Friday The 13th: The Game -- Live Your Own Camp Crystal Lake Summer
Friday The 13th may be arriving a bit late to the game, with Dead By Daylight already having its foot in the door with a full year jump start, but this is a strong contender in the asymmetrical horror arena that's very likely going to edge out the competition. If you thought DBD was going to be king due to its earlier release date, think again: Friday The 13th offers a different take on the style.
I've got admit, the early alpha footage wasn't really stunning me, so I was in for a surprise with the end product, which is easily among the best of licensed horror movie games to date.
And yes, you'll hear plenty of the iconic cha cha cha, ah ah ah while running for your life from a machete-wielding monster.
Welcome To Camp -- Don't Get Lost!
There's a serious thrill the first time you pop into Jason's skin
Besides the fact that its Jason Voorhees slaughtering counselors by the hundreds at various camp locales, the biggest difference between this game and any other in the genre is in size and scope, with this asymmetrical slaughter fest allowing up to eight players to run around Camp Crystal lake at any moment in 7 vs 1 matches.
This is pronounced by Friday the 13th's huge maps, which is both good and bad. You'd think Jason would be overpowered, and in some instances, he most assuredly is, but just getting to wherever the counselors are hiding can be half the battle. Luckily. as the hockey-masked killer, you've got Morph on your side, letting you essentially "teleport" across the area (representing how Jason always seems to be everywhere at once), while the counselors have to hoof it the old fashioned way.
Variety Is The Spice Of Death
One major concern I had, where it seemed like the previous Dead By Daylight and upcoming The Last Year were going to dominate Friday the 13th, was in the options each game provides players for killing their victims.
However, you can unlock different eras of Jason throughout the killer's filmography. Each has different stats and appearances, but where the real variety comes in is from unlocking and selecting a number of different kill types.
There's everything from machete crotch kills (grimly displaying "neutered" in how a counselor died at the end of the match), to eye gouging, ripping jaws in half, decapitations, and many, many more. Contrasting with the aforementioned Dead By Daylight, which has more base killers but who all have essentially only two main attacks, Jason gets an incredibly wide range of kill animations.
Besides the kill types you're able to equip, there are environment kills available, too, ranging from creative uses of fire places to getting thrown through glass windows.
Adding balance to the game, Jason's powers grow over time and throughout the match, so he isn't a total killing machine all the time. At first, he just has access to the Morphing mechanic, but eventually, he is able to use Sense for advanced hearing and sight, and then Stalk for extremely rapid movement when chasing down faster counselors.
After several matches, you can unlock unique new kills for Jason, as well as rolling random perks for counselors, with new characters available as you level up. More than just change to aesthetics, some versions of Jason are more or less resistant to stun, move faster or slower, and have other buffs that make them worth checking out and using in certain scenarios.
Run, Hide, and Die
Ok. That's all well and good for the one lucky player who gets picked as Jason, but what about the seven other players as counselors?
Just like there are different ways for Jason to slaughter counselors, there are also different ways for counselors to win the match. From gathering car parts, gas, and car keys to calling in the police and escaping to safety, there's a bevy of ways to escape Jason's murderous clutches.
You've got a lot of balancing elements on your side as a squishy counselor, too, like the fact that Jason can't go through windows and many doors you can open freely he has to break down. There are also plenty of ways to fight back, from unexpectedly stabbing Jason if he goes in for a grab kill instead of a machete whack and stunning him with fireworks, flare guns, or shotgun blasts, to laying bear traps at places you think he'll be lumbering through.
With such large groups of counselors all working toward escape, there's a huge amount of opportunity to work together -- or not, as the case may be.
One match in particular will stick with me forever. Everyone very quickly gathered the components to get in a car and drive far, far away from the camp. Unfortunately, Mr. Voorhees caught wind of our plan and camped out at the car, sending us all scattering.
After escaping his crushing grip and using my fireworks to keep Jason off our backs, my disloyal crew took off in the car without me, even though they could see I was all of five feet from grabbing the back passenger door.
They laughed about it while speeding away, mocking the color of my sad level 1 sweater. Needless to say, I wasn't a fan of that group.
Some Bugs And Issues
There are already anti-abuse measures in place to prevent exploits and problems right at launch, from anti-cheat software automatically installed to 500 bonus XP awarded if you complete the full match instead of rage quitting after dying.
There are still ways to screw the whole thing up, though, as I learned pretty quickly. In one round, about half the group were pre-release streamers who all knew each other and decided to help one another out. I stared in wonder as Jason literally followed counselors around without killing them so they could earn maximum experience by completing various tasks. Anyone who wasn't part of this "in group" didn't get that treatment.
As would be expected, there is also an imbalance between people of higher and lower levels. A level 24 Tommy, for instance, can pretty much forever outrun a level 1 Jason, but you'll end up in the same lobby anyway. In an early match, I spent a very frustrating five minutes chasing this guy down while trying to figure out how the Stalk mechanic worked.
On the technical front, there are a couple of issues that need to be addressed post-launch, like the fact that the intro cinematic is exactly the same in every match.
Unfortunately, there are a handful of annoying bugs that interfered with the game. In one instance, after I'd chopped down a door as Jason, I was stuck in place and couldn't move for about 20 seconds. Likewise, the "use item" key is a little wonky, and you usually have to press it twice to actually grab at a throwing knife or open a car door – all the time that's needed for someone to kill you or escape.
After several hours of trying out different matches, I also have a serious question for the developers: where is the space level and super powered space Jason? That's simply got to show up as DLC, no question.
The Bottom Line
Despite the fact that the insular pre-release community wasn't exactly welcoming at first, over time, a newbie will start to have a much better time when getting used to the game's mechanics and learning to work with other players to escape.
A good team can create effective strategies, like having one experienced player lure Jason away while the others converge on a car or boat, or make their way toward the police escort.
On the visual and audio front, Friday The 13th absolutely nails the tone and atmosphere, with fun little flourishes like the screen going into fuzzy VHS mode when Jason is on your trail.
Finally, there's a great progression system that rewards sticking with the game over the long haul, and if you've got a good group that remains in communication, it can actually be fun to just watch the surviving players go about their business even after you've bitten the dust.