Adapting the classic 1974 horror movie Texas Chain Saw Massacre into an asymmetrical multiplayer game might seem odd on the surface – particularly when the team setup isn’t the same 4v1 we’ve become accustomed to with the popular Dead by Daylight, but instead the even stranger-sounding 4v3 arrangement. It works exceptionally well in practice, though, creating a tactical, tense, team-based multiplayer experience that favors brains over brawn. Whether you’re on the Victim team of four trying to escape, or the serial-killing Family trio trying to cut them down, Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s tweak to the asymmetrical multiplayer format already plays great, and the 4v3 format is a great match for the movie license it’s built around.
Developer/publisher Gun Interactive promises more maps for launch next year, but for this preview session I played half a dozen rounds in Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s most recognizable location: the rural Texas house the film is set in. Victims start out in the basement, and teamwork is encouraged and dare I say vital; there are only a few ways out of the basement and just two ways out of the house once you get upstairs. In other words, there are only two ways to win. Yes, only two, because the Victims can’t kill the Family but instead only stun them, further affecting the balance of power. They can, however, slip through narrow gaps in the walls, and duck under barbed-wire traps.
Meanwhile, characters on both sides have unique skills. While the Cook can listen closely to unstealthy Victims and add locks to doors for the Family, making it more time-consuming for the Victims to get through them, Connie, for instance, has a one-time ability to break a lock instantly. This can literally mean the difference between victory and defeat, as in my final round, I was chasing down Connie as she made for the backyard gate – I only wish I had footage of this. Anyway, she was the last Victim still standing after we’d stabbed all of her friends. My stamina gave out, however, and Connie reached the gate just ahead of me. And thanks to that skill she’d been keeping in her back pocket, she immediately busted through the lock, got through the gate, and escaped in triumph. Without that perk, I’d have had enough time to claim one last victim – and victory for myself.
Meanwhile, the Leatherface of the franchise is big and not the slightest bit nimble. But he can use his chainsaw to cut through doors as well as destroy crawlspace entrances and exits so that the Victims have fewer navigation options. I reveled in his ability to rev his chainsaw, and how that’s tied to the power of his attacks. Swing your saw at a Victim without revving it and you’ll do a bit of damage. Rev it too high for too long and it’ll stall out. But if you catch the sweet spot of the rev range, you’ll get a one-hit kill, complete with a quick and grisly cutscene. (Note that you can also turn the chainsaw off in order to move around more stealthily as the big guy.) From firsthand experience I can tell you that this is immensely satisfying. Also, revving it while roaming the house allows him to very loudly induce terror into the hearts and minds of the Victims. He is my favorite character so far.
Finally, the Hitchhiker is the slickest and snakiest of the serial-killing trio. He can get through those same small cracks and crevices the Victims can, and I made sure to use his agility to whisk myself right into the front yard as the match began, turning on the gas-powered generator that powers the electrified security system guarding the path to the road. He can also lay down traps that are guaranteed to slow the Victims down – either by ensnaring them directly, or by putting them in spots where the teenagers have to spend time disabling them.
All three Family members are wise to collect blood from around the house – as well as from Victims – in order to feed Grandpa, the non-playable member of the Family who acts as a sort of Sauron-esque all-seeing eye as the blood you feed him levels him up. He will occasionally shout and tag any Victim who’s moving in the moment he screams. And speaking of leveling up, there’s a massive and persistent skill tree I didn’t get to play with in this one-off demo session, but it promises to allow you to tailor your respective Victim and Family skills to your liking.
I admit I enjoyed playing as the Family more than the Victims in my initial rounds. I had a blast trying to outsmart them despite being outnumbered. But no doubt careful teamwork and coordination will pay off handsomely for good Victim players – like when one of you goes to the top floor of the house and restores power to the basement exit, allowing their teammates another means of escape. Notably, too, Victims are able to hide in dark corners of the house, in bushes outside, and sneak around quietly so as not to make a ton of noise and alert the Family. As my developer guide put it, “Just leaving a door open can hurt you in this game.”
The sheer number of tactics in play between these two starkly contrasted sides is impressive. More laudable is just how well Texas Chain Saw Massacre plays right now, despite its release date not being until sometime next year. The movie license hasn’t just been slapped onto this game. Instead, it feels like an excellent pairing, and I can’t wait to play more.
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Author: Ryan McCaffrey