Friday the 13th Review
The Friday the 13th films are classics, their success helping create many of the tropes of the horror genre. Through its gameplay, Friday the 13th the game does a great job in producing the same fear and suspense that result from watching the series’ films, but technical issues and poor decisions regarding gameplay stop the game from being a must-buy for horror film lovers.
Friday the 13th offers up one sole asymmetrical online versus mode. One player takes the role of Jason, the famous masked killer, while seven other players are camp counselors trying to escape being murdered. There are a few maps in the game, but they are remarkably similar: campsites with a lake nearby, cabins placed haphazardly along roads. Games start with counselors spawning randomly around the map, and end either by Jason killing all other players, all players escaping, some combination of the two, or with the timer simply running out.
Jason is set up to be just as overpowered as he is in the films, making escaping as a counselor difficult and tense. As the match progresses and Jason catches more counselors, he unlocks more abilities to use in the hunt. His powers are effective, allowing the player to teleport across the map or tell whether a counselor is in a certain cabin. Jason can also break electrical boxes to turn off a cabin’s lights or smash windows so that counselors injure themselves while passing through them. All of these abilities help increase fear in the counselors, and counselors that are more fearful are easier for Jason to find. Playing as the masked maniac is mostly a lot of fun, as his abilities allow Jason to plan out attacks and react accordingly to the unexpected. The game can slow down to a crawl with one or two counselors remaining on the map, especially if they are adamant on hiding, but this didn’t happen very often in the matches I played.
As for counselors, they too have a range of abilities and actions to take, but are far less powerful than Jason. The goal is either to survive the time limit or escape by car, boat, or police, and counselors can attack Jason with weapons including firecrackers and a flare gun. These attacks stun Jason and allow the counselor to escape for the time being. The gameplay here is tense and thrilling. You never know exactly where Jason is but you do know that he could be nearby at any moment, the famous “shi shi shi ka ka ka “ sound effect letting the counselors know when he is in their vicinity. It’s exciting trying to escape from Jason since he overpowers counselors in every stat but speed, making it stressful to run from him but also delivering a huge relief when you know he has given up the chase.
A lot of the game’s mechanics come straight from the Friday the 13th movies and the developers did well to mix the film’s tropes into the gameplay. For example, players get to choose their counselor from a list of movie cliches, from the jock to the goth girl and every in between, each with their own stats. Jason too has a few forms to choose from, each having unique abilities and coming from a different movie in the series. Small touches, like the car engine that takes five seconds to turn over and start, add immensely to the tension in the game while serving as nods to the films. Overall, the gameplay feels straight from the movies, with tension and fear translating wonderfully to the small screen.
While the basic gameplay is satisfying and intense, Friday the 13th makes some big mistakes in how it delivers that gameplay. The first are server issues, which are still a problem in the game, and are all the more underlined when you consider that the only game mode requires matchmaking. The second are technical issues aside from connectivity, mostly strange animations, incorrect collision detection, and glitches. Once a game was found, I never faced a game-breaking glitch, but weird animations and other glitches took me out of the experience.
Finally, the framework for matchmaking and pre-game lobbies is disappointingly against the user having fun. One issue is that games typically won’t start until all eight positions are filled. This wouldn’t be an issue if matchmaking worked perfectly, but it doesn’t. Sitting around for up to six minutes trying to find one final person, when the match would be completely fine to start without them, is cruel punishment for players. A final gripe with the game is the fact that if you want to earn experience, you are forced to stick around for the entirety of the match. While it can be fun to watch a friend trying to escape Jason, it makes absolutely no sense why the developers would force a player to watch the last twenty minutes of a game when they could be instead playing in another new match. Not only would this put more players into the matchmaking pool, it would allow players to actually play the game more rather than watching it. Forcing players to stay in matches is one of the worst decisions possible because it stops them playing and interacting with the game.
The great news is that the developers have the opportunity to rectify many of these error through online updates. Adding more maps, fixing common glitches, and allowing players to leave a game after their character dies would go a long way to alleviating frustration found when playing Friday the 13th. There is a lot of potential here to create a game that can’t be put down, and its up to the developers to listen to their community and act accordingly. But for now the game remains a solid representation of the horror film genre while offering limited enjoyment.