After taking a little longer than I anticipated, I got enough play-time with Friday the 13th: The Game to really get a feel for everything it has to offer players and Jason fans alike. It’s no secret that the initial launch on PS4 and Xbox One was a massive challenge for the developers, but one that they have been handling with the utmost class. In order for them to start working on some of the “smaller” things in the game, they’ll need to fix the major ones first, but they are listening to what fans have to say – and what a great feeling that is.
With that said, Friday The 13th is certainly not without its flaws, but it’s not a game everyone should avoid. Of course, what is most remarkable about this game is the attention to detail the developers have given to recreating the atheistic and tone from the films. Having Tom Savini, Harry Manfredini, and Kane Hodder be involved with this tremendous undertaking was an obvious choice – and ode to the masters, if you will. Between the counselor personalities and looks, the various Jason skins, and everything in-between (even the very specific method for killing Jason is taken straight from the films), exploring each map will make you long for the days you spent as a counselor telling ghost stories around the campfire, regardless if you ever actually worked at a summer camp or not. And the kills. My god, the kills!
Some feel that the tone wasn’t spot-on – I disagree to an extent. While the playable characters themselves in-game don’t have any ridiculous things to say, there was no shortage of humor from being in a lobby with random people. It’s only appropriate that we will fill the counselors’ shoes with our own commentary, being that we are playing as them. One match, there was a particularly slow Jason (took him forever to kill people), so me and a few others were practicing our “run and dive” through a window for a good five minutes, while making all sorts of other, unrelated franchise references. Of course, you will always get “those people” who sound better muted, but for the ones who were genuinely all about fun and teamwork, they gave the game that cheesy-feel that would be missing from a completely silent match.
Progression in Friday The 13th is easy; players can expect to gain several hundred experience points per match as a counselor, or even more as Jason, usually over a thousand. This will unlock all Jason skins, his kills, and counselors quickly if you play for several matches over a weekend; not much time is needed to gain this XP, but unlocking clothing options for the counselors start at a higher level than the last Jason skin, which doesn’t make much sense. One issue with the leveling system is that you have to wait until the match is completely over to earn your points, which is fine when there is action happening, but there have been times when people have hid for a good 10 minutes or so until the end of the match – that got boring real quick.
Thankfully, it’s not often that someone does that. There was one time when the game crashed after I had already escaped and was waiting for the game to finish, and all the XP I earned was lost, so by giving players their XP regardless if they leave or not would be a nice gesture – maybe even give extra points for sitting through the whole match. (If anyone is worried about people getting up and leaving for the remainder, they shouldn’t, because most of us are probably already doing that.) Fortunately, I have not experienced many instances of the game crashing on PC.
But one of the main issues that many people have had a hard time with is that Jason may be too over-powered. I have been able to kill all the counselors in the game (a full seven, plus one resurrected as Tommy Jarvis) in a matter of minutes. Some of this was because the counselors were not properly armed, but if many of them are out in the open, it’s easy to use Jason’s sense ability and shift ability in tandem to track them down with little to no effort. This, of course, is in line with Jason’s representation in the Friday the 13th films, as he is completely OP, but staying true to the canon in this regard doesn’t translate well in-game, mechanically.
For multiplayer, survival horror games like Friday The 13th, the game mechanics need to be balanced. There are perks that the counselors get that Jason does not, like being able to see if the cops have been called or if someone has put gas in a car by bringing up their map screen, but these do little to even the scale. Jason’s strength, movement, and rage abilities all give the counselors little hope of survival, unless some great stealth work is involved and luck. You can spend 500 XP on rolling random perks, but these don’t have much effect on the counselors’ abilities, it seems. The “My Dad is a Cop” perk, for example, only reduces the amount of time it takes for the cops to arrive by 20 seconds or so.
Even with the unbalanced mechanics, though, the developers still stay true to the franchise; we watch slashers because they promise to show people dying in the most brutal ways possible. We watch them because we know someone is going to make a dumb mistake that gets them or a friend killed. (Who hides in a sleeping bag? I mean, come on!) It would be less satisfying if it was easy to escape the grasp of an immortal killer. You are supposed to die a bunch of times, but then the game eases up on you and maybe you spawn in the cabin with the phone, and maybe the fuse is in the cabin next door. Does that make some rounds any less frustrating to play? Absolutely not.
But, if Jason wasn’t as OP as he is, the seemingly “all hope is lost” tone that drives the slasher genre would lessen the stakes for the players, therefore lessening the tension and reducing the overall excitement. The lesson to take away here is that it’s very hard to balance something that is fundamentally incompatible when being adapted for a game. What’s more important: gameplay balance or staying true to the canon? I think the latter is clear in this case.
What does need to be addressed (and I’m betting will in future updates, DLCs, and the like) is the small number of playable locations. Right now, there are only three maps: Camp Crystal Lake, Higgins Haven, and Packanack Lodge; the randomization of essential items – gas, battery, car keys, etc. – is the only thing keeping these maps slightly fresh at the moment. Having heard other player experiences, some people have taken to creating their own rules in the game, such as surviving by hiding for an entire match, or no escaping for an entire match. It would be interesting to see these as actual alternative rules.
Other things that I’m sure will get fixed, as well: putting in a language preference so it would be easier to coordinate with other players in the game; being able to still hear everyone over the walkies after you have escaped or died; creating some kind of punishment system other than subtracting points (or a game setting to turn off friendly fire) for counselors who kill their fellow counselor or team up with Jason to kill counselors; fixing a glitch on PC that freezes Jason in place for a minute if he tries to enter a cabin too soon after he axed the door down, and some other glitches that still need to be addressed.
I want to be as excited for this game now as I was before it came out, but putting my love for Jason Voorhees aside, there are shortcomings in this game serious enough to make me shelve it until the single player comes out, or until the developers add in some more stuff. They have to get the PS4 and Xbox One stuff fixed first, as they should, but even among all the chaos, Friday The 13th is still more exciting than other games of the same genre that have come out in the last few years – and I’m still looking forward to the single player mode.
PUBLISHER – Gun Media| DEVELOPER – Illfonic | ESRB – M | PLATFORMS – PC / PS4 / Xbox One
Consider – Friday The 13th: The Game’s attention to detail is marvelous – any hardcore fan of the film franchise will be hard-pressed to find a single thing out of canon. Unbalanced gameplay between counselors and Jason might make playing it frustrating for some, while others might find themselves bored with the repetition of the maps or numerous glitches. Those who want to play on console should wait until the major things are fixed, like matchmaking and exploits, but if you want to play on PC, you’ll have a much better time. As the game ages, though, there will need to be more updates and DLCs to keep the content fresh.