by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
37 Years Of The Thirteenth
It's hard to believe that the Friday the 13th franchise has been going since 1980. As of May 9th, the series celebrated its 37th anniversary since it hit theaters for the very first time. 12 films ranging from 9 horror slashers, to a remake, to a horrible attempt to modernize by sending the story into space, and even a ridiculous-but-fun showdown between the Jason Voorhees and Nightmare on Elmstreet's very own Freddy Krueger. It's fair to say, the series has been around the block a time or two, and in its wake it left numerous on-screen victims and crowds clamoring for more.
It was perhaps inevitable, though still unexpected, that eventually someone (or more accurately, several someones) would come along and bring the nightmare of Crystal Lake to life not for the silver screen, but for the gaming world. Ignoring the existence of the abysmal Friday the 13th game for the NES, a shameless cash grab, we finally get the game we didn't even realize we wanted in the form of Friday the 13th: The Game. Illfonics and Gun Media, with the help of crowdfunding fans, bring us an asymmetric 1v7 summer-slasher that is equal parts fun and messy in presentation, with the promise of bringing to life a depth of fear that can't quite be experienced just by watching a horror film. Now, you live the nightmare. But, does it pull it off? Or does it fall victim to the curse of movies not translating well into video games?
Scenic Crystal Lake
Players visit three iconic locales around Crystal Lake. Whether it's the well travelled Camp Crystal Lake, the backwoods near Higgin's Cabin, or the Packanack Lodge where Jason first began following in mother's footsteps and slaughtering the unfortunate visitors to the lake.
It's a game of cat and mice, where one player is chosen to play Jason while the other seven players take on the roles of different camp counselors. Each counselor, and each version of Jason (they have nearly all the versions of Jason we've seen in the movies, minus those from Jason X, Freddy vs Jason, and the 2009 remake) have their own set of stats that set them apart from each other.
While one counselor may be perfect for sneaking around, another may actually stand a higher chance of outrunning Jason, and another still may be great at repairing things; if you can keep him from tripping over his own two feet. With 10 to choose from, not to mention the ability to roll for perks to customize their abilities slightly, there's enough variety for everyone. As far as cosmetic customization, there is some but nothing to write home about. Different variants of the same clothing items they come with, just enough to change the look up a bit the more you progress. Where customization in the game really shines is earning enough CP to purchase all the different kill animations for Jason. Pick from your movie favorites, craft your perfect killer. I favor the infamous head-punch if you ask me. There’s nothing like watching a head fly off from someone's shoulders and listening to the proximity chat fall silent as the player you'd been preparing to kill is suddenly silenced.
The Hunter and The Hunted
At the beginning of every match, players are treated to a brief cutscene of a party scattering as Jason emerges from the woods behind an unsuspecting soul, snuffing them out as the counselors run into all directions. This sets the tone for the match, with the group split up and needing to find each other, and survive the encounter with Jason in one of several ways. The ways to survive are to phone the police and escape to safety, fix up one of the available vehicles (either a car or boat), wait for the 20 minute timer to run down, and rarest of all: kill Jason Voorhees. While I won't spoil how to go about the very last one, rest assured if you've seen the movies then you may have an idea based on one of the times they 'killed' Jason.
The odds are stacked heavily against the counselors, as the abilities of Jason are supernatural. Each footstep spells death as you pretty much are left to pray that you won't be the next head on the chopping block. Audio queues let you know when Jason is nearby, as do the screams of the characters themselves, their players, and now and then you can get a very chatty Jason himself which makes it no less frightening.
One of my most memorable moments came as we were trying to repair a car for our grand escape. When the time came to put the gasoline in the car, Jason erupted from nowhere sending four of us scattering once again. While they were distracted, I did what someone with the car keys should do; I hid. Survival rode more importantly on keeping track of those keys than anything else. The one carrying the gasoline unfortunately was picked off by Jason, and then something distracted that player elsewhere. Finding the mangled corpse of our fallen friend, we took the gasoline and filled the car up and made our way down the winding dirt road. Cheers erupted, but they were proved premature when we saw the hockey-masked figure on the road in front of us.
Quickly turning to screams, we threw the car in reverse while Jason slowly stalked towards us. As quickly as he came, he was gone... however briefly. Seeing as I managed to get the car stuck on a rock, we were at his mercy as he erupted from the bushes to our right and dragged out one of us kicking and screaming before crushing their head in his hands. That was about the time we abandoned the car and scattered into the woods. Making it to the lake's edge, I made the horrible mistake of trying to swim for it. Jason slowly moved into the water behind me and disappeared... and reappeared only when he lurched up from the depths to drown me as I screamed bloody murder into the microphone. Joining the dead players in the spectator mode, the screaming quickly turned to laughter as we realised how badly each of us had freaked out.
The game's not perfect: it's behind in its visuals, sound is sometimes inconsistent, hitbox detection for anyone but Jason's attacks is rather spotty, and for the first few days server statuses have been a rollercoaster ride (thankfully that now seems to be sorted). But I'm in love with this game.
Overall the game is beyond simplistic, but perhaps that's for the best. Overcomplicating things might have made it less fun in the grand scheme of things, and while I can't say for certain if I'll be playing this game a year from now, I do know I can affectionately call it my frightening summer fling for multiplayer. Illfonics has set the stage, it's time for them to keep improving upon this great idea, and for other companies to take the hint and follow in their footsteps. This is asymmetric multiplayer at its most addicting, and horror in one of its purest forms.
A prime example of asymmetric multiplayer done right, plenty of variety in Jason and Counselors to pick from, good sized maps, a successfully terrifying multiplayer experience
Minor hitbox issues, inconsistent sound, aged visuals