I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it. – The Cook
Michael: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – considered by many to be the best / most influential horror movie of all time – has been adapted to a video game by Gun Interactive, released on August 18, 2023. It’s an asymmetric game where three players take the role of the killer Family and four take the role of the Victims trying to get out. There are multiple means of escape, including a steam gate, electric gate, basement exit, and locked doors.
As the match progresses Family members get tougher and faster by feeding Grandpa (the best killer there ever was – they say he could’ve done more if the hook and pull gang could’ve gotten the beeves out of the way faster) blood from victims or stashes hidden on the map. Victims win on an individual basis by getting out; Family win by killing as many Victims as they can.
Players level up the characters on either side by playing the game and using their different skills. There are skill trees that open up new bonuses as you keep playing. Players get the choice of different routes on the trees but can respec at any time.
During gameplay Grandpa is stationary at a central location. Every once in a while he does a big old moan and highlights Victims who are moving around the map. As Grandpa drinks blood – given to him by the Family – he starts unlocking new abilities from each Family members’ skill tree, as well as lowering the intervals between groans.
Josh: Gun Interactive aren’t strangers to the licensed horror game space, releasing what, I still think, is the most fun asymmetrical horror game I’ve ever played in Friday the 13th: The Game. Friday the 13th suffered a tragic fate as a result of licensing issues that made continued development a pretty dicey prospect. Friday the 13th showcased that the development team have a lot of love and care for the original classics, and they love reaching out to the original cast / art / costume teams for assists.
Michael: The Family is made up of Leatherface and his relatives – his two brothers (who were in the movies), the Hitchhiker (Josh: voiced by the original actor, no less!) and the Cook, and two new characters named Johnny and Sissy. (Josh: Who are entirely original characters created from concept art from the original movie & from input from Kim Henkel. Neat!) That leaves five characters for three players to pick from as the Family, with Leatherface always being required.
Leatherface: he hits very hard and has a lot of endurance, meaning he can sprint for a long time. He’s not super mobile, can’t get through cracks or over obstacles – he must destroy them. He starts off in the basement of each map, having just killed the Victim the enemy players haven’t picked for this match. If Leatherface can get a kill in the basement before the enemy Victims leave he’s doing a great job. Once they leave the basement, he usually needs to head upstairs and start knocking down obstacles (he definitely doesn’t have any pride in his home) and generally disrupting the Victims’ attempts at collecting resources and unlocking stuff.
Hitchhiker: very quick and nimble, able to follow Victims through gaps and over obstacles. He can harass the Victims and keep an eye on them more easily than the other Family members. His special skill is setting traps – they slow down and injure enemy Victims.
Cook: definitely the slowest of the Family, the Cook is more adept at grabbing blood to feed Grandpa to level him up and setting padlocks on doors or gates to require Victims to pick them before they can get out. His damage is actually pretty decent, but he will be outrun by enemy Victims. His special ability is detecting enemy Victims moving through the level by listening – the player moves around a target until they zero in on an enemy Victim and it highlights that player.
Johnny: he’s considered by many to be the weakest Family member. His special ability allows him to look around for clues to where the Victims have gone, which show up as footprints on the ground and allows you to track them around. He’s fast, has a bunch of endurance, and can hit pretty hard.
Sissy: definitely the weirdest Family member, she sings creepy songs and was part of the Manson Family. She can trap various items with a poison cloud and block Victims’ paths. She’s quick, can travel through gaps, and is another harasser who can keep the Victims from getting their tasks done.
The Victims are searching for Maria Flores, their friend and sister to Ana Flores, the leader of the Victims. Maria went missing in Muerto County, Texas, near the town of Newt while looking for flowers to photograph.
Ana Flores: her base stats are very good as an all-around character. She is especially tough, and her special ability only heightens that – when she uses it, she can endure many attacks from even Leatherface.
Connie Taylor: her base stats are much more suited to picking locks, gathering resources, and using stealth to move around the map. Her special ability allows her to open up a lock very quickly – this can often make or break a game for survivors.
Leland McKinney: he’s very strong, can run for longer periods, but his stealth is bottom of the barrel. He uses his Strength to win encounters with Family members, hurt Grandpa, etc. His special ability can again win games – he can knock down Family members (except Leatherface) and stun them for a bit.
Sonny Williams: considered by many to be the weakest choice for the Survivors, Sonny has great Endurance and Strength and good Proficiency (to unlock doors and gather stuff). His special ability allows him to hear and highlight characters making noise nearby.
Julie Crawford: her base stats are pretty good all around, especially her stealth and endurance, meaning she can hide pretty well and then run away when she needs to. Her special ability grants her immunity to Johnny and The Cook’s detection abilities and allows her to run further.
Josh: There’s a few oddities in the way the system works, and some players simply have more power if they have certain perks leveled up. New players aren’t given jack nor shit to start with, and in the beginning of the game, this was massively cool.
Some things in the base kits of characters feel lacking compared to their leveled versions. Cook’s ability to hear victims and see their outline through walls is fine, but it becomes amazing when you gain the ability to let the rest of the family see it.
Leatherface’s chainsaw is powerful but it can downright one-shot when it’s upgraded with the right perks, and he can eventually never suffer from stalling it out (and if he does, he can instantly restart it) at higher levels.
Survivors have a similar deal but it’s much less impactful as their powers get used a few times a game whilst the Family are always using their powers in some way or another.
Learning the game
Michael: The game doesn’t really have a tutorial mode – it has built in videos inside the game. It’s a bit of a let down because the game is fairly complicated when it comes to stats and mechanics, map exits, and stealth etc. For a bit after the game came out when I was playing every night I was learning a lot from the subreddit because it wasn’t immediately obvious.
Multiplayer – Format of the Game
Michael: One of my favorite aspects of the game is the actual format – it’s not just one guy vs four or five others – the survivors have four players and the family have three. This is great because its not just one player with all the pressure on them. You can get on Discord with your friends, communicate, and have a great time (especially if you’re shouting insane lines from the movie with dumb accents).
Survivors start in the basement with Leatherface just after he’s slaughtered the one survivor they didn’t choose to use. The Family start in different places – Leatherface in the aforementioned basement, Hitchhiker, Sissy, and Johnny usually in the out areas of the map, and Cook usually starts centrally.
Controls / Animations / Responsiveness
Michael: I use a controller on PC for this game – it’s built for it and works great. As a mainly Family player, I’ve been impressed with the responsiveness, however there are some animation issues that could be worked on. Particularly the transitions when Survivors go through gaps, sometimes there are invincibility frames that are just crazy.
Josh: I play purely on KBM, and it’s thankfully a similar experience with controller. There’s definitely a feeling you’re meant to be using a thumbstick to control movement but you aren’t being penalised for using KBM. What gets my goat is the auto-lock on issues that Family suffers from, especially with Leatherface’s chainsaw, where you’ll be forced to miss what really was an easy swing.
And as Michael mentioned, sometimes the i-frames on Victims is crazy. If you knock a Victim down via a door, they’re safer on the ground than they were just getting chased by you. It’s the little quirks.
Josh: Balance is really down to the maps. Family House is absolutely a joke because Leatherface can patrol every major door, Cook’s locks are very powerful at keeping you penned in such a small game space (his entire game plan) and Hitchhiker can constantly monitor the state of his traps to see if you’re attempting to get out.
On the other two maps, this is evened out a little more, but there is the constant problem that Cook & Hitchhiker both have universal usefulness that Sissy & Johnny don’t.
Sissy can be a downright annoyance with her poison and the flurry of strikes she can hit you with, but she lacks the actual lockdown potential of Hitchhiker.
Johnny is a smaller Leatherface. He just wants to hit you, and hit you hard, but he has to be enabled by the other characters to do so effectively, which ultimately means forcing Cook to be even more of a must-pick to sniff out targets.
Leatherface feels absolutely fine, but his role changes as your skill level increases. You stop being a roaming menace and become more like a hound, waiting to be directed at a target, and when you aren’t being directed to send someone to slaughter his main utility is destroying obstacles and crawlspaces, and patrolling the map at Mach 5.
Where the balance feels off is the games insistence on levels equaling direct mechanical power. The more levels you have, the more access to game-changing, powerful perks you have, and the more leveled up and powerful those perks are. The game I played when it first launched, where nobody had anything, and the game I played yesterday where everyone (including myself) had optimised builds are almost entirely different.
It kinda sucks.
I love that first experience more. I’ll never get that experience again regardless but it means no one else who didn’t play on launch will have it either. The new player experience for this game is absolutely trash and it’s going to be a massive blow when Lil’ Timmy Slaughter wants to boot up the game and have fun chasing people down and hitting them, not even necessarily killing them, but instead getting the shit kicked out of him by people the game informed him would be scared to be near him.
Faithfulness to the Movie / Genre / Soundtrack
Josh: You can’t get much more faithful than recreating the sets as seen in the film, or using the original sounds, or in the case of Hitchhiker, using the original voice actor.
Michael: The soundtrack is killer, something that you’ll definitely want for ambient stuff or parties etc.
Comparisons to Other Games – Fair and Unfair
Josh: Dead By Daylight is the only reasonable game to compare this too, and it isn’t really a fair comparison. I think they are separate enough games that share a singular premise / gameplay angle. Asymmetric cat & mouse gameplay.
Dead By Daylight is by large a more balanced experience (over 5 years of active development will do that) and overall a more cooperative experience. You’re rewarded for helping your teammates escape, there are gameplay benefits to assists. In TCM, the only people really working together are the Family. The Victims largely help each other by virtue of simply being on the same team with the same goal – there’s no incentive to try and meddle with the Family killing your friend. In the same case, there’s not much Victims can do to help eachother. Leland can knock someone down, and everyone can stab the Family in the back if they feel up to it, but other than that you’re really all just rats scurrying in the same direction.
Fun / Solo Queue or Group / Replayability
Michael: I’ve been playing this game with two friends almost exclusively since it came out and it’s a ton of fun on voice chat (our own Discord, not the game’s voice chat) just messing around and having a good time. Replayability will definitely come down to if they can add more maps or not and if they keep balancing things out.
Josh: I’ve exclusively played it Solo, and I think it’s a fun experience. I don’t really ever use Voice, typing is enough for me in terms of call outs, and I get by just fine running Family like Cook and Leatherface.
Replayability wise… well… the game has three maps, and it’s adding a new Victim and Family member soonish.
Michael: I’ll probably be on the softer side of this, giving the game a 7/10. The original price is $39.99, so I consider it a discounted title, and right now it’s on sale on Steam for $27.99 (until November 2). At that price, for me, it’s good for a ton of fun for a few weeks. It’s not a lifestyle game, it’s not a grinder. The main balance issues take a point or two off and the lack of maps adds to that.
There are some trolls in this game, especially on the Survivor side. They think it’s hilarious to teabag (although they’re not teabagging an enemy? They’re just crouch spamming the ground) at the exit when they’ve escaped and waiting for you to find them, basically wasting their time. There are also Leland survivors who will shoulder charge and stab Leatherface over and over, basically stunlocking him.
Josh: I wouldn’t have tried this game if it wasn’t on Gamepass. I maintain that verdict even having a chance to have played the game. There just isn’t much to justify the entry-fee, especially when we’re beyond that initial new player rush.
I’m not saying it’s a bad game. It’s a good, fun game, solid all-round with teething issues that you can easily look past. There just isn’t much here, and the updates have been so abysmally slow that I’m worried that by time they get the content churning out, it’ll be to a dwindled audience.
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