Friday the 13th: The Game - Beta Impressions
Written by Ryan Noble
Studio: Gun Media and Illfonic
Available on: Steam (https://store.steampowered.com/app/438740/)
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Release date: Early 2017
Ki ki ki, ma ma ma. That’s the sound of a killer we all know very well. It’s Jason Voorhees from the beloved Friday the 13th slashers, and he’s back. Friday the 13th: The Game is now getting close to its full multiplayer release in early 2017, and I’ve been fleeing in terror as part of the exclusive Friends and Family beta, followed by the Closed beta which runs until 23:59pm EST on Christmas Day. Needless to say, I’ve had a few late nights… But has it been worth it? Here’s what I thought of my break at Camp Crystal Lake so far.
Friday the 13th is an asymmetrical multiplayer in which seven counsellors try to escape beloved locations from the films – such as Higgin's Haven from Part 3 - while one player hunts them down as Jason Voorhees. It sounds perfect for horror fans, and I've been dying to sink my machete into the beta.
After a bit of a rocky start for the Friends and Family beta – available only to those that backed the Kickstarter campaign – the first of the two betas launched a day late on the 19th. In these betas, there are a number of counsellors and Jason variations to choose from, and one map to play cat-and-mouse around: Higgin’s Haven.
For the counsellors, there are a number of available characters: Vanessa Jones, Deborah Kim, Tiffany Cox, Kenny Riedell, Jenny Myers, Chad Kensington and A.J. Mason. They’re unlocked as you level up and each has different stats. There are quite a few varying stats to keep in mind, such as:
- Stamina; increases overall stamina and reduces the stamina cost of actions.
- Luck; increases weapon durability and minor stat increases.
- Stealth; reduces the amount of noise generated and Jason's ability to sense.
- Intelligence; increases repair effectiveness.
- Composure; reduces the rate of fear increase and makes it easier to break free from Jason.
- Speed; increases overall top speed.
- Strength; increases attack damage with weapons and reduces stamina cost of combat.
My personal favourite is stamina, allowing me to run further before running out of energy. I'm not yet clever enough to trick Jason into thinking I'm in another building, and I definitely can't take him down, so running is the best option. Therefore, so is a high level of stamina.
In addition to their natural abilities, counsellors also share a range of perks between them. Perks can be bought using the points gained by levelling up as a result of such actions as offence, defence, completing objectives, and completing a match (even if you don’t quite survive to the end). These perks range from starting the match with certain items, such as a noisemaker or first aid spray to reducing the amount of stamina that certain actions take. Each counsellor can hold up to three perks, and they can greatly affect the way in which that person plays.
This is exactly the same for Jason. There are three versions of Jason in the beta: Part 2, with his sack-head; Part 3, where he wears the famous hockey mask; and Part 7, who spent his days floating at the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake. Similar to the counsellors, you unlock different Jasons as you level up, and each version has his own strengths, weaknesses and abilities. For example, Part 3 Jason can jog at a steady pace in order to close the distance between counsellors, whereas Part 7 Jason can’t do this at all, but he is much quicker in water. It’s an interesting idea and one that will have fans of the series choosing their killer by play-style rather than just aesthetic style.
Instead of perks, Jason has kills and players choose up to four different kills before going into a match. These are also unlocked with the points gained from levelling up and are a mixture of weapon and non-weapon kills that fans will recognise from the films. Remember when Jason punches off that guy’s head in VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan? You can do that.
Then, once you’ve picked your counsellor, Jason, and your perks and kills, it’s time to get ready for a match. Each multiplayer match starts the same way: A group of counsellors are chatting around a campfire when Jason appears, hacks down poor Jennifer, 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…
“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.
Click images to enlarge.
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.
The Friday the 13th beta is as full of issues as it is of gore and good times, which has been dampening the experience slightly, but that's exactly what the beta was meant to discover, so it's good for players to find these issues now before the multiplayer launch in 2017. Unfortunately, the main issue that I, and many others, found during the beta is that the servers just weren't prepared for the amount of players trying to join matchmaking. So, while matches are incredibly fun once you manage to get into one, it's almost impossible to do so via matchmaking.
The developers then recommended playing private matches and set up a Discord in which players could meet to organise these. While it's probably the only solution, and I have been playing the majority of matches this way – and had fun doing so - it certainly takes much more time to recruit players for a full match, rather than just hitting the “Quick match” button and letting the game do the work.
Outside of this major issue with the beta servers, there are also a few other bugs which Jason and the team are sure to stomp into submission before the full release. Occasionally I've gotten stuck in an animation, such as smashing down a door for eternity, and other times I've been unable to interact with objects at all. Not being able to walk through a door and lock it behind you will get you killed. Fortunately, these issues don't occur too often, so the lack of matchmaking is about as frustrating as it gets.
Click images to enlarge.
I've been waiting for Friday the 13th: The Game for over a year and the glimpse I've had into the multiplayer aspect of the game suggests that it will be worth the wait. Though the matchmaking is disappointing, meaning that the matches aren't easy to set up, the gameplay itself slashes through my frustrations when in the middle of a tense match with seven other players. Also, the immense pressure that these initials issues placed on the developers showed just how much they care about the game and its players, after they worked through the night to get the beta running in the first place.
Higgin's Haven is an incredible blast from the past, lovingly detailed just like in the films, and it offered a large area to explore, run, hide and kill. Not only that, but the various counsellors and Jasons are unique in style and stats, and really fun to play as once you've figured out what kind of player you want to be. Whether you're searching cabins, fixing a car, or hiding under a bed, there's an underlying tension that Jason could appear at any moment, just like in the films. Whereas playing as Jason feels powerful, and acting out kills from the franchise is a dream come true.
The beta has even rivalled my time with Dead by Daylight, which I recently covered due to the new DLC that’s been released. If you knew just how much I love Dead by Daylight, you'd understand just how much that means. In my mind, this beta has proved that Jason lives, I can't wait for the full release in 2017. In fact, I think I'll go and play a few more matches right now. While I'm killing/being killed, make sure you keep up to date with Friday the 13th: The Game on the game's website, Facebook or Twitter.