I’m a sucker for teen slasher flicks. Blockbusters, indie films, cheesy B-horror movies – I’ll watch it all. In fact, I’ve been watching horror movies ever since I was seven years old and cowering away at my first sight of fear. Horror movies and video games are a must. Suffice it say, when the news of the iconic 80s teen slasher film series, Friday the 13th, was being adapted to a next generation video game, I was very interested to see how it would turn out. (Usually film-turned-video game ports are generally terrible, with the few rare exceptions.)
This isn’t the first time Jason has appeared in a video game: He’s a downloadable character in Mortal Kombat X and there was a NES game released based on the film series. While both have their novelty factors, none has truly captured the film series’ vibe. But would this new Friday the 13th be among the greats or will it be another body count casualty?
(Disclaimer: During the time of release and subsequent period that followed, Friday the 13th has been plagued with ongoing technical issues. Difficulties such as server shut downs, malfunctioning level systems, lagging, dropped matches, and matchmaking are just some of the problems that have occurred. This review will cover the core mechanics and style of the game while touching lightly upon any issues that are still existent at this review’s publishing time.)
Friday the 13th: The Game borrows many fan favorite elements from the film series. There’s a camp site, a group of young camp counselors running for their lives, and a terrifying killer named Jason Voorhees killing people who gets in his way. It has all the makings of an 80s teen slasher flick. Though, the setting and story is kept generic enough that it fits into an easy cookie cutter format for each new match. In fact, Friday the 13th doesn’t even have a solo standalone story – it’s just teens trying to survive as Jason is coming to kill them. That’s it! There’s nothing more complex than that.
The game itself is set up as a semi-open world survival horror multiplayer game where (up to) seven players take on the roles of camp counselors. Their job is to explore the camp and find a way out alive. This could be in the form of fixing the camp car/boat and driving off, calling in the police, or even killing Jason himself. The additional eighth player becomes Jason Voorhees. Their job is simple enough: kill everyone. Jason has extra abilities and a wide variety of killing methods that he can use to snuff out any camp counselor he gets in contact with. It’s a tougher battle for the teens to survive, but if they work together, everyone could survive. It can happen! (I’ve played matches where I’ve survived as a counselor, got picked off early on, and as Jason who has killed all seven counselors.)
As of now, F13 is multiplayer only. You can only play this game online with a group of gamers (no local matchmaking). There will be a Single Player mode coming later on in Summer/Fall 2017, but for now, it’s completely dependent on online play. Unfortunately, the online matches have hit a few snags with the technical issues. Matches have either suffered from lag or were dropped completely due to connection. In one particular round, I and three other campers were nearly driving out of camp when our car started lagging hard. The car flipped over on itself causing it to become useless and Jason coming to kill us. This issue has also affected opening doors and using firearms. Having a general fear that a match will lag out is a terrible experience to have in a round.
During actual gameplay, counselors have the ability to explore cabins and search for key items. You can either arm yourself with weapons like machetes and bats or survival items like firecrackers. The best discoveries were the ones that offered a chance at escape. I loved the feeling of walking into a cabin and FINALLY locating a missing part to the camp car/boat that helped me escape. I get so excited finding car keys! Jason, on the other hand, has four abilities that progressively get unlocked as the match goes on. The longer he plays, the deadlier he becomes. And with each new power, it helps him achieve his kills in a quicker and bloodier fashion. My favorite kill so far has to be the bathroom drowning: I grabbed onto a counselor and inadvertently began drowning them in a toilet seat. Neither of us expected it – we had a great laugh after the match finished.
Graphics and design of the game are well done, especially when considering this comes from an indie developer. I particularly love the little nuances placed in the cabins and the accompanying music. For instance, whenever Jason is nearby the music will suddenly shift and warns you that you need to run. It’s the perfect touch and gives the feeling of being scared in a horror movie. The downside to the graphics, however, is the terror elements. While I like the darkening of the screen as the player becomes afraid, the design of the faces when campers are scared looks terrible. It’s cheesy and looks like a corny Halloween mask. Memes have done this justice (I’m looking at you, Chad) to show how funny it is instead of terrified.
The real treat to the game is the design and personalities of the characters. Each available Jason (after being unlocked) has their own personal strengths, weaknesses and looks. Some can run, others are better throwers, and each has their special abilities that can be used to kill the campers. The counselors, on the other hand, fit the archetype of the typical counselors who Jason would go after. You have the jock, the goth, the geek, the prep, the coed, and the list goes on. Each type is balanced with their own pre-set stats that show off the benefits, or in some cases disadvantages, to use for the player. For instance, certain players have high luck to finding objects in cabins, but they may have low composure and will be instantly terrified whenever Jason appears.
The best way to counteract this is the perk system. For a sum of accumulated points, the player can turn the odds and receive a random perk that will help and hinder them in matches. Perks can affect fighting, stats, escaping or even offer rewards. I’m on the fence with this feature. In certain aspects it’s not advantageous to equip a perk because the consequence does too much damage against the player. And the perk is completely random, so you’re not guaranteed to get something you’ll like, or even need. On the other hand, when you’re awarded a great perk, it can change the course of the game. My favorite has been finding the crouching perk which increases the regeneration of stamina quicker.
The problem with the character selection, however, is that there’s a clear divide between which characters are more desirable to use than others based on stats. Similar to any slasher movie before this, there are “Final Girls” and there is “Fodder”. Not everyone is bound to survive the horror movie, but there are characters who are clearly more overpowered than some. Vanessa, for instance, has incredibly high luck, stamina AND speed traits. Who wouldn’t want to rely on her and guarantee outrunning Jason more often than not? That’s not to say all the characters are like this; some are evenly balanced or they have stats preferenced to mechanics and stealth. However, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised seeing the same certain characters be used by gamers over and over again.
Friday the 13th’s biggest foe – beyond the technical issues, of course – is repetition. It falls into the same trap as many PvP games before it. After a while competing in the same maps with the same characters, you naturally get into a rhythm on how to win it/survive. For instance, chances are it’s easier to use Vanessa since she’s the fastest runner and while as Jason, it’s better to keep teleporting to key areas like the car/boat to find counselors. It’s the little nuances that start to mount that begin to take away the fun surprise factor when heading into a new match. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still scary and terrifying when Jason appears – it’s quite unexpected. However, the game is so simple in its format that it doesn’t offer any variation that could affect how each match is different than the previous one.
Friday the 13th is an ambitious and fun survival horror game that brings the film series to life. If you ever wondered if you could survive an attack from the machete-wielding, hockey mask-wearing killer, this is the game for you. As a horror fan, I got a taste of the campy 80s slasher flair and quite liked it. While it’s not exactly groundbreaking in the PvP field, its momentum is fueled by novelty and the Jason name. The technical issues, however, have affected the experience – even with all the patches, it’s expected that a lag, a drop or a glitch will occur. Many issues have been fixed with patches, but it’s still a long way to go before perfection. Stick with the game; you’ll never be afraid as if you were watching a horror movie – this isn’t that type of survivor horror video game. However, it’s addictive, campy, and it’ll bring out the Final Girl (or Guy) in you.
Publisher: Gun Media
Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PC and PlayStation 4
Released: May 26th, 2017
Copy Purchased By Reviewer