There are two horror franchises that I love more than any other slasher to come out in the 80s: Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday The 13th. “Freddy vs. Jason” is one of my favorite horror films, and I always pick Jason Voorhees when I play Mortal Kombat X. Naturally, I’ve been following Friday The 13th: The Game since it was originally titled Slasher Vol I: Summer Camp, and it was a pleasure to sit down with Wes Keltner last year at E3 to watch alpha footage and talk with him more about the game. (Jason masks signed by Kane Hodder and Harry Manfredini were on full display on the coffee table.) After a long wait, Friday The 13th launched on Steam last night about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, which was before midnight where I live on the west coast.
It was a very smooth release for PC players last night. There was short wait time to be matched with other players in a lobby, and people were chatty for the most part. (I now have some new friends on Steam!) There were several people who had participated in the beta, so some of them were particularity good with playing Jason. It was my first time playing the game last night and, so far, this fan-girl is as pleased as punch. The game was buggy in several areas – Jason cracked a counselor’s spine over his back at one point and, after he dropped him, the counselor bent over backward on the ground with his head completely submerged in the dirt – but not enough to detract from the overall experience. However, Xbox One players had to wait a bit longer than they anticipated; an issue with purchasing the game persisted for several hours.
The issue was resolved at about 7:30 AM PST, an hour or so before Friday The 13th went live on PS4, but then the servers went down, due to a flood of people trying to access the game – not out of the realm of expected possibilities of things to go wrong at the launch of a game part of an insanely popular horror franchise. Server issues are still present at the time of this writing, but the Friday The 13th Twitter account is providing periodical updates on the status of the servers, so be sure to follow them.
When you first start Friday The 13th, you have a few counselors to choose from, but most are locked. Each game you play awards you with experiences points that not only raise your overall level, but also allows you to unlock different Jason kill moves by spending them. Each counselor has different attributes, so if your play style is more sneaky, you should go with a character that has high stealth stats. The map can change each time you enter a new game, but you’ll find the same items crucial to your survival such as gasoline for a car or boat (albeit I don’t remember if every map has a lake with a boat as a means of an escape. I stayed up way too late playing this game last night), or radios and phones to call for help. There are several ways to escape, yet if you take the boat or car route, not everyone can escape at once. During my last game, myself and another player got lucky and spawned near a boat house and almost immediately found a rudder and gasoline – we happily road that boat to safety.
One of the neat features about playing as a counselor is that if you radio for help (not call), Tommy Jarvis is summoned, and a player who has died is revived as him for a second chance at life. If you are familiar with the franchise at all, you already know that he is an integral part to the cannon, so his inclusion in the game is on-point. I’m not sure if players who have already escaped can be Tommy, but I played him at least three times last night after dying early on in the game. And, apparently, if you hit Jason enough times with the right weapon – a wooden baseball bat, in this case – you can knock the mask of Jason’s face. This happened once in-game last night.
My only gripe so far with playing a counselor is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to track your level of fear. Things like finding a dead body and walking alone through the dark are supposed to increase your fear and make it easier for Jason to find you, but there’s no tangible way to track this. I couldn’t necessarily tell all the time what state of mind my character was in unless he or she was being chased by Jason himself or was injured – don’t be like me and jump out of high windows.
Some people say that playing as a counselor isn’t fun – I disagree. It’s always more difficult and less fun to play the prey than the hunter, and the same goes for games like Evolve, Dead By Daylight, and Dead Realm. It’s going to suck if you get killed in the first minute, but that’s the nature of the game. There’s plenty to do as a counselor in Friday The 13th: large maps to explore, weapons and other items to pick up, and the ability to square off against Jason himself. Just hope that luck is on your side.
Finally, after a few rounds as a counselor, I got to play as Jason. The feature I found the most useful was Jason’s teleportation skill. At one point, I teleported to the side of a moving car as a few counselors were escaping, scaring the crap out of them. (Unfortunately, they got away.) I haven’t figured out how to use Jason’s special kills, since I played as him only once, but that didn’t stop me from slashing other players to death. I did come across one environmental kill, which is one that I hoped they put into the game when I first heard about Friday The 13th two years ago: the sleeping bag kill. It was highly satisfying. I didn’t play the beta, nor watched any footage from the beta (didn’t want to spoil the game for myself), so I had no idea that one of my favorite scenes from the movies was in the game.
You can’t choose to play as Jason, only check him as a preference, but I don’t mind this. There are 6 different playable Jasons, each an exact recreation from the the films. The differences between them aren’t just cosmetic, as each has their own strengths and weaknesses, which I have yet to explore. Players will start off with one Jason, but have the ability to unlock the rest as they level up and gain experience points.
I will definitely need more time with the game for a proper review (as if this pre-review wasn’t long enough), and given the server issues, I’ll see how the game plays again later this evening and in the days to come. For now, Friday The 13th seems to be everything I expected it to be. Check back next week for my full review of Friday the 13th: The Game.