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August 2018

Friday the 13th: The Game

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Gun Media
Release Date: May 26, 2017


PS4 Review - 'Friday the 13th: The Game'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 5, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Friday the 13th: The Game is an online, asymmetric multiplayer experience where one player will assume the role of Jason Voorhees against seven other players assuming the roles of camp counselors trying to survive the night.

Friday the 13th: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where a group of camp counselors have their camp-out crashed by the most iconic hockey-masked serial killer of all time. The counselors' goal is to survive, while Jason's goal is to kill. Any counselor who survivors is a winner, but the more Jason kills, the better his rewards will be. Ultimately, it's less about winning and more about creating a horror movie. It's a question of whether this particular film ends with a bunch of survivors or an ominously empty camp.

In any given match, most of the players are camp counselors whose goal is to escape from Jason. You're not going to be able to fight him, so any weapons you find can only slow him down. Your only choice is to run or hide, and if Jason knows where you are, running can only be so effective. The sense of powerlessness is fitting since you're playing as a horror movie character. No matter how skilled you are, at some point, you're going to hope the masked monster has something else on his mind.

Your goal is to find a way out of the camp. You can do this by repairing cars with materials scattered throughout the camp, calling the police and waiting for them to arrive, or evading Jason until the match is finished. It may sound simple, but none of the tasks is easy. Good Jason players will know how to cut you off quickly, so calling the police is a difficult task if he can destroy the phone first. Repairing the car is the easiest way to survive but involves strong cooperation between players and offers the fewest number of escape routes. Surviving until the end of the match is a fool's errand, as Jason gets stronger as the match progresses.

There's a competitive element to playing as a counselor. Yes, everyone wants to escape, but as the saying goes, you only need to run faster than the slowest person. It's vital to figure out when to leave someone to Jason's mercies versus trying to help them. You also need to figure out when and where to ditch others to make your own escape. Once you've fixed your car, do you wait for enough people to fill it up, or do you get out while the getting is good? If you know the police are here, do you go for them or try to help your wounded friend get away too? It's a fun twist because there's no reason to hinder your friends, but you also want to escape while you can.

Of course, the real star of the show is Mr. Voorhees himself. One lucky player gets to take control of Jason, whose goal is to hunt the other players. In comparison to the camp counselors, Jason is a behemoth. He can't be killed (short of an esoteric and unlikely secret event), moves like someone stuck a pair of legs on a mountain, and has a selection of supernatural powers. He can teleport, shift to an incorporeal form for brief periods of time, and brutalize anyone in his path.

The key to playing as Jason is fear. He can sense the fear of his targets, which causes them to get highlighted on the map. He has weaknesses, though. He can sense when someone is in a house, but they can still hide or sneak past him. Radios and similar devices can distract him. Anything they can do to Jason, short of that hidden secret, is only temporary. As the match progresses, Jason gradually grows more powerful and eventually becomes unstoppable. Even as the counselors grow weaker and run out of supplies, Jason gets stronger and more dangerous. It's a clever way to mimic the progression of a horror movie.

There's a cool twist to that because Jason doesn't just want to win. There are context-sensitive special kills that require you to kill the unlucky teens in specific ways for bonus experience points. The optimal way to play as Jason is to leave victims alive and wounded until you can kill them in a suitably dramatic way, while still terrorizing them and slowing down their escape attempts. A good Jason player will kill all his targets before they escape. A great one will stalk them, harass them, and pop out of a corner to finish them off just when they think they're safe.

Being Jason is the most fun part of the experience by far. Every match is a game of roulette to see if you get to be the unstoppable killing machine or the unfortunate teenage counselor he's hunting down. If you want to play as Jason, you're going to gamble that you get the gameplay you want. It's a problem with this asymmetrical style of game, not a problem that's unique to Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th plays best with a group with roughly equal skill levels. A too-talented Jason will slaughter the poor counselors before they can hope to mount an escape. Counselors who know all the twists against a newbie Jason will probably outwit the brute too easily. When you get a roughly equal group, the game is at once horrifying and exciting, and a Jason player who gets into the mood can make it amazing. You can experience the tension of working together while knowing Jason may pop out of any corner, and the satisfaction of waiting for the perfect moment to strike as the masked killer far outweighs any perfect headshot in a traditional multiplayer game.

A tough thing about Friday the 13th is that it currently doesn't feel like a finished $40 game. You're given a small number of maps, and there are unlockable Jasons and counselors, but none of them fundamentally change the game. They have slightly different stats that complement different play styles, but ultimately, you'll repeat the same things over and over. That's expected for a multiplayer game, but for such a niche concept, it doesn't do enough to justify the price tag. The reason this isn't a crippling flaw is that we know the content is coming. A single-player campaign and battles against bots are scheduled down the line, and that alone should give it more value, if only to allow you to play as Jason without fighting for the spot.

The major problem with Friday the 13th is that, as of this writing, it's all potential. The moments when the game is delightful shine through often enough that you can't write it off, but there are too many problems with the game. In addition to the general lack of content, the game feels unpolished. The controls aren't bad, but they're stiff and awkward, which matters a lot when a few button presses are the difference between victory and a machete to the face. There were also glitches aplenty and a lot of server issues, which as of this writing were only partially resolved.

Most of this stuff will hopefully be fixed in a few patches, but that sums up the Friday the 13th issue. A few patches from now, the game will probably be great. A few patches from now, it'll have more content, fewer bugs, and will shine. Since it's a few patches from now, that makes it difficult to recommend picking up the game at launch, even if it is a lot of fun right now. If you're willing to look past the flaws or buy the game on potential, it's a solid buy, but you're going to have to wait until that potential is realized.

One area where the game shines is in the visuals. Every moment of the game drips with love for the franchise. There are lots of subtle references and inside jokes for fans, and Jason is re-created in about as perfect detail as possible. Each of the different Jason skins embodies a different film's version of the character, and it's clear how much work was put into making Jason work. Everything from the sound cues to the animations are spot-on. The counselors are less impressive since they're filler archetypes, but they're by no means bad.

Friday the 13th: The Game is a fun but flawed experience. When it is on, it feels great. The feeling of hunting down that last survivor or dodging Jason and escaping at the final moment is tough to beat. However, the technical glitches and lack of launch content drag it down. If you're willing to overlook them, then you'll find an enjoyable experience that should improve down the line. If you're unsure, you should wait and see how it shapes up in a few patch cycles. Regardless of its flaws, this is a love letter to the Friday the 13th franchise, and it's a game that fans should love.

Score: 6.5/10

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