After being announced late last year, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre game, based on the 1974 film, has sat patiently in our conscience, waiting for more news to arrive. The upcoming game promises to immerse players in the first film through an asymmetrical multiplayer experience.
Little info has surfaced about the game, especially regarding gameplay, but last week we got a chance to not only play several matches of the game but also sit down with the game’s developers to get some more info and satiate our curiosity about the future of the development and of the game itself.
As for the game itself, getting a chance to play several matches with different characters and scenarios really painted a greater picture of what Gun and Sumo are setting out to do with the game. Here are some impressions of the matches we got to play and a general overview of how it felt to step into the world of the game.
For starters, the 3 vs 4 asymmetrical setup of the matches in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre feels like a breath of fresh air for the multiplayer genre, amongst the dozens of others that have been released over the last few years. The balance of play between the victims and the Family feels just right, with the objectives for the victims to escape and the ability for the Family to hunt and track down the victims always feeling fair and well-adjusted.
The difficulty for the victims to survive strikes a satisfying “survival horror” feeling to the experience, where item management and stealth are the keys to survival, and the gameplay tends to be more on the slow and meticulous side, with a good amount of tact required to survive. While the gameplay for the victims tends to be fairly slow, the matches still tended to feel intense and to go quickly most of the time, feeling like just the right length without getting tiring from either side.
The survivors find items to avoid traps and unlock various doors in order to escape the family’s clutches and make their way out into the Texas sunset via the main road or a field, requiring a good amount of teamwork to truly succeed, and each character’s unique stats and abilities need to be used wisely to help your teammates to find the most efficient way out of your predicament. The level of tension and horror that the victim’s side generates is often palpable, as you do your best to remain hidden from the Family, who are constantly taunting you and lurking around a corner at any time.
This felt quite different from Friday the 13th and other asymmetrical horror games of its kind in a way that was uniquely its own, even if it is using some elements from several other games in some way, the experience feels like a thing of its own.
As for playing as the Family, this team has 3 people, including The Cook, The Hitchhiker, and Leatherface, each with vastly different traversal options and abilities, with each playing very differently from the next. The Cook is the most observant or scout type, The Hitchhiker is more of a nimble character for pursuit, and Leatherface is the brute force of the three. Similar to the victims, you need to work together for the flow of the game to shine brightest, with each teammate’s abilities being important to fishing out the victims and catching them before they escape.
Each killer has its own intricacies and most importantly, its own limits as far as how powerful they are on their own. This dynamic makes things feel very close to the original film, with the collective stalking and torture being far more harrowing than the lone moments, and several elements felt extremely close to the film in creating memorable scenarios that remind you of the film but simultaneously different enough that it feels like you’re creating your own film, in a way.
When playing as the family, you also have Grandpa on your side, who sits in a stationary position on the map, and you can return to him after scavenging blood supply to feed him throughout the match, which triggers a sonar-type ability that points out the locations of the survivors for a short time after he’s fed. It’s a nice little ability that gives the Family a short glimpse of where they might want to direct their next efforts. Survivors can also disable Grandpa during matches by killing him, giving just a little extra balance for an ability that could be very cheap if it were abused.
The ability for victims to sneak by the family and survive was also surprisingly well-done, since when I got the chance to play as the Family, the victims were easily slipping out of my grasp in ways that felt sometimes inexplicable, but made the game so much more enjoyable at the same time. This speaks to the balance and the cleverness of the game engine, making a scenario that seems like it could be pretty unfair into something that feels truly fair and balanced.
After getting hands-on time with the game, I’m hopelessly more excited for the game, and stepping into the world felt just like being in a playable version of the film, with a level of immersion that’s extremely hard to create, but they’ve truly nailed it for this game. With the mentioned expansion of more maps, options, and gameplay elements as time goes on, this is already shaping up to be one of the most anticipated titles for 2023.
Once our matches were done, I got a chance to sit down and chat with two leads from Gun Interactive (Executive Producer and Strategy Lead) with some questions about what we can expect from the game as time goes on and some of the motivations and details of the behind-the-scenes process to get this project off the ground. Here’s our conversation.
ROH: In what major ways is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre different from Friday the 13th? What new features or elements define TCM compared to your previous work?
Gun: We think that the franchise-first perspective that we take here at Gun is very important, and when we build a game, we have a blueprint of what the franchise is and how each part of a game within that franchise would function. TCM has a focus on giving players a lot of lateral movement to play the way they like and with their own play style yet sticking with the feel of the franchise overall. We focused so much on having the most accurate situational representation of 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and everything else trickles down from there.
The “mini-film” moments that players can create within our games are irreplaceable and a big part of what we do. One of the most unique things about Texas Chain Saw Massacre is that there’s 3 killers, and they’re not just a team, but a family, which is a big part of the franchise/story as well, and keeping their personalities from the franchise intact was a huge thing for us. Not only is the dynamic of 3 killers interesting from a gameplay perspective, but also in the way they’re constantly interacting with each other, in-fighting, arguing, and yet working together. The victims are also close friends who are working together and communicating as a team, and we think it feels like a world that’s complete with these characters and we’re working to make the gameplay balance fit that world as well.
ROH: Since you worked with Crowdfunding back on Friday the 13th, what would you say were the Pros and Cons of that method versus a more traditional funding method?
Gun: Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a new and fresh thing, and we always focus on finding the right design and production strategy for that IP on a case-by-case basis. We start with the idea for the game we want to make based on the property we have at hand. We don’t worry about where the funding will come from, and instead focus on what will be the most beneficial production method for the game that we want to make. The root of the game and what makes it fun is our focus, and we always approach it with the goal that we make the game we want to make, regardless of the funding method. We approached it entirely new.
ROH: What things did you learn from the experience of developing and publishing Friday the 13th and how have you applied it here?
Gun: Asymmetrical horror genre has exploded since then, so we looked at many other titles in the genre (or multiplayer in general) and after seeing what was out there and how the genre has progressed, we focused on the experience as a whole for the user, and always sought to be expanding on that. We wanted to make something that nails all the different elements of the game down and spreads it out. Instead of having the player getting fixated or stuck focusing on just one element of the experience, we wanted to make it more engrossing and also obviously having the core of it be the collective experience, when playing with friends.
We’re trying to minimize thinking about extra gameplay elements or minutiae and focusing on the fun of the experience, as well as stepping into the franchise and characters that everyone adores. Just getting better and knowing ourselves as a company better over time is one of the biggest ways we’ve progressed since Friday the 13th. Friday was us finding out what we want to make and who we are, and that shapes what we’re doing with Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and we found that our identity is creating those experiences for fans and players, and we wanted to carry that forward and expand on that into the current time. Knowing what your unique identity is within any genre that is continuing to expand is important, and knowing what we bring to the table as Gun is important. Enveloping the player in the franchise is what we think we do best, and we want to make sure the passion we have for the franchise comes through as well.
ROH: How far into the series are you going with stages and characters? Are you still limited to only being able to use the first film’s characters and setting or could there be other different characters or locations from other movies at some point?
Gun: At launch, we’re fully focused on the original film, but Kim Henkel is the rights holder for the whole series and controls the whole franchise, and we have a very good working relationship with him. Later down the line, we may have some opportunities to explore those things, since our relationship with him is so strong, but they’ll definitely come further down the road. The level of detail we provide here to the original film required a lot of focus, and we’re sticking with 1974 for now, even if other things may come down the road after launch.
ROH: Speaking of Kim, I’ve heard he’s quite involved with the project in helping create some new characters for the game. Is that the full extent of his involvement, or is he also writing an original story for the game or maybe just giving his blessing to use the story from the original film?
Gun: Kim is in contact with Ronnie Hobbs and Wes Keltner here at Gun, sometimes multiple times per week and we have a great working relationship. Not only does he give his blessings, but he’s also a direct link back to the film franchise and has the “bible” for the series in his mind. We have lots of calls just to go over ideas and he’s also joined us on some panels to provide the fans with that extra background to the film. So, in short, it’s been much more than just a blessing.
ROH: We’ve gotten to play as Leatherface twice before in video game history, with the Atari game from the 80s, and then in Dead By Daylight. How will this game set itself apart from these, and especially his appearance in DBD?
Gun: When you look at the first film, Leatherface is essentially the low man on the totem pole who gets teased and abused by the rest of the family and trying to keep with film accuracy, he’s just one element of the gameplay here since he’s part of a team of killers and not just a lone killer. Seeing how each character functions and how they all work together really makes things unique to us and gives a whole other dynamic to the character of Leatherface than just wandering around alone and stalking victims.
ROH: Friday the 13th and the recent Evil Dead game featured single-player content as well as AI opponents, including options to play against bots in online matches. Are there any plans for this type of content, or are you strictly focusing on PvP gameplay?
Gun: We are absolutely focused on multiplayer right now, and especially on making that gameplay feel right, including the stealth elements and getting the maps and flow to feel right first. The 4v3 match type makes unpredictability that’s very hard to script, so we are focused on multiplayer, and we want to make sure people experience the emotion and the gameplay experience that we want to get across first and foremost.
ROH: How has it been working with the original Hitchhiker, Edwin Neal? Is he doing MoCap or voices, or both?
Gun: Edwin joined us to provide the voice for the Hitchhiker in-game, as we already had MoCap mostly done by the time we got to recording voices. His voice as the Hitchhiker is absolutely iconic to the film and the series, so having the opportunity to have him reprise that role was huge for us. While we, unfortunately, couldn’t work with Gunnar Hansen or Jim Siedow for obvious reasons, having Edwin work with us is a very important part of linking back to the series and lending more authenticity to the world, and he’s been great to work with.
ROH: In an interview this past March, Kane Hodder said that he wants to pay tribute to Gunnar Hansen’s performance in the 1974 film. Ronnie Hobbs also said that while Kane is trying to mimic Gunnar in the game, he’s also doing his own thing.
Gunnar went into great detail about how he prepared for and performed the role in his book ‘Chain Saw Confidential.’ Are the developers or Kane using anything Gunnar described in his book to inform Leatherface’s portrayal in the game, like how he’s written or how the motion capture sessions are directed?
Gun: It’s a very tricky thing to step into such a legendary role, but the fact that Kane knew Gunnar personally and he respects the role so much, it’s really helped him in the process of creating a Leatherface performance that isn’t a caricature of the iconic performance, but doesn’t stray too far from what we see on screen in the film.
The respect that Kane has for Gunnar and the role helped direct him a lot, and he’s a guy who tends to get obsessive about every performance he approaches, anyway, so we upheld that respect while also staying within the perimeter of what Gunnar had crafted in the beginning. As a team, we’ve been obsessively studying the film, and since we also know Kane’s usual obsessive tendencies for roles in general, we think he’s about the only perfect candidate for the role that exists at this point.
ROH: Are you including any original sounds of Gunnar Hansen from the movie, like his grunting, screaming, or any sounds from the original chainsaw itself?
Gun: When you flirt with trying to pull these types of things in from the original film, it’s a fine line before crossing into disrespecting and simply imitating the original film, which we didn’t want to do. We also thought about the Cook’s voice for a long time and tried hard to find someone that can recreate something close to Jim Siedow’s original performance without simply imitating it. With the respect we have for these performances, we wanted to make sure we were representing it as well as we could without just pulling the original audio from the film.
That’s why we’ve encouraged our voice actors to make it their own to some extent instead of being a mimicry or caricature, and we wanted it to be inspired by the original characters, instead of imitating them. The original performances are part of the story of the 1974 film, we’re not trying to steal from that film, but instead trying to create an experience that sits beside it, so we want everything to feel in place with that film, but not pull direct performances from it, since it is a different story.
Thanks to everyone at Gun Interactive for giving us the chance to check out this highly-anticipated game and giving us a glimpse into the love and care that’s being put into it.
Stay tuned, as we’ll have more news about the development of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre game as time goes on, and will hopefully get some more hands-on time with the game before its launch next year!