There’s a fair bit of narrative backbone for an online multiplayer game where one group of players tries to hunt and kill their four “Victims.” Currently, the roster of playable Victims includes five original characters, and they’re all in this mess to help their friend Ana Flores (voiced by “My Adventures with Superman”’s Jeannie Tirado). Ana’s sister, Maria, is a student photographer who’s gone missing in Muerto County during wildflower season. So the camera we see the Hitchhiker using in the original movie is Maria’s, according to Gun and screenwriter Henkel, and the campsite in the film is further evidence of this new cast having been there. It’s a cleverly-situated prequel with several months of wiggle room. Not bad for a continuity that, historically, writers have treated with as much respect as a small-town stop sign.
From the jump, the game’s design is a departure from “Friday the 13th,” though not to such an extent that it’s likely to alienate Gun’s core audience. Where “Friday the 13th” pits the supernatural, superstrong Jason against seven other players, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” adjusts the formula: three members of the Family versus four Victims. And Leatherface, whose chainsaw grants him the unique ability to cut through various obstructions around the map, must be present in every match.
I’ve played “Friday the 13th” with much of the same group since 2017, and a part of me has always relished being Jason. There’s a certain fantasy in being a force of nature like that, fighting for control of the map, sabotaging the phones, chasing cars, and making sure everybody’s having a good time. When there’s one killer, whoever plays Jason can show mercy early in the game; they can prioritize more skilled targets over less experienced players. My “Friday” buddies seem to enjoy it when I play Jason, even if none of them escape with their lives by the time the match is over.
In my time with “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” I seem to prefer the Victims. Granted, comparing one week to the 549 hours I logged in the earlier game is hard. But I suspect it has to do with the numerous ways Gun and Sumo have improved upon so many other aspects of the experience. Stealth mechanics feel fairer and more skillful than sneaking around in similar games; the “Splinter Cell” influence sometimes shines through without complicating things. Minigames, where you solve a brief puzzle to pick a lock or repair a fuse box, are much more precise and player-driven than their “Friday the 13th” equivalents, which sometimes meant holding down the A button and hoping Jason wasn’t within arm’s reach. For all that “Friday the 13th” got right, this is a superior piece of software in the most formal sense.