dead, The Thing, we watched them all, but for some reason we never got around to watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
To this day I have never watched it, so I am obviously the right person to review the video game, right?
Coming from Sumo Nottingham and Gun Interactive, based on the iconic 1974 film of the same name, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is described as an asymmetrical survival game, much like the other famous game in the genre, Dead by Daylight. So, can we have a bit of fun with this game? I saddled up my inner hillbilly and dived on in.
The story of the game follows that of the movie, more or less. A student named Maria Flores disappeared, and while her car was found with no sign of foul play, her friends decided to go and look for her. Their bad luck was to run into the family that took her, called the Slaughter family; they were captured and brutalised before being locked up in the basement. This is where the game opens – we have to take the part of either one of the Slaughter family, or one of the victims. Depending on that choice, it’s a case of trying to stop the victims escaping, or attempting to get the hell out of Dodge. And that is pretty much it – either escape or prevent the escape.
Presentation wise, the game has the feel of the 1970’s about it, with there being a great deal of gore and gratuitous violence to be seen. The Slaughter house is huge and sprawling, and it takes a good few games to begin to get your bearings. The interior of the house is a maze of doors, locks, and hidey holes, whilst the exterior is just as confusing.
The characters are well realised too, with the iconic Leatherface being instantly recognisable. The victims all seem fairly generic (remember, I’ve never seen the film so have nothing to compare them with) but they are well drawn and animated. One thing that is conveyed very well by the graphics is the whole atmosphere – oppressive and scary as a victim, but like a playground as a member of the family.
Sound is bang on as well, with the chainsaw revving and the victims screaming as their flesh is ripped. Indeed, noise is one of the things that will play a huge part in the game to come. All in all, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre looks and feels very impressive. Each member of the family is introduced with a kind of video tutorial, showcasing their powers, and this is a nice way to get to grips with the characters.
Now, how about gameplay, how does the game actually work? Well, it all depends on which side you choose to play. Starting with the Family, and there are a few members of the Slaughter clan to choose from; each character has not only their own strengths and weaknesses, but they all have their own skill tree to unlock to help you win.
The characters are Leatherface and his chainsaw; The Cook, who has the sharpest hearing to hunt down victims; or the Hitchhiker, who can set traps and also follow the victims through their little escape routes.There’s also Sissy, a female character who can use plants to make poisons to affect the victims, and even to contaminate items around the map, while Johnny has the ability to track fresh victim footprints, following them around the map. The final family member is Grandpa, who has to be fed blood – it’s then when he can sense the victims wherever they are on the map, highlighting them for the other family members.And from there, all you have to do is find and execute the victims. Simples, yeah?
The victims have a much harder time of things, given that they are in a very poor way to start with. Each begins hung up in the cellar, and must first break free to begin their escape. Even at this stage, it is possible to make too much noise and attract attention, so you need to be careful. We’ve got Connie, whose special ability is to unlock a door faster, but at the cost of her awareness warning when the family draw near. Sonny is in play too, running heightened senses and can hear people around him and track them.There is also Julie, who has an ability called Unlimited Escape, which reduces her stamina drain while sprinting, and Leland, who can shoulder charge the members of the family and stun them, allowing him to escape a deadly situation. Lastly, we have Ana. Ana is an interesting one as she has an ability that stops her from taking as much damage as usual, allowing her to run or even jump out of windows to escape, all without getting too injured.
So, with the cast introduced, it is time to look at the gameplay itself. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is asymmetrical in the way that the teams are uneven, with three family members taking on four victims. It’s here where the scene is set.
As a victim, stealth is your very best friend, as any noise that is made, be it a slamming door or even knocking into a bunch of noisy chickens, will attract the wrong kind of attention. Sneaking around, looking for tools and even health items to keep yourself alive, the victims have to find a door and basically get off the property in order to escape. There are a number of ways to do so, but you can be sure none are as simple as just strolling out the front door. Most require you to explore and find items like fuses or valve handles in order to open the doors. Oh, and just to make things a bit trickier, time is not not on our side as a victim, as we lose health gradually. As that drops, we leave a blood trail behind that can be tracked. So get out, fast, quiet and careful!
By comparison, the Family characters have it a lot easier, just finding the victims, wherever they hide, and slaughtering them in a variety of nasty ways.
The use of abilities at the right time is crucial to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and every character has a skill tree of their very own, allowing you to level your favourites up and get new skills that may make it a bit easier for you to survive/kill. I found it much easier being a family member than a victim, I don’t know if that says anything about me or not, but it is very hard to win as a victim, at least when I’m controlling them.
Learning the maps is vital, for both teams, and while knowing where the doors are is a good start, the victims do have to find the items they need, which are in different places every game. I have enjoyed my time with the game, both sneaking through the undergrowth and running around with a chainsaw, but the take away part is that of the atmosphere that the game creates. And whilst The Texas Chain Saw Massacre needs the power of the online world in order to work – seven people to start a match – there has been no trouble finding a full match. The population is very healthy.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre more than the comparable Dead by Daylight. The dynamic feels different, with three Family members working together to chase the victims. However, whichever way you play, you’ll find that everything works better still with a bit of communication – and it feels like most folk are happy to play mute.
Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is well worth a look. I mean, what have you got to lose? Except possibly your life?