Reviews August 1, 2017

Friday The 13th: The Game

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Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC)
Genre: Survival Horror
Rated: M
Players: 2-8 Online
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 05/26/2017
Publisher: Gun Media
Developer: IllFonic

It has to feel horrible to run a good race only to stumble at the finish line. Unless you’re somehow propelled into first place after bouncing off the track, falling short is a rough way to end a long race. I can liken this experience to that of IllFonic’s shaky launch of Friday the 13th: The Game…

As the sea of fans flooded the game’s menus looking to play, they inadvertently crashed the servers Diablo 3 style. When gamers became awareof the problem, most opted to play privately with peers. Unfortunately, that too proved to be difficult given how frequently people were dropped from matches. Those who were lucky enough to make it past the loading screen were met with inconsistent frame rates, collision issues, and rough animations across all three platforms – the worst of which was the Xbox One version, thanks to Microsoft’s temperamental marketplace (I had a tough time redeeming the review key from Gun) and a missing day one patch. Basically, IllFonic stumbled at the finish line in spectacular fashion.

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The good news was that things slowly got better; public matches became easier to find and connections weren’t dropped as frequently. Given the poor launch and lingering bugs though, the real saving grace is in how entertaining Friday the 13th can be. The basis of play revolves around players acting as camp counselors and Jason Voorhees in asymmetrical multiplayer matches; one player-controlled Jason controlled tries to kill the seven playing as counselors before they can escape a given area surrounding Crystal Lake. The solo player will utilize Jason’s movie tricks. Remember how Jason just seemed to pop up anywhere in the films, well he can in the game via teleportation – and that superhuman strength and durability is present too. As the match goes on, the Jason player will gradually get stronger. At one point he’ll become enraged, allowing him to burst through walls and barricaded doors effortlessly. He’s like a boss character only player- controlled.

The counselors are significantly weaker than Jason. So, while a direct confrontation is possible, it wouldn’t be the wisest choice. Instead, their job is to complete certain objectives that would allow them to escape the camp. Fix a vehicle, namely a car or boat, and fill it with gas is one option. Calling the cops and rushing to them once they show up is another. Both are tough to accomplish; one requires you to find parts and a key while the other requires you to repair the phones and then wait for the cops to appear. It’s also possible to hide the entire time (even without calling the police) though that’s a riskier move considering Jason’s ever growing power.

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This idea of one vs many isn’t new. That said, IllFonic took things a step further by leveraging the license to simulate what happens in the films. Take a counselor’s fear for instance. When a counselor is afraid they are easier for Jason to find. To mitigate this, they’ll need to stay in lit areas, complete objectives, be near other counselors and so on. Their efforts are negated if they happen to see a dead body; the character will stop and gasp before returning control back to the player. The same is true if Jason cuts the lights to a building or rounds a corner unexpectedly. There are more nods to the films that effect the gameplay. My personal favorite is the iconic “Ki, Ki, Ki, Ma, Ma, Ma,” that sounds whenever Jason grows stronger.

These types of elements extend to the players themselves. When using the in-game chat option, it isn’t possible to talk to players who aren’t near you without a walkie talkie. Finding a couple will allow for the coordination of tactics (letting the person with the gas can know you have the car keys). Being too chatty can lead to problems though. Jason can hear nearby players talking and make his way to their position. Or worse, he’ll hear their plans and react accordingly (appearing at the car right as you’re trying to fill it up).

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Trying to survive as a counselor can be thrilling if you let yourself get into the “role”. Obviously doing things like jumping into private chat to get over on the Jason player hurts the experience. That said, not being serious has its perks. For instance, it’s possible for the person playing Jason to speak to counselors he’s about to kill. There was one match where the person playing as Jason would ask us if we wanted to buy some cookies while we ran about. It was hilarious to be chased around by this walking behemoth who sounded like a depraved Mr. Rogers, begging us to try his cookies. I know, it sounds creepy (it was) but it was also comical.

For the most part, Ft13 is a good time waiting to happen. It isn’t all severed heads and 80s rock music though. Confusing button prompts make the simplest tasks tricky to complete. Tap “A” when walking up to an object sitting on a dresser and your character will pick it up. Doing the same when in front of the dresser’s drawer will make them open it. Simple. Though, grabbing an object inside the door requires the holding of the “A” button, as another tap closes the drawer. This doesn’t seem like it would be an issue given the onscreen icons. Just image that you’re racing to find the car keys. You see them in the drawer and accidently tap “A” instead of holding it. Now you’ve closed the drawer, wasting precious Jason-avoiding seconds messing around with furniture.

To be fair, it only takes a few matches to figure out what does what. That doesn’t mean that you won’t close a window instead of jumping through it or pick up the wrong item from time to time though. Jason’s sporadic behavior necessitates the desire to do things quickly. Meaning, it’s possible to fumble an attempt to grab those car keys before he crashes through a nearby wall. It doesn’t help that there is a slight delay when it comes to performing most actions; being brutally killed is harder to swallow when your death was the result of a bad button press.

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What killed me the most wasn’t the controls (or Jason), but the stamina meter. Every counselor has different stats that govern their usefulness. Some are better at the fixing things, others are better at sneaking. The only stat that really matters though is your stamina. Once all of your stamina is gone, your character’s pace will slow to a crawl. The problem is that the counselor’s default pace is a jog that depletes stamina. So even if you aren’t running for your life, you’ll get tired and become easy pickings for Jason. The only way to restore stamina is to sneak about (basically move super slow) or stop moving. This in turn made stamina the end all stat. It’s possible that you won’t get a chance to repair a car, so having a better repair skill isn’t a must. But not being able to run away from Jason is suicide. Things are a little balanced somewhat with an unlockable perks system, where experience gained after each match can be used to buy random boosts. They won’t make the most undesirable counselors great, but will temper their stats or skills to offer more rounded choices.

Multiple Jason’s are unlockable as well. Presented more than just skins, these different Jasons have their own stats that need to be considered. One might be a fast swimmer but can’t run while another may have a strong grip (making it easier to perform special kills) but lower health. It’s certain cool to play as your favorite version of this iconic killer, some of the cons are a bit annoying. Not being able to run makes it difficult to chase down survivors. So using Jason’s other abilities is a must.

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Lingering bugs, odd design choices and a few exploitable mechanics hurt the experience. Despite these issues, I still find myself having a good time. I’m either in a tense game of horribly disfigured cat and mice or I’m laughing out loud at the shenanigans unfolding on screen. Seriously; hearing players scream at a driver to pull off before they’re ripped from the car, only to have him crash into Jason is…well, it was frustrating..but in a funny way (you had to be there). It works as a decent multiplayer game when you’re with likeminded individuals. That’s worth noting, considering the single player mode hasn’t been released yet.

Gameplay: 7
When everything works as it should, Friday the 13th is a blast. Take that with a grain of salt as my experience was enriched by the people I was playing with. Grouping with someone who doesn’t play by the “rules” is worse than dealing with the game’s bugs.

Graphics: 5
The animations are rough to say the least. The game also suffers from texture pop-in and slowed frame rates. Jason’s many depictions look great though.    

Sound: 8
The soundtrack feels like it was ripped straight from the movies.

Replay Value: 6
It really depends on who you’re playing with.

Final Score:

6.5