I started watching horror films like Scream from what most consider "too young," but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was the only one to scar me. I was one of the lucky kids to have a TV in my room, where I initially met Leatherface. I tuned in right around the scene where Pam wanders into the Sawyer house only to get put onto a hook for her home invasion. I watched the rest of the film in chunks because I was standing in front of the TV to change the channel when I got scared. Since then, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has been the peak of horror. When Gun Media announced a video game based on the film, I nearly jumped out of my skin because they made the incredible Friday the 13th game years before. After months of waiting, I can confirm it captures that summertime heated fear of the film by staying true to the aesthetics of Tobe Hooper's original.
A Proper Texas Setting
One of the most important things to nail down The Texas Chain Saw Massacre vibe was location, location, location! It has to feel and look like the game is actually set in Texas (it's right there in the title!). The developers and artists who created the maps for the game created the environments to capture the same look as the film. There are elements like abandoned vehicles, which one can assume are from previous victims, to tall uncut grass where players can try to hide from the killers. Every aspect feels painstakingly crafted to bring to life the Texas we visualize in our nightmares.
The game has a few maps featuring iconic locations from the first film. The Sawyer house has been perfectly digitally recreated in all its cluttered, bone-filled glory. On my first round as a survivor in the Sawyer house, I wanted to see whether I could recreate the iconic jump through the front window, which was possible. The biggest issue about the house being so screen-accurate is that sometimes I explore the locations rather than following my objectives. The game also includes the Last Chance Gas Station and the surrounding areas of the house. The film takes place in a pretty confined space, which initially worried me about how much variety there would be in the game, but the team has really built out the Sawyer farm with additional locations that fit righ in with that grimy, gore-filled aesthetic.
One of the biggest additions brought by Gun is the basement on every map where the match begins. When playing as a survivor, the match begins strung up in the undercroft, where players must break free, but it's also where Leatherface starts on every map. Upon leaving the basement, players are tossed into a labyrinth of confusing tunnels, rooms, and secrets as they try to find their way to the surface above. It feels heavily inspired by the tunnels of the second film in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise, but it feels like such a natural inclusion. The maps also include places like a slaughterhouse that lead to some of the most intense encounters I've had in a multiplayer game. The tight corridors of the slaughterhouse forced me to slowly peek around the corner, waiting to see if the family chasing me was still lingering on the killing floor. It was one of those moments where you wait with bated breath to see if the victim will get out, but in this case... you're the victim. The design of each map often leads to these types of encounters for both the victims and the family.
Meat The Victims
Playing as the victims is where the film's real horror is brought to life in the gameplay. Each of the playable victim characters comes with their own unique abilities that fit different playstyles. Some fit into the victim tropes found in so many slashers, such as the character Leland. His backstory includes that he was a wrestler in high school, so of course, he is the character who can shoulder-check the family members to knock them on their backs. Each of the original characters has a look and costume design that fits with the '70s aesthetics of the film. Having the victims differ from the ones we know from the film adds to this being its own unique installment in the Chain Saw universe. Details of the characters' stories and relationships come organically through dialogue exchanged with one another as you try to run for your lives from the Sawyers.
Meet The Sawyer Family
The game is an asymmetric online multiplayer game, which typically means the gameplay is one versus many, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre wouldn't fit that model. The saw is family, so the family always hunts together — Cook, Hitchhiker, and Leatherface. Each match is three family members hunting four victims. Each of the three plays exactly how we saw them in the film. The Cook has his distinct walk from the film, while the Hitchhiker has his twitchy run with his arms up by his side. Leatherface plays like the tank class of the family with heavy movements and having to rev up his chainsaw before being able to attack the victims. Each brings their own unique style that is a direct reflection of the film.
Gun Media Adds Two New Members To The Sawyer Family
With only three killers to implement from the film, Gun needed to add new family members to bring some variety to the gameplay. With Sissy and Johnny, they succeeded in creating two new Sawyers who feel like they were just off-screen for the entire film. Both of these were developed in partnership and creative cooperation with Kim Henkel, screenwriter for the original movie.
Johnny and Sissy bring a different approach that balances each trio very well. Johnny is a handsome, sadistic killer who seems to be pining to be the head of the family. He uses his looks to lure people to the family and ultimately to their doom. But Sissy is the scariest of the five family members. She likes to sing little songs while hunting you. The songs sound like something you would hear on a summer day, it's too bad those summer days in the Chainsaw universe never end well. Sissy learned these songs while she was with the Manson family. While real-life events inspired the original film, seeing that idea bleed into one of the new family members is interesting.
But the scariest character in the game is still...
The scariest element in both the film and the game is Grandpa. If you didn't have nightmares after realizing that Grandpa was alive in the film, you're lying to yourself. The family patriarch is a significant figure in the film and one of the most frightening figures if you are in the shoes of a victim in the game. When playing as the family, one of the missions is to feed Grandpa blood to keep him from being hungry. As he's fed more, he becomes more powerful and can echolocate victims by letting out a blood-curdling howl. The victims have to stop whatever they are doing and stay completely still, or their location will be revealed across the map. That chilling howl filling your headphones or living room makes you freeze and adds a level of fear to every step.
The family spends a lot of time talking about how Grandpa was the best killer there ever was. But all we see is what looks to be a wrinkled husk that hardly looks like it has a pulse. Johnny comments on how Grandpa could have handled all of them, and other characters make similar remarks about their patriarch being a stud in his heyday. Leatherface doesn't speak, but his affectional grunts and pats on the head show he feels the same way.
Adapting one of the most iconic horror films into a video game is no easy task, especially when the film has such a distinct style and tone, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre hits it perfectly on the head (with a hammer!). From the level and character design to incorporating unique elements from the film, the game captures the summer-soaked horror vibes of Hooper's original creation. The fear of Leatherface has always drawn me to the film and its aesthetics. Playing the game for the first time brought all those feelings rushing back. But now I can look at the meat hook room without changing the channel.
The Texas Chain Saw Game is now available for download on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.