Horror games based on horror movies have always had a rocky history. You think putting the player in the driver’s seat of the plot would let them feel more immersed, but with how the players feel more in control of their actions, it’s harder to put them in a position where they are scared for their lives since they feel like they’ll always have a way out. These movie horror games usually try to railroad the players on a set path that makes it feel less like a game and more like a haunted house ride. They keep getting focused more on making the players scared than providing a unique and fun gameplay style.
Now with Dead By Daylight coming out and showing how you can create a horror game with multiple players, many companies with horror monsters wanting to break into the game market are going “HEY! Let’s follow that example!” Some follow the example more faithfully than others, like Friday The 13th: The Game (which, fair warning, is set to go off store shelves this year with the servers falling next year), and others take the gameplay style into a new direction, like Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. Cutting in now is Texas Chainsaw Massacre and in its attempts to follow the Dead By Daylight style, it ends up creating a decent time, but not something that will outpace its inspiration and others that took notes from Dead By Daylight.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a game based on a movie that is loosely based on a story that was about a murderer in Texas that didn’t even use a chainsaw. A group of college students run out of gas while searching for a friend’s sister and stop for gas in Texas. They get lured into a trap by some friendly-looking locals and get locked in a house with Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding monster of a human, and his equally deranged family, who wants to kill them to use their blood to feed their grandfather to keep him alive. Now they’ll have to find a way out of this monster house and escape their clutches. Like in other games of this nature, it’s an online-only game with two teams, each representing the killers and the victims. It has Gun Media’s handprints on it, also publishing Friday The 13th: The Game alongside this.
The first team is the family. They consist of Leatherface, the iconic chainsaw-wielding maniac who is needed for each match, Cook, a killer with a sensitive ear that can hear others and lock doors, the Hitchhiker, capable of placing traps down on the ground to trap victims, Sissy (yes that’s her actual name), a character original to the game that uses poison for her attacks, and Johnny, a game original character that can track the footprints of victims. Unlike other games of this nature, you have three killers running around instead of just one, but one of them has to be Leatherface. Leatherface starts in the basement alongside the victims, giving him a chance to kill them before they reach the surface. All the killers also have an ability that lets them see just where all the objects are, just not the victims, but you can see what’s making noise. This gives you a chance to keep collecting your bearings and to keep track of as much as you can alongside the two other killers. Alongside killing the victims, they have to get blood, either from pans collecting blood or from hitting and killing victims. With this blood, you can feed Grandpa who will reveal any moving victims periodically. He’s the best there ever was, after all. Keep feeding him more and more blood to reduce the cooldown.
The second team is the victims. These poor souls are Ana, who came here looking for her sister Maria and can reduce the damage she gets for a while, Leland, a wrestler in high school who can stun family members, Sonny, the smart member of the group who can pinpoint t sound locations, Julie, who’s active lifestyle makes it so her ability reduces her stamina cost while making it hard to track her, and Connie, a farm girl who can quickly lockpick anything at the cost of making her location instantly known. This group has four teammates, with the fifth character killed in the opening cutscene of each match, which is a nice touch. There are four ways to escape the family. You can either unlock the front gates and turn off the power to the electric grid so you can get across, activate a fuse box to escape through the basement, adjust the water valves to leave through a water pressure gate, or leave by lockpicking the rear gates. It’s enough to give you some wiggle room so you won’t have to deal with all three family members at once and force them to spread out to try and find the four victims.
It’s clear to see how much love this game has for the original film. The game starts with a title crawl, the house is lovingly recreated from the film, there’s a radio broadcast talking about the tragedy of the missing people, and you can even see that armadillo from the beginning of the movie. The camera sound that’s iconic to the franchise is about how something disturbing is found is also here and used to great effect. The locations feel just like they were plucked from the movies. The sound design also helps make it feel like you’re always on the edge of death. With the screen flashing red and yellow around the sides whenever the family is close to you as a victim, it gives you a fair warning and a chance to quickly backtrack and try a different approach.
Gameplaywise, it’s fun for both teams. You would think that there being three killers and four victims makes it lopsided in favor of the killers, but the game does its best to address this by trapping the victims with Leatherface in the basement at the start. Once Grandpa wakes up, either by the family feeding him enough blood, or there is enough noise in the basement with either the victims walking into noise-making traps or opening the basement doors, then the other two killers can go after them. Until then, it’s best for them to either rig and trap the property or get started collecting blood to feed Grandpa. If they want to be cheeky, they can camp at one of the exits and hope that it’s where the victim is coming from. There’s also a victim-exclusive exit on each map that Leatherface can’t use, giving the victims a free escape from the basement more often than not.
Unlike Dead By Daylight, which encourages the victims to get close to the killer to try and keep the other victims safe and rescue them, Texas Chainsaw Massacre wants their victims to play it like it’s a stealth game. They may have ways to defend against their attackers, but they only temporarily stun them. You only have two inventory spaces as a victim, so you don’t have a lot of wiggle room. You have to choose between picking up those lock picks that are vital for escaping, replacing one of them for a health pickup, or maybe even a bone scrap that can be used to struggle against a family member that isn’t Leatherface or use it to quickly silence a chicken giving your location away. This game demands more thought and ingenuity in your approach compared to others in its genre.
That said, there are still some flaws found here. One of the biggest problems with this is the size and how closed off and crowded everything is. If you play Friday The 13th: The Game or Dead By Daylight, you will notice that the areas in those games are open and wide, with just enough spots to hide around to survive the killer hunting you. Here, you’re almost always bumping into something, especially during the basement and before you unlock the front and rear doors to get to the last part of your escape. Sure, sometimes it can provide a tense chase scene, but even when you’re a family member, it feels claustrophobic and easy to stumble over random objects. This isn’t always bad, but even when playing as the killers and these same problems keep affecting you, it’s way too easy to keep getting lost. The doors also don’t help with how they work after being unlocked. When you have to close doors to block off any future escaping victims or space yourself out from the family, only to go back into the room to close the door and force you to open it up again, it does feel unfair.
The maps don’t help, as it’s hard to find your way around the place. As Killer or Victim, with how crowded the map is, it’s easy to keep running into dead ends on accident, even after playing on the same map for multiple hours. The game gives you location names whenever you walk into a new room, so there’s some hope, but given how dark some areas can be, especially the basement, it can be hard to keep track of what’s in a room, and where each room is at. You may want to turn the brightness up for this game. Eventually, you can get a semi-general layout of the land, but the level’s cluttered nature can still feel like it’s just against you, no matter what side you’re playing on. But then again, this does give the game some unique charm.
That said, it still has some problems that can’t be overlooked. There’s also a skill tree for each character with their separate stats and skills they can unlock or level up. You can only get points to unlock more skills as you level up, but the problem there is that while it’s easy to get levels at first, soon enough, you’re going to have to start grinding for more. You can have the tree give all your points back for free and then redistribute them again in a way more fitting but given just how many characters there are and how the game encourages leveling up multiple characters at once with achievements, you’re going to be doing that a lot to get as much mileage you can get per character. There’s also the lack of characters and maps, making things feel old and tired quickly, with the game having a mere three maps and five characters on each side. There’s no news on new maps or characters yet, so that’s a bit concerning. Plus, with all the bugs and cheaters online, it’s easy to run into them sooner or later.
But then again, what home doesn’t have some cracks in the foundation? It’s those moments where everything clicks together and creates a great experience that elevates this game. From hiding in the bushes near the exit a killer was guarding, only for them to chase after another poor victim as you make your move, or catching a victim off guard as they were searching for a lockpick or just seconds away from escape, that’s when it feels like the environment is working in a way that helps you experience a fun and stressful time. It is a matter of what you’re looking for here. If you want a fun and frantic chase while being pursued by a player killer, then odds are this won’t be your fill most of the time. If you’re in the mode for a more sneaky and stealthy approach to this genre, then this is worth checking out, preferably on sale. There’s no place like home, but for $40, it’s hard to say home is worthwhile.