Slasher fans have eagerly waited for the game based on one of the most iconic film franchises: Friday the 13th. Produced by the original director of the first film, and with a soundtrack from the original composer, as well as crowdfunding money from fans around the globe, this is indeed a project fuelled by love. Is it also a game that deserves the massive cult-like attention it has received?
In its own way, this is an incredibly simple game that has converted what we love about Friday the 13th into a morbidly fun multiplayer game, since it revolves around Jason Vorhees trying to slaughter as many frightened camp counsellors as possible at Crystal Lake. One player goes on a killing spree as the ultimate sadist, while the other 1-7 players occupy more masochistic roles as helpless teenagers. There's a planned single-player mode scheduled for this summer too, but at the moment we only have this asymmetrical multiplayer mode, but it is quite captivating.
But wait a second, wasn't Jason always completely overpowered? Yes, and here is no exception, as he's nearly impossible to kill. The game is, therefore, more about surviving the night, either by fleeing or living long enough for the (roughly) 20 minutes to run out. There's no victory screen here, and instead you're rewarded for surviving, and get experience points based on a variety of factors. As Jason, you generally get more XP, and naturally the game counts the number of kills and how creatively you murder your victims. This approach makes the game feel more like a playground than actual competitive gaming.
Jason, as mentioned, is ridiculously powerful, and it's a bad idea to attempt to kill him, since it requires a complicated tactic. This includes a female counsellor wearing his mother's old sweater, which makes Jason emotional. You also need Tommy Jarvis, a more powerful counsellor, and if you call him, he will arrive and one of the dead or escaped players will control him. Even then, it's still very difficult to kill Jason.
What would then be the smartest tactic, if you intend to survive a night with Jason Vorhees hot on your heels? Perhaps the most obvious plan is to look for gas, keys, and a battery for one of the two cars which are on every map. One car has room for two and the other for four passengers, thus this approach also requires some coordination if you don't want to be abandoned by your friends.
Even when you get the car started and everyone is in place, Jason can still stop you. If he is in front of the car, for example, he can hit the front and stop it momentarily until you get it running again, meaning he'll probably pull you out of the car. This is why starting the car is so exhilarating, because you're close to escaping, but he can still get to you and win the game. For these reasons, leaving by boat can be a better idea, as Jason will have a harder time reaching you, and navigating to the end of the map is also easier.
There is much more to the game's mechanics than cat and mouse. As a counsellor, you have to consider your level of stamina, fear, noise, and so on, and for this reason there are ten of them, all of which have different stats. Some have improved fighting skills, for example, while others are fast at repairing, or perhaps more stealthy. You can unlock different variations of counsellors or Jasons as you reach higher levels, just as you receive points that can be spent on perks, and these grant you advantages, but sometimes at a cost. Becoming better at avoiding traps, for instance, might mean that you're slower as a result.
As a counselor, you'll never be very powerful, and this supports the creepy atmosphere. When little Jenny Myers locks the door, and Jason's characteristic "chi-chi-chi-ha-ha-ha" sound discretely hits the eardrum, it's not only the character's fear level that increases, as the game is very good at making you feel vulnerable and afraid; you can run and hide, but it's often never enough to escape death.
Perhaps the most annoying part of Friday the 13th: The Game is dying early. If you're not one of the last ones alive in the match, you can either leave the server and miss around 800 XP, or switch between viewing the different players left alive, while also partaking in the chat. If one of the others call Tommy Jarvis, you can be lucky and return in his shoes, but it's far from certain. Although it's quite a fun game to watch, we often chose to sacrifice the XP just to move along to the next game.
Many fans will probably buy the game to play as Jason, but it's not very often that you get the chance. Players must, therefore, accept that they can play a whole evening and only be Jason one or two times and this is because, while you can choose a preference, it's random whether you're put in the role of Jason or not. To us though, both sides of the game are very entertaining, and the special brand of asymmetrical multiplayer Gun Media has created here is one of the most well-crafted to date.
When you're finally picked as Jason, however, it's very satisfying. While you are very powerful, it's still a challenging game, since you can have many targets, and you have to use your abilities well in order to not only kill all the teenagers within 20 minutes, but also stop them from escaping. From teleportation to extremely heightened senses, Jason has many tools at his disposal. However, he is quite slow, which is why the element of surprise is also key.
One of the biggest achievements of this game is how true it is to the source material. Jason's variety of kills, for instance, are truly nostalgic to watch, as some of these are environmental kills, such as the classic scene with a camper hiding in a sleeping bag in a tent. Jason pulls out the poor teenager, still in the bag, and slams the bag into a tree until the person dies. While the film had to be censored, limiting Jason to only one slam, here he repeatedly slams the camper into the tree, making it a very bloody sleeping bag. There are also different Jasons to choose from, including the second film's baghead.
Certain kills can be equipped from a menu, and these include the head squeeze, where the head is spun 180 degrees, followed by a squeeze, popping the eyes out. Whether you're a victim or the lucky sadist, these kills are just as scream- and laughter-inducing as they are in the long-running series of films.
Perhaps even more impressive is how precisely the three areas have been recreated from the movies. These areas are Camp Crystal Lake, Packanack Lodge, and Higgins Haven, and every area, along with the '80s clothes and the music, creates the perfect atmosphere. From the lighting in the cabins to the fog outside, the mood is just right, and a discreet grainy effect also supports the feeling of playing an '80s horror film. The sound is especially atmospheric, but also the visual effect when Jason is close makes an impact.
Every location has its own detailed map, which you can find in cupboards around the camp. When you have one of these well-drawn maps, you have a great overview of the whole area, which is a must. You can also see the many optional objectives and keep yourself up-to-date on the progress of the team, i.e. whether you have called the police, if the gas tank has been filled, and so on. The many opportunities in every map make you want to play again and again, since every game can be different.
The game looks good and gets the mood right, but it's no killer when it comes to graphics. Fortunately, most modern PCs can run it, but it can look a little odd in certain places. The faces look clay-ish, and as can be seen in one screenshot of the blonde rich kid, the grimaces can look a little silly. However, the more laughable parts of the game might be intentional, since you can hardly be faithful to Friday the 13th without being a little bit silly.
It's naturally important for a multiplayer title to have stable servers too, and this part has actually been quite trouble-free during our playtime. Only once have we been disconnected from the server, and this might have been because of our own connection.
It's not a perfect game though, as the controls can be a little unresponsive, especially when closing a door or a window, becoming especially annoying when you're already panicked. Movement can also look a little stiff, which can affect immersion, and a text-chat could also be useful while in the game, since you're extremely dependent on communication. Most of our co-players have had a microphone, and while this is optimal, some players don't, and they're almost impossible to coordinate with, and some way of communicating with them would have been great.
Apart from this criticism, Friday the 13th: The Game is an extremely solid and entertaining title that's sure to entertain fans and newcomers alike, whether they are looking for scares or laughs. The developer seems to be dedicated to adding content and creating an even bigger and better game, with more maps and single-player, so we're waiting for these additions with excitement. The game is already extremely fun, even if it could use some polish here and there.