The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a horror classic, telling the tale of a family of cannibals who hunt and kill any unlucky souls who wander near. In the original film, there’s only one survivor, who escapes by a hair. In the upcoming video game adaptation, it’s possible for every victim to triumph and escape together… or they might all die a horrible, grisly death at the hands of the Sawyer family. Polygon was invited to a preview of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, where we had the opportunity to try both sides of the game.
Developed by Sumo Digital and published by Gun Interactive, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an asymmetrical horror game where four players take the role of Victims on one team, and three players oppose them as the Family. The game plays out in the iconic house from the film, which is stuffed full of meat hooks, bleached skulls, and bloody torsos. The Victims have a simple goal: survive and escape. The Family must stop them by any means necessary.
Each match starts with the Victims shimmying free of their restraints in the basement, a claustrophobic network of crawl spaces, tunnels, and slaughter rooms. Escaping the basement opens up the rest of the house, which is full of handy resources, like lock picks, health tonics, and bone shards that can serve as a handy shiv. Finally, once they make their way out of the house, the Victims have to navigate a wide-open, brightly lit farm. It’s all been lovingly reconstructed from the original film, and it’s genuinely unnerving to navigate.
Getting out of the basement feels like a relief at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that more room to navigate and more light to see with is as much a hazard as a blessing. You can hide briefly among sunflowers or bushes, but if you want your freedom, you’ll have to run past one or more of the Family. And the entire time, you’re haunted by the thrum rum rum rum of Leatherface’s chainsaw.
The Victims vary in some ways; Connie, for instance, can instantly crack a lock without passing a skill test — perfect for escaping the basement early on or making a last dash for freedom — while Ana is much more durable and can get away from the Family while tanking hits. There are also upgrade trees to pursue, allowing you to further customize the Victims and their odds of survival. The differences from match to match manifest both from these systems and your interactions with the other three Victims. In one match, we worked together to forge a path. In my next match, I got the hell out of there and let everyone else die. Sorry! Whoops!
On the other side of the fence, playing as the Family is a fun twist on the asymmetrical horror formula. Leatherface is the star of the show, of course — he’s a brute with a chainsaw, and if he catches a Victim, he’s gonna carve them up. He’s joined by two other players — the Cook, who is slow and unwieldy but great at tracking Victims and finding their locations, and the Hitchhiker, a wiry guy who makes up for his small knife with his improvised bear traps. Then, there’s Grandpa, an NPC who hangs out in his rocking chair. When the Family feeds him blood harvested from unlucky Victims, Grandpa can send out a kind of sonar sense to ping any Victims in the area.
These two sides combine nicely to create a fun cat-and-mouse rhythm. Sometimes, a Victim might find their way to the outside yard only to be confronted by Leatherface, at which point they can sprint and tumble down a well back to the basement. Players hurl themselves through windows to freedom only to find another member of the Family outside.
As a Victim, there’s a constant, heavy tension to the proceedings, even when none of the cannibals are on screen. As a Family member, it’s a little bit like a match of Overcooked — you and your comrades are trying to stop these terrible, ungrateful kids from escaping the meat hooks, and it’s a frantic scramble to make sure all the gates are locked, the generator’s running, and Grandpa’s fed. It’s great fun, and I’m interested to see if the charm sticks around after a dozen — or a hundred — rounds.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is set to release in 2023, and it will be available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC via Steam.