The Game You Are About to Play is an Account of a Tragedy
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a stylish, intense, and thoroughly fun game adaptation that excellently captures the spirit of its source material. That said, the lack of certain quality-of-life features and some frequent technical issues proved to be a serious buzzkill. Ironically, what this gritty bloodbath missing is just a tad more polish.
Contrary to the model of many other asymmetrical horror games, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre places four victims in a bid to escape from not one but three prospective killers. Each of these killers is a member of the Slaughter family: a demented band of murders compromised of both on-screen favorites like Leatherface and the Hitchhiker, and original characters like cult member, Sissy. Through their attacks and dialogue, the uncanny mania with which the Slaughter family hunts and kills their teenage quarry is represented perfectly.
He’s Wearing Her Face
As a victim, managing your sound output while completing escape puzzles and QTEs is a tense, focused process that makes you especially vulnerable to a scare. I no longer doubt that Grandpa was in fact “the best killer there ever was” because the jumpscares his waking animation inflicts could prompt a fatal cardiac event. Even with tens of hours of playtime, it still makes me jump.
The three maps are initially disorientating and labyrinthine but operate with sufficient logic meaning you can develop confidence in traversing them after a few matches. Once you get to this point, you can slow down and really start to appreciate how gorgeous these maps actually are. Each one is a detailed homage to the films that blends grimy, gruesome chaos with the sublime natural beauty of the Texan countryside. It’s almost pretty enough to make you forget about all the mutilated bodies in the basement.
Everything about the UI design draws fabulously from the visual language of 1970s grindhouse cinema. It’s bold and hyper-saturated. Everything has this hacked-away-at, blood-splatter effect which so effectively communicates the game’s campy, gory intensity. While not included in the game itself, the faux-vintage TCSM trading cards were genius promotional imagery. They’re just the cherry on top of the cake that is this game’s well-cultivated aesthetic.
When Harlow Sunflower Blooms
Most of the cosmetics at the moment are very basic: they consist primarily of Smash Bros-esque recolors of the original skins. However, they are all as of yet unmonetized. Where most games would involve microtransactions, all you need to do to unlock the iconic ‘Pretty Woman’ skin for Bubba is play 10 matches as Leatherface. It’s refreshing. Though, time will tell whether or not microtransactions eventually do make an appearance.
Each family member and victim has their own unique abilities and attributes. This adds an extra element of replayability. Not only do the scenarios you encounter change a little each match, the ways you handle them will shift depending on who you’re playing as. While it’s always tempting to play as your ‘main’, each of the cast feels strong in their own right. The way in which their abilities tie thematically into their archetypes is a nice touch as well. For example, the jock Leland can stun family members with a tackle while the bookish Sonny’s talent is his situational awareness.
While each playable character has established abilities and base attributes, they’re all customizable through navigating their impressively involved skill trees. Both the family and the victim metagame won’t be a one-size-fits-all affair as each build will have to play to the character’s base kit. This rewarding progression system, combined with future events and updates, is what will spell longevity for Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Lord of the Harvest
The game is not without problems though. Unexplainable frame rate issues made a habit of rearing their ugly head during altercations, leaving me not only able to appropriately respond to QTEs but genuinely confused as to what action was even happening on screen. Mid-match disconnects and server issues are also worryingly frequent. While performance has been stabilizing as of late, these technical issues are a disappointing distraction from what is otherwise one of the most exciting and accomplished introductions to the asymmetrical horror genre to date.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is also really poorly primed for new players. The tutorial experience is abysmal; truly its only benefit is that it’s entirely optional. It’s delivered line by line in largely unnarrated written instructions accompanied by dry, entirely silent game footage. Each line progresses at a snail’s pace which can’t be altered. The whole affair is like sitting through the world’s most violent PowerPoint presentation.
Even within the pre-release games I played it wasn’t uncommon to see victims totally failing to avoid Grandpa’s detection or confused family members swinging at their fellow killers. They had all likely skipped the tutorial. I really can’t blame them.
My Family’s Always Been in Meat
The subpar tutorials are especially problematic given the absence of bots. Private games require a full party of humans so you better hope you have three friends who own the game and happen to be online. Realistically, there is limited opportunity to experiment with the game’s mechanics before getting totally trounced in a public game. You’ll undoubtedly spend your first few matches wandering around the basement with all the coordination and intentionality of a heavily concussed teenager. Which, to be fair, is a bit of a realism win if you’re playing as a victim.
Disclaimer: Evolve PR provided the game used for this review.
This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides insight into the gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (PC)
- Captures the absurd horror of the 1974 film perfectly
- Gameplay is terrifying and fun in equal measure
- Involved character progression system
- Weak tutorial makes for a difficult access point for new players
- Absence of bots or smaller scale private matches
- Graphical and connectivity issues