Friday the 13th: The Game Video Game (Multiplayer) Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Released by Gun Media and Illfonic
Developed by Gun Media and Illfonic
2017, Rated 18
Game released on 26 May 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
Friday the 13th: The Game is OUT. I've been waiting so long to say that. Despite the long wait for the much-anticipated 1 vs 7 multiplayer horror, developed by Gun Media and Illfonic under the watchful eye of the Friday the 13th franchise, the game's release has been anything but smooth sailing. Here is my review of the game's multiplayer experience so far.
This may seem lazy, but to explain the concept behind the multiplayer Friday the 13th: The Game, I'm actually going to recycle something I wrote about the previous closed beta... Not because I don't want to write more about this game – I could keep writing about it forever, and just might – but because I feel that my previous write-up captured the tone of the franchise with its horror narrative at the same time as running through the gameplay. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Once we've recapped the game itself, I'll flesh it out a little further with the good aspects, and the not so good aspects, of the fully-released multiplayer title.
Here comes a quick blast from the past:
Each multiplayer match starts the same way: A group of counsellors are chatting around a campfire when Jason appears, hacks down a poor counsellor, and everyone flees in separate directions. As Jason looks around at the chaos he’s caused, the screen fades to black for random and Jason is randomly selected from those in the match. Then, depending on who you’re playing as, you’ll either see “5 minutes later... Survive!” or “Hunt down everyone!”. It’s clear which is which.
Allow me to tell you a little horror tale from each perspective...
Click images to enlarge.
“5 minutes later... Survive!”
The screen fades back into view and you’re a counsellor named Vanessa Jones, all alone, near a set of cabins. You decide to explore them, and as you methodically search through each cabin, you lock the doors behind you and open windows for easy escape routes. In a cluster of cabins, you manage to arm yourself with a baseball bat and find some car keys. Unfortunately, the car down the road also needs a new battery and fuel. You head towards another group of cabins where you know another counsellor is already searching.
Before you head inside, you see a sparking box on the side of the cabin. It's the phone line, and after a few well-timed button prompts – similar to fixing generators in Dead by Daylight – it's working again. You rush inside to call the police.
As you're screaming down the phone that Jason is back, the other counsellor, a guy named Chad, is searching the cupboards around you for weapons and items. After you finish the call, a timer of five minutes pops up in the corner of your screen. Success – police are on the way.
The lights go out. Jason is here, and he must have hacked through the generator outside. Then the dramatic music starts, and you see Jason's silhouette stomp past the window. Time to go. Both of you run towards the back of the cabin and you climb through a window, hoping that Jason won't follow.
The screen blurs and Jason is right there, standing between you and Chad as he climbs out of the window. You start to run and then realise that Chad isn't following. Jason has him by the throat and you run back to try and free him. It's too late. All you can do is watch as Jason crushes Chad's windpipe and drops him to the ground. Again, you run, ducking into a nearby cabin and locking the door behind you. In a moment of quick thinking, you drop a noise-maker to trick Jason into searching the cabin while you escape through the back door. It seems to work because the music dies down and Jason goes to a different area on the map. All the while, the police timer is ticking down.
You begin searching another set of cabins, undisturbed for a few minutes, but it seems like someone beat you there. Then, the timer ticks down to zero and sirens whoop in the distance. The police have arrived, and luckily, at an exit near the cabins you're currently searching. If it had been at the other end of the camp you might not have been able to make it, but you just might have a chance. You sprint towards the red and blue lights in the distance. So close.
Then the music starts again. His music. He's teleported to this end of the map, and he now stands between you and the escape route. The police can't help you from here, and there's not enough space to run around Jason. You think about hitting him, but your baseball bat won't even slow him down. You start to back away. However, you're not alone. Tommy Jarvis – Jason's only real nemesis from the films - has turned up, and he's holding a shotgun. You might be saved, after all.
Tommy aims the gun as Jason starts bearing down on you and a loud BOOM rings out. Jason keeps on walking. Tommy missed. Now he's running back towards the camp. No time to think. You sprint towards the exit, hoping that Jason will be more interested in Tommy, but he doesn't take the bait. Before you even have a chance to run around him, Jason has you by the throat and you're tapping as fast as you can to break free. No luck. He throws you to the floor and begins to dismember you with his weapon, only silencing you at the end with a blow to the head. You die as the police watch in the distance, unable to save you from the curse of Camp Crystal Lake.
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Jason Voorhees gameplay
"Hunt down everyone!"
The screen fades back into view and you're playing as Jason. You're wearing the hockey mask and are ready to murder, so you start making the most of your first available ability: teleporting. You teleport around a few different areas but don't find anyone at first. Then Sense mode is unlocked, and everything becomes a little clearer.
Using sense mode, you can see that there is someone in the cabin ahead of you because it is glowing bright red. You can hear them screaming for help, so they must have found a phone inside. The police might be here soon. Before you begin hunting them down, you swing your axe into a fuse box at the back of the cabin. The lights go out. Perfect.
You hear a scream as a counsellor sees you through the window, and realise there's two of them. They both dart towards the back of the cabin. You make use of your third ability, Shift, and fly towards the back of the cabin in a form that they cannot see until you materialise in front of them. You catch them climbing out of the window. One girl has already dashed out of your reach, but there's a guy still climbing out of the window. You grab him by the throat.
He struggles, trying to break free, while the girl starts running over to help. She's holding a baseball bat, but it's too late for her to do anything useful. With the tap of a button, you squeeze his throat until it caves in and discard him at your feet. The girl realises she can't do anything to help and runs off into the trees. You follow in her direction, but your Sense and Shift abilities are still on cooldown. It's okay. You'll find her again. As soon as your teleport ability is ready, you teleport over to the cabins in the direction that she ran.
The girl isn't there, but a few others are. Within a few minutes, they're all dead and you hear the voice of your dead mother, Pamela, congratulating your hard work. You're so pleased to hear her voice again. However, that one girl still eludes you. Then you hear sirens in the distance. The police have arrived. Even though this means the counsellors might escape, it's also the best bait you could have hoped for. You teleport towards the commotion... and wait.
Soon enough, she shows up. When she spots you, she lets out a scream and tries to run around you for the exit, but you're blocking the path. It seems as if her options are to run back into the camp or face certain death by trying to pass you, until Tommy Jarvis shows up. You've met him before, and it never ends well. You stalk towards them as Tommy aims a shotgun in your direction, but in his fear he misses the shot. Out of ammo and courage, he sprints back into the camp, leaving the girl alone once again.
She tries to make the most of the distraction and darts forward. You were ready, and you lift her off the ground. You select one of the four kills you planned to use and begin to carry out the will of your mother. You throw the girl to the ground and, one-by-one, you disconnect her appendages from her torso. She dies when you lodge your axe in her skull. Mother is pleased, though your work is not done. Not until every last one of them is dead. You teleport back into the camp in search of more teenagers that need killing.
Click images to enlarge.
Even if you've read all of that before, it was still fun, right? Now that you're all caught up on the concept behind a match of Friday the 13th: The Game, how is it in fully-released practice? Well, sadly, the game is still being plagued by serious teething issues, which I'll go into shortly, similar to the beta when it was first released. Even so, let's keep it positive for a moment...
All of the fun that I experienced in the beta has bled into the released game, along with a couple of new features, too.
The first new feature I noticed was the option to buy perks for counsellors using the points gained within games. This goes under the name of “Roll perk” as it's a pot-luck system of gaining new stat-boosting perks, 500 points per time. These perks have a rarity scale, from common to rare, and can have you start a game with a specific item that you'd normally have to search for, such as a noisemaker – used to distract or stun Jason – or give you stat boosts for certain actions, such as less chance of stumbling when running or increased speed while driving a car or boat.
The latter is also a new feature, as there was no such vehicle in the closed beta. I've only seen the boat used once while watching survivors make their escape – I was long dead in this particular game – but it requires one less part to fix than the cars, making it a great escape option for counsellors that can get their hands on fuel and a propeller. There's also far less chance of being stopped by Jason during your escape.
My time watching these counsellors make their break for freedom leads me nicely onto another thing I love about Friday the 13th: The Game; this game is even fun to watch. I can't say I always prefer watching a game to playing it, but there's something enjoyable about watching the other counsellors trying to survive, making bad decisions, and meeting their demise and the hands of Jason (or escaping by the skin of their teeth). It's like watching mini Friday the 13th films. Can't say anything bad about that, and I greatly enjoy playing through, and watching, these tiny, tense slashers. Sadly, there are a few things that I can say bad things about – well, constructive things, anyway.
At the time of writing, Friday the 13th: The Game is struggling under the weight of the many horror fans that flocked to the game across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux. The developers tried to estimate how many people would be playing the game at any one time based on previous beta numbers and pre-order figures. Long story short, they underestimated interest in the game, and the servers crashed almost immediately on launch day. They haven't quite recovered since.
As a result of all of the above, there are a number of issues that should be resolved shortly, but are currently causing serious frustration for gamers. Players are being kicked from games, XP isn't translating from games to player level (I've been level 8 for about 24 hours), perks aren't actually showing up once purchased, along with a number of other isolated issues; and that's if you're able to connect to a game in the first place.
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While it's obvious that the team have worked insanely hard over the past few days and already patched a number of issues, I can't help but feel that their estimated player numbers may have been a little too modest... I mean, this is Friday the 13th, one of the most beloved slasher franchises in history. Of course people were lining up for its release, machetes sharpened and hockey masks polished in anticipation. Hopefully it hasn't tainted the release for too many of you out there.
My only other criticism on the game at present, which I am still madly in love with despite the issues mentioned above, is that driving a car feels... light. It is as if the car isn't really grounded, with the handling being very twitchy, and so far I've been more at risk of driving into a lamppost and stalling the car than Jason stopping the car with his hulking frame. It must be extremely irritating for my terrified passengers, but they're welcome to walk if they'd prefer.
Friday the 13th: The Game is by no means perfect, and neither was its launch, but when you're in the middle of a tense game of cat-and-mouse, it is fun. Sometimes that's all I need. Though it might take a while to join a lobby at the moment, and the visual textures are sometimes a little slow to catch up (hopefully as a result of these server issues), being back in the universe of Jason Voorhees is a thrill. It is a dream come true to be back at Camp Crystal Lake, Higgin's Haven, Packanack Lodge and the rest of the locations from the franchise; and facing off against Jason, or hunting down counsellors as the man himself, evokes nostalgia in the best kind of way.
There's still some work to be done when it comes down to the matchmaking and stability side of Friday the 13th, but the core concept and gameplay is solid. Whether you play as a counsellor or as Jason, you are going to have fun, you are going to feel tense, and you are going to be addicted to this game after only a couple of matches. Having said all of that, I'd probably wait to purchase the game in a few days or so, once all of the server issues have died down. This is one hell of a game, and I'd hate for your opinion of the game or studio to be bloodied before you even get to try it at its best.
That ends my multiplayer review, and I'll be sure to review Friday the 13th again when the single-player campaign is released in the summer. Until then, keep up with all things Jason on the game's Facebook and Twitter, where you'll also hear about all of the updates being made and know when it's safe to go dive back into Camp Crystal Lake. Hint: It's never safe.