The Texas Chain Saw Massacre review: All in the family

Gun Interactive cleverly adapts a horror classic into a fresh asymmetrical horror game.

Gun Interactive

While Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has seen numerous sequels and reboots on the big screen over the past five decades, we’re about 40 years removed from the franchise’s last video game adaptation. That’s finally changed with the upcoming game from Gun Interactive. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre carefully recreates the world and environment of the 1974 film, retrofitting it to be an asymmetrical horror experience that pits the Slaughter Family against their teenage victims.

Lambs for the slaughter

A Victim hanging from the ceiling by their wrists.

Source: Gun Interactive

While The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is based on the 1974 film, publisher Gun Interactive and developer Sumo Digital have opted to tell their own story for the game. After a young woman named Maria goes missing in the heart of Texas, her friends embark on a journey to rescue her, one that leads them to the home of the Slaughter family, where they come face-to-face with Leatherface and his family of cannibals.

The narrative departure from the original movie means that we don’t get to see or play as Sally Hardesty, one of horror’s first Final Girls. I was admittedly bummed about her omission, but found the new cast of survivors to be endearing in their own ways.

While the surviving cast is different, the Slaughter Family has been recreated with eerie accuracy for their big video game reintroduction. There’s Leatherface, Sissy, Johnny, Drayton (The Cook), and Nubbins (The Hitchhiker), all of whom are incredibly faithful recreations of their on-screen counterparts. Nubbins in particular really creeped me out with his resemblance to actor Edwin Neal.

Kane Hodder, who played Leatherface in the third TCM movie, does the full motion capture performance for the chainsaw-wielding murderer in the game, marking the second collaboration between Hodder and Gun Interactive, as he also stepped back into his iconic role as Jason Vorhees for the 2016 Friday The 13th game. Hodder’s performance here is downright incredible, as he accurately recreates all of Leatherface's awkward and uncanny body movements, from his stiff sprint to flailing arms. It’s clear that a lot of work went into studying and recreating the performance given by Gunnar Hansen in the original movie.

This attention to detail is also present in the map design. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has a few different maps, all of which take place either at or near the iconic Slaughter House. Gun and Sumo have painstakingly reconstructed the locations from the movie, down to the small details that’ll make horror fans smile. It also makes the entire experience more surreal; I was nearly paralyzed with fear the first time I walked through the front doors of the Slaughter House as a Victim.

Family business

Multiple Victims and Family members clashing outside of the Slaughter house.

Source: Gun Interactive

With the same publisher at the helm, it’s impossible for Friday The 13th fans to not see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as a spiritual successor to the soon-to-be-defunct horror game. TCM also features an asymmetrical multiplayer experience, but with a few twists and evolutions of the formula. Instead of one player stepping into the role of the killer and taking on everyone else, TCM’s format is 3v4, with Victims only slightly outnumbering the killers.

The work of the Slaughter Family was a coordinated effort, and the same will need to ring true in the video game in order for the killers to find success. Each member of the family has their own attributes and special abilities, allowing them to fill unique roles during gameplay. Sissy has incredible blood-harvesting skills, which is important for keeping Grandpa fed and activating special bonuses, but her lack of strength means she doesn’t pose much of a physical threat to Victims. Leatherface and Johnny, on the other hand, are brutes with endurance which means any Victim should stay away.

One of Leatherface’s unique abilities is that he can destroy obstacles on the map, opening more pathways for his family to move around. Because of this, somebody on the Family side has to pick Leatherface before a match can start. While I hold the chainsaw-wielder in high regard among slasher villains, it’s fun to break out of the mold and play as the other characters, so the requirement can sometimes be a bit frustrating.

Leatherface viewed through the door of a barn.

Source: Gun Interactive

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Victims are also very equipped for the fight. They begin trapped in the basement and are tasked with finding an exit and escaping the property before they can be killed by the Family. Lockpicking tools, health bottles, and self-defense items are some of the tools that Victims have at their disposal. Stealth is key as walking through bones or using a tool too fast will alert nearby Family members. The Victims are also able to squeeze through crawl spaces and gaps in the wall to evade the Family.

I had one particular heart-pounding sequence while playing as a Victim in which I came face-to-face with Leatherface. As I cut and ran, I was able to just narrowly throw myself over obstacles and slide through wall gaps to keep a distance between us, though he’d constantly burst through a door to keep the cat-and-mouse chase alive. Just when I thought I’d lost him, I ran into Sissy, whom I had to beat in a button-mashing quick-time event to temporarily stun. I finally hid in a closet while I waited to see if I’d truly lost them. I breathed a sigh of relief as the sound of the chainsaw grew further.

Genre evolution

Sonny searching through a box on a desk.

Source: Gun Interactive

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is clearly designed in a way that will reward both longtime players and experts of the asymmetrical horror genre. There is no mini-map, so you’ll gain an advantage once you create a mental layout of the maze-like maps. I found it much easier to communicate with teammates once I was able to figure out the specific names of different areas, rather than saying “They’re upstairs” or “They ran outside!”

Each character has perks and abilities that can be upgraded and swapped out through leveling up, as well as signature abilities that are unique to them. For example, Connie’s ability to bypass lock-picking minigames, or Johnny’s footprint detection.

The amount of customization present will surely add depth to the gameplay and appease the hardcore players, but I fear that it may be a bit off-putting to newcomers or casual players. It’s a lot more complex than Friday The 13th, and folks looking to fire up TCM as a casual game night experience might see the loadout and skill tree mechanics as an added chore.

Rev your chainsaws

A Victim hiding around a corner near a Family member.

Source: Gun Interactive

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a splendid new entry in the asymmetrical multiplayer family. Its recreation of the characters and locations from the 1974 movie is deeply impressive, as it’s abundantly clear that authenticity was a top priority during development. It helps to enhance the exhilarating gameplay, though I do worry about its approachability given the deep systems and mechanics. Regardless, it’s one that I look forward to playing both casually and competitively with friends whenever I want a good scare.

This review is based on a Steam code provided by the Publisher. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre launches on August 18, 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

  • Faithful recreation of the characters and locations from the movie
  • Satisfying gameplay loop
  • Enough mechanics to keep gameplay fresh
  • Offers new spin on the asymmetrical multiplayer format
  • Kane Hodder's disturbingly good performance as Leatherface
  • Leatherface required to start games
  • Loadouts and skill tree might be too much for casual players
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