Real Talk By: Zombie Zac
Reviewed on PS4
Let me get my inherent biases out-of-the-way: I love all the Friday the 13th movies and it is without a doubt my favorite movie franchise— period. Horror is my favorite film genre and within that specifically slasher films. Finally, I try to play every significant horror game that comes out, from Resident Evil, to Silent Hill, to Amnesia, to old PC classics like Alone in the Dark. So it makes sense that I was excited to play Friday the 13th: The Game and why I bought it on day 1 not waiting for anyone else’s thoughts on it. With the only Friday the 13th video game representation being on the original Nintendo, it’s high time for Jason to be resurrected to kill again. Unfortunately, weed smoking, sex-crazed teenagers aren’t the only things to die in this game.
So after all that waiting I jumped in, with friends over, two PS4’s hooked up, ready for some sleazy action. And then we wait. It searches, searches, searches— sometimes for over 20 minutes to get into a game. Then we get dropped out of the lobby. So we search again, and we wait, again. Once we finally get into the game, we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re running around, in the dark, isolated, attempting to figure out what can and cannot be interacted with and then Jason comes out of nowhere and kills us. Then we wait, and continue to wait, until everyone dies or the 20 minute round is up. Then the game drops us, and we lose all our experience. Then we think, okay it’s launch night, it’ll get better. Once the launch weekend had passed, and the conditions remained, I was forced to wonder: Is the game completely dead on arrival?
So I try to rationalize it. It’s a small development studio, IllFonic, and was a BackerKit and Kickstarter crowdfunded project (collecting around $1,246,570 from both platforms) so it’s bound to have some issues right? I mean 1.2 Million is a lot of money, but when it comes to typical game development costs in 2017, it’s really not. So where do you draw the line of acceptability with such a small time release but with these egregious connection errors? How unacceptable is it to have glitches, game-breaking bugs, wonky animation, day one exploits, horrible collision detection and latency issues compounded with matchmaking and server meltdowns? Well, quite simply, it is totally unacceptable. When does my bias of my unadulterated love for Friday the 13th come in and save me from my absolute desolate frustration?
It’s a massive shame it was released as it was, as it does a disservice to the franchise, but more importantly, to the people who paid for a game that was fundamentally broken. While actively addressing problems and frustration on social media, IllFonic continued to sell the game with no warning on the store page that you couldn’t actually play it. The more people buying the game, the more crowded the servers. IllFonic claim to have prepared for 30,000 concurrent players, and got over 50,000 the first night, upgraded to 75,000 and that wasn’t enough. It seems all versions were having the same issues, some worse than others (Xbox One apparently had an older build of the game, somehow). It’s unclear how many players have downloaded Friday the 13th: The Game, but nevertheless it far exceeded the developer’s expectations. Just about everything from the release, to the messaging, to the final product was a dumpster fire.
If you’ve made it this far in the review, you must still be hoping for something to work out about this game. Or maybe masochistically you want to see how much worse it could get. And you’re like me. I kept logging on, I kept waiting, sometimes teetering on total insanity. And I’ll tell you what— it is worth it. I love this game. Here’s what other reviews won’t tell you: When you do get into a game, everyone in the lobby has instant comradery, telling jokes and distant tales of rounds they had gotten into in previous nights. Most times you could just stay in the lobby and you’d play with the same group of people game after game after game— because nobody wants to go back to the menu screen!
I have read some reviews that claim playing as a counselor is boring, saying you’re too underpowered and all you do is look in drawers and try to find things like gas cans or batteries. I wholeheartedly disagree, as I have found the inherent limitations (weak stamina, weak health, slow attacks) to be fun challenges, and the pieces to collect for escape or self-defense are ingeniously randomized and force you to constantly be aware of your surroundings and where other people (including Jason) are. Differences between the counselors like repair speed, composure, strength and stamina, keep things interesting as does a perk system where you roll for stat boosts that can help you in the game and define your play style. If you’re crazy enough to attempt it, you can call Tommy Jarvis to come back and help hunt and Kill Jason (a dead or escaped counselor at random is spawned back in as him). Whether you’re running for your life, hiding under a bed, setting up a trap, barricading a door or starting the car, you’re constantly on the edge of your seat. IllFonic understands and nails the heart of the suspense in Friday the 13th movies and made great decisions when converting it to gameplay.
Finally, as Jason, you get to wreck complete havoc on these teens and you can be as menacing as you see fit. Want to cut the power to the building you know a girl is hiding in? Do it. Want to walk along the front and smash in all the windows and stare? Do it. Of course you could just chop down the door and rush inside, or warp behind someone, as Jason has a variety of powers that helps him cheat his way around to kill. It’s these powers that bring an accuracy with the movies, as he always seems to be somewhere where he couldn’t be, and never seems to die. When you do kill a counselor, you can do it in so many ways I don’t think I have even come close to seeing them all: Burn them in a fireplace, smash their head, punch out their heart, pull them out of a tent in a sleeping bag and crush them against a tree, fold them up in a folding chair, smash their jaw on a side of the building. It’s extremely faithful to the gore of the movies. You can even play as different iterations of Jason throughout the series with different stats and purchase new kills with your points you gain from playing the game.
The dynamics of an overpowered Jason, vs a group of underpowered Counselors works perfectly. Call the police, and escape to their cars on the edge of the map, but you leave yourself vulnerable while waiting for them. Repair the car and take off, but at anytime if you crash it or Jason gets in front of you, you’re dead meat. Try to escape via the boat? Jason can travel at warp speed in the water and can knock you overboard and drown you. But there’s seven counselors running around and if you devise your plans right, you can trick him and sometimes escape. If you prefer to play as Jason, you can set your spawn preferences to that. If you prefer to play as a counselor, or want to remain neutral, there’s options for that too. Reviewers have gotten that wrong as well, as you can play Jason multiple times in a single evening play session, but even if you don’t, it only goes to building up the mystique of the character and the excitement you get when the time eventually comes.
IllFonic have released a patch in the last couple days that addresses the matchmaking issues and for the most part has solved the problem. It only takes a few seconds to get into a lobby now, but I have still seen a few disconnects. A lot of the exploits and bugginess has also been addressed, and will continue to be addressed the next few patches. So it’s getting there. Basically, it had the worst launch imaginable, but the game itself is an unreal amount of fun. If you can be tolerant of these issues and don’t expect a Naughty Dog level of polish, I think this game will be a solid recommendation for you. In a month or two, I imagine most of these issues will be gone and what will be left is an extremely unique multiplayer experience. In addition to that, IllFonic has promised free content in the future, including more Jasons to play and a single player mode. If you’re still interested after all of this, totally get this game. And while I normally wouldn’t be tolerant of these issues, Friday the 13th: The Game has totally won me over with its killer charm.
Friday The 13th: The Game Gets
4.5 out of 5
+All the different Jasons, abilities and kills are awesome
+Playing together as the counselors is thrilling
+Atmosphere, sound effects and mood is pitch perfect
+Great use of stealth and objective based gameplay
+Large maps open for inventiveness and improvisation in play
+Rolling for perks, unlocks and stats keep things fresh
+So much love of Friday the 13th in every bit of the game
-The launch is maybe the worst launch of any game in recent memory
-The servers still aren’t perfect
-Lots of bugs and glitches that negatively impact gameplay
-Huge lack of polish across the board
-Single player mode not available yet