Kill For Mommy
It’s been a long and winding road for Friday the 13th fans who have been waiting for a decent video game to represent the franchise. Gore hounds have been given only one chance to virtually visit Camp Crystal Lake, and that was way back in 1989 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Sadly, that game is regarded as being one of the worst on the console, oftentimes making several gaming magazine’s “Top 10 Worst Games” lists. As a kid I didn’t really think it was too bad, but looking back at it now I can see why it has become so infamous. Tossing rocks at zombies, lighting fireplaces for no apparent reason, and having to constantly check that goddamn map screen are just a few of the game’s quirks. Not to mention Jason’s purple jumpsuit and baby-blue colored hockey mask, which gave the game a more humorous tone, and not the horrific experience Friday the 13th fans were hoping for. So here we are almost 3 decades later, ultimately giving up hope that we would ever get a good Jason game. Enter Kickstarter.
Kickstarter has been both a blessing and a curse for gamers. Thankfully, the Kickstarter campaign for Friday the 13th: The Game turned out to be a blessing. On October 13th, 2015 a campaign was opened that promised a Friday the 13th game that fans would be both horrified (in a good way) and proud of. The game sounded too good to be true. One player, who will take on the role of Jason, tasked to kill 7 other players who control camp counselors. Wait, I get to play as Jason and kill my friends?! Take my money!
It’s a Death Curse
When the Friday the 13th: The Game’s Kickstarter campaign ended it was the 95th most crowdfunded project of all time raking in a whopping $1,246,570 of its $800,000 goal. Everyone was happy, but somewhere in every backer’s mind was a strong feeling that this would either flop or never get released at all. Don’t lie. If you were a backer you had to think this at some point in time. After what seemed like an extremely long development cycle and few delays here and there due to Microsoft and Sony’s testing process, on Friday May 26th, backers finally got what they’ve been waiting for. Friday the 13th: The Game launched on Steam, Xbox One, and Playstation 4…but not without a few detrimental hiccups.
Server issues and a matchmaking process that had me staring at Jason’s crotch for an excess of 30 minutes at a time had me wondering if I was ever going to play the game. Seriously, while waiting for a session the game makes the player stare at Jason’s crotch, and since I went almost a whole weekend waiting for a connection, I know a lot more about Jason’s bulge than I’d like to. Several theories scattered all over Twitter had players resetting their PlayStations, cycling their modems, and even deleting and reinstalling the game in hopes that these matchmaking issues would be fixed. Gun Media, bless their indie hearts, finally did release a patch that fixed this issue and I haven’t had a problem finding a game since.
With the matchmaking issue out of the way we are left with a game that is still full of bugs. Some hilarious, some confusing, and some that are extremely frustrating. Clipping through doors, characters who can float, and a car that has a mind of its own are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems you will run into during the game’s current build. One of the more frustrating issues I seem to be running into as of late are areas of the map that can ultimately break the game. Certain map locations that are inaccessible to Jason are being exploited by players who don’t belong in online gaming. The people who are using these areas are boring, sad, and ruining the experience for people who want to play the game the right way. Gun Media has made a comment about these particular locations of the map and they promise to fix the problem areas with a future update.
They Call This Place Camp Blood
Even with the numerous problems the current build of the game has, it is still extremely fun. I thought that I would only want to play as Jason, but Gun Media has made playing as the counselors interesting as well. As a counselor, you and 6 friends have to escape Camp Crystal Lake by way of car or boat, or manage not to be murdered by Jason for 20 minutes. You can do this in a few different ways, but it’s not going to be easy. Just as you think everything is going to plan the iconic Harry Manfredini music will start playing meaning that Jason is getting closer. The louder the music gets, the harder your heart will pound, and before you know it you’re being chased by the masked maniac. In my experience, once Jason is in pursuit your chances of survival are extremely slim. Just like the movies, escaping Jason Voorhees is a rarity.
The three maps that are in the game feature a few different ways to escape. Fixing a car will usually be your group’s primary objective. The car requires a battery to be installed, gas tank to be filled, and keys to be started. These three components will be placed on the map at random locations and it’s up to the counselors to find them. This leads to all 7 counselors frantically running around the map desperately trying to find these items by searching every nook and cranny of every building. The car parts aren’t the only items to find though since maps and walkie-talkies also play a key role in the counselor’s survival. Finding the walkie-talkie will let you talk to other counselors who have also found one, and the map will let you see where the vehicles and the other players are located.
If escape by car isn’t your thing, or if Jason decided to smash the engine while you were trying to get away, fear not. A boat can be a means of escape if you happen to be on a map that has one. Get seasick easily? Don’t give up yet because you still have a few other options. A fuse to fix a phone can be found, again at a random spot on the map, and the phone can be used to call the police. Being that Camp Crystal Lake is in a pretty remote location, the cops do take their sweet time to get there. Five minutes to be exact, and this will be the longest 5 minutes of your life. Once they do arrive you’ll still need to find a way to get to them, and Jason will most likely be there waiting for you. It’s nice to have all of these options of escape at your disposal and really makes each game different. The excitement of finally getting a car started can only be topped by driving off in said car while praying that Jason doesn’t appear out of the darkness to stop you. It’s heart-pounding moments like this that make the game a truly unique experience.
Jason Gets an Upgrade
If you do manage to actually survive or escape Jason’s machete you’ll be rewarded XP to level up your character, and each level up leads to CP (customization points) to spend on perks. XP can be earned if you died at the hands of Jason too, but only if you stick around to the end of the round, which can be boring if you managed to die early on. The perks can be acquired by a “roll” that costs a set amount of CP. Your perks can be basic stuff like having a slightly less chance of stumbling to rarer abilities like starting off with a map. Perks can be sold back if you don’t like what you have and up to 3 perks can be used at one time. The CP can also be used to purchase different kills that Jason can perform. So it’ll be up to you to decide if you want your counselor to have a few special abilities or if you want your Jason to look like a total bad ass while he’s dispatching your friends.
Besides earning CP, another reason to level up your character is to unlock new counselors and Jason’s. Each Jason and camp counselor comes with different abilities that complement different play styles. An athletic counselor for instance, will run faster than a nerd, but the nerd is quicker at fixing phone lines. A part 3 Jason can run but the slower part 7 Jason has a faster ability cool down (more on those later). The XP system rewards you at a steady pace so unlocking all of these new characters doesn’t feel like a chore. As I previously mentioned, it’s best to stick around to the end of a match even though you died, because if you don’t you won’t be rewarded XP.
Such a Good Boy
Playing as Jason is just as awesome that I hoped it would be. Gun Media has done the character right and I felt like a total bad ass every time I was able to take control of him. Chasing down two friends at once was hilarious, especially when one split off and begged me to go after the other. When I did manage to get locked onto a particular counselor, they were most likely done for. It’s a great feeling when you finally manage to get a counselor in your grasp and kill them in whatever way you choose. The perk kills that you can purchase are very stylistic, but locating an environmental kill was always a bit sweeter. The counselors have the ability to lock cabin doors and give themselves a chance to catch a breath, but smashing down said door with your weapon is extremely satisfying, especially when they’re screaming and begging you to spare them. Unfortunately, you will run into players that think it’s funny to run around a couch countless times, but if you’re playing with a group of good people you shouldn’t have to deal with this immaturity very often. I’m not going to get into why playing with friends is better than random people. I think most gamers know this by now. I must say that I have had a decent amount of good experiences with randoms while playing Friday the 13th though.
One thing that a lot of fans of the series complained about when it was announced was how Jason could teleport from one side of the map to the other. I can say that this was weird at first, but it makes sense and is done extremely well. Jason has 4 different set abilities and the one I ended up using most was teleportation. All the maps are big and without this you’d be pretty bored just walking from one area to the other while searching out counselors. The teleportation does need to be cooled down before each use so it’s not unfair to the counselors, and since the map is so big you’ll rarely appear right next to someone. Also, teleporting to a road where a car full of counselors are thinking they’re about to escape never gets old.
Jason’s other abilities come in the form of stalk, sense, and shift. The stalk ability will let Jason get close to counselors without alerting them. In other words, the classic Manfredini music and Jason’s ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma (it’s not ch-ch-ch ha-ha-ha) will be muted while stalking. Sense will let Jason see what cabins counselors are hiding in or where they may be walking/running to. Finally, shift will give Jason the ability to change into a mist and travel across large portions of the map without being seen. This can be very useful, especially when using a Jason who can’t run. Every Jason has different cool-down ranges for these abilities and it’s up to you to decide which one works best for you.
But Wait, There’s More!
It’s worth noting that in the middle of Friday the 13th: The Game’s development cycle Gun Media announced that a single player campaign is being made and will be available sometime this summer. This single player mode will task players with completing goals that are similar to scenarios in the franchise’s films. Also planned is a mode that will let gamers play as Jason with bots controlling the camp counselors, similar to a practice mode. This has all been announced as free content.
As a big Friday the 13th fan myself I’m extremely satisfied with Friday the 13th: The Game. This is what I’ve been hoping for since I was a kid. Is it perfect? Hell no, but it’s extremely fun. If you are a Friday the 13th fan I think you too will be happy with what Gun Media has created. For those of you who may not be fans of the franchise, I think you’ll find a lot of fun to be had here as well. $40 may seem like a lot for the game in its current state, but once the bugs are stamped out and the single player mode is added, this’ll be a package that is well worth the asking price.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed), PC; Xbox One; Publisher: Gun Media ; Developer: Illfonic & Gun Media; Players: 8 ; Released: May 26, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Friday the 13th: The Game.