Friday the 13th: The Game (Steam) [Review]

Friday the 13th: The Game is a successful Kickstarter in which seven vulnerable players, who are campsite counselors, try to escape an eighth player who’s randomly selected as an immensely powerful, stalking Jason Voorhees. It’s derivative of the franchise as a lovely tribute and independently a stellar survival horror installment. It is available on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One as platforms. I played and tested Friday the 13th for 10 hours on Steam at personal expense – unfortunately, Gun Media ignored requests for a review copy or early access.

 

The Premise/Concept/Mechanics [10/10]
Friday the 13th is pioneering a new survival horror style of escaping a player-controlled killer who’s immensely powerful as intimidation – a victory for the survivors available via police, a boat or a car, all tense to activate/reach – in a cinematic map. Teamwork is flexible between players as counselors, items are randomized, perks are varied and characters have unique but subtle statistics. You are a weak survivor – no cheap tactic or special build – against a formidable hunter as in any slasher: all items or tactics merely delaying the relentless killer.

Nothing is admirable over their bold, clear vision: it’s perfectly implemented in style to core mechanics.

Jason has 6 variations – each unique in appearance/weapon based on individual films of Friday the 13th – and there are 10 Counselors available following a certain archetype. Additionally, as players must wait for a round to conclude for points, which establishes tension with deaths, alive players may request assistance from this pool in the form of Tommy Jarvis: an experienced veteran of Jason’s butchery, armed with a powerful rifle.

You hunt relentlessly as Jason with a twenty minute timer- very aware to be continuously in pursuit (‘Sense’ – highlighting direction of players based on noise or their outline when close) which plays against stealth – and possess three other recharging abilities to be unpredictable: a teleportation, a fast pursuit mode akin to the spirit in Evil Dead and a stalker mode to remove a musical cue of being nearby. These are all unlocked sequentially through the 20 minute sessions. Surprises and psychological warfare are inherent to the role – victims will be harassed as they funneled into a slaughter. Survivors are cattle for Jason’s night – this is his title after all.

Counselors are frail characters of no superhero capabilities – separated with innate, basic statistics to affect strength, luck with item discovery, intelligence for repair speed, composure for the fear system, stealth to avoid detection and stamina/speed – and must rely on their improvisation/wit/teamwork to succeed: a very deliberate, dynamic effort to the random chance inherent to all. Your mission is to survive and escape, impeding Jason as necessary, and utilize a variety of items – slugging baseball bats to distracting firecrackers – for multiple ends: a telephone fuse to call the police to trek towards for an escape, gas/battery/keys for a car to achieve a dramatic getaway in a tightly controlled vehicle and fuel/propeller for a boat over the lake.

Do you cooperate with other survivors – likely increasing Jason’s awareness – for a higher chance or divide to spread his attention? Do you acquire radios with friends to plan over distance as you do separate tasks for an objective? Do you support a pursued player who may have a critical item or cower/flee? The possibilities are open considerably and the map enables these as a spooky, Friday night. Should I try to stun Jason for others to escape as a sacrifice or conserve it as a precaution?

 

Controls & Presentation & UI [6/10]
The inventory interface is smooth – no thematic intent with it – as is the main menu – all is orderly, nothing is awkward to access or activate, whether in a session or outside. Passive, small items are in an active inventory of three slots (visible on screen, e.g. first-aid spray, firecrackers, pocket knife, keys) or active in one’s hand as a weapon to major item (ranging from gas canisters to bear traps). However, controls are a little limited – there’s no sharing items or expressions/gestures/adlibs. The overall presentation, however, is acceptable, but when various buttons are identical – with no mapping currently possible – controls are less defined.

 

Plot & Dialogue & Script & Theme [8/10]

The theme – Friday the 13th – is fulfilled without issue and it’s simple in premise as the films: Jason’s not happy with trespassing, disrespectful crowds in his territory and he’ll dispose of them as mother commands. The camps are recreated wonderfully, Jason’s true to form as a savage and the Counselor role is valid to the theme. As a formula, it’s consistent with the slasher genre and emulates the intended franchise.

Characters respond appropriately emotionally– conveyed with a ‘fear system’, regulated with a character’s composure– in which they stumble to the exhaustion of pursuit, tremble at their friends’ death and collapse at Jason’s presence: they’re panicking, vision becoming clouded or movements less fluid. The premise is complete – all roles performing well – and enjoyable.

Incidentally, there are plans for a single-player mode as a promise – far from relevant to a review considering it’s a release review of a current state – and I hope the plot/script to these are equal in quality to the theme.

 

 

Fun [Personal Opinion]

Slaughtering as Jason, or narrowly escaping in the role of survivor, is thrilling as it is novel and the environment to the theme are absolutely engrossing. Characters have no magical items or secret, special techniques: it’s all an atmospheric, adaptive struggle to survive as a classic horror experience: items either a compromise for enhanced survival chances or a probability to escape. You may conceal yourself inside a cupboard/tent/sleeping bag/under a bed, but these are all temporary measures when Jason’s relentless – there’s nothing isolating as being inside a cabin whilst Jason surrounds it, seemingly everywhere, who’s waiting for a chance to purge you.

My favorite moments were both similar – they concerned desperate final moments as escape was near: in the first, I had repaired a car with a companion and we started the engine, but Jason emerged, tearing him from the vehicle, for me to have a moral choice: abandon him or be heroic? Immediately, as Jason dragged him behind the car, I reversed into Jason to disrupt his grapple and shockingly ‘betrayed’ my friend, killing him whilst Jason was unphased: a hilarious, brutal mistake from noble intentions. I continued onward, however, to escape through my remorse! In the other instance, a stranger and I had a boat operational and I ordered us to wait on a beach, closest to their position, for two other people who were previously aiding our effort. They were late, however, to our agreed rendezvous and I dispatched my new boat buddy to collect them – both died, he returned and Jason abruptly appeared to intercept our boat as we finally headed to the escape. Tragically, we afterward learned the boat may only have two occupants – our waiting and his search were both pointless: we could’ve successfully escaped the whole time as a dramatic irony to altruism.

As Jason in rage mode, I think my favourite moment was immediately smashing inside a fortified cabin with four players – two armed with rifles – and as it was close quarters with their friends, all were hesitant to fire their weapon for enough seconds for me to slice the two major threats. In the chaos, one hid underneath a bed and the other was paralyzed in shock at their likely leadership being deceased: all their coordination over within 4 seconds from my entry to their disorganization. The timid third was disposed of easily and fashionably: beheaded with my ax close to someone thinking they’re hidden underneath a bed. Finally, it was time for the person who thought I wouldn’t notice their sly tactic to hide in the midst of confusion, but there were two beds and I had forgotten which one he chose: it was 50/50. I missed his choice, he fled outside as an opening and he had another 10 seconds or so to contemplate the fatal situation before until he learnt his own: a fun little narrative emulating any slasher film.

Friday the 13th: The Game is true to form as a narrative to either a murderous psychopath or a hunted victim – there are many tropes from the genre, circumstances resembling those witnessed in films across the genre.

 

Environmental Design & Enemy Design [9/10]
There are three maps of moderate size, each based on locations in the film franchise, with recycled assets, but each is highly unique in layout – sections named appropriately to be memorable, certain trails, relevant facilities or specific cabins – whilst immersive in design as fun Summer camps. They’re situated in forests, typically with a nearby lake, and have a series of cabins containing detailed interiors.

Environments are interactive to a basic level: they may be exploited for context kills (e.g. windows, walls, doors) as Jason – fun to discover along with witnessing – as a mechanic: there will be no sitting around or posturing, all here is designed for the hunt. Certain buildings, too, have power which may be disabled outside – freaking any occupants as the lights explode inside – as an engaging environmental manipulation – how long until we’re able to damage phone lines?

Jason is intimidating as ever, deploying a variety of special, immediate kills – a few from iconic moments in the films – which consolidate him as a fearsome force, and his figure in the woods between trees, or loitering outside a cabin, is terrifying to a musical score which completes the terror.

 

Graphics & Physics & Animations & AI [6/10]
The graphics are incredible – lighting (police sirens to flares), textures (clothing to decor), models (Jason or Counselors) – for lively, populated campsites, now besieged by a villain, and they offer a cinematic experience that’s unparalleled. However, the animations – be it the stilted, melodramatic facial expressions or the cumbersome attacks – and unpredictable physics are substandard, jittery as they are poor. Furthermore, the position seems to arbitrarily decide which side one closes a door, teleporting them accordingly, which proves fatal when attempting to close the door from the inside due to an outside threat: it’s not fluid. Hitboxes, too, are occasionally unreliable and deserve refinement (i.e. Jason’s grabbing flawed in range or shotguns not penetrating spaces in partially broken doors).

 

The Horror [10/10]
The spooky woods, Jason’s power, thrilling score and incredible sound design all combine for a harrowing experience: You’re often uncertain between being confused throughout occasional hope and ultimately helpless. It is horrifying to flee from Jason, fear inducing a myriad of effects, as the character’s panic increases to the sharpening musical tempo sharpens: it’s scary as it is intense. No moment is intense, too, as being close to escaping whilst Jason’s near: starting a car as music signals Jason’s near, approaching the exit in a boat with a pursuit unfolding or having a friend assailed beside you before the exit.

You’re frail and Jason’s a terminator of the human condition – he isn’t to be mocked or teased. Your death will become another campfire tale and the media won’t ever fully account your anguish.

 

Art Direction & Atmosphere [10/10]
The camps are depicted accurately to the film counterparts and appropriate as that – a rustic retreat for teenagers in the 1980’s in the wild: supporting a variety of activities from archery to boating. The desolate, sprawling perfect, with sporadic buildings, is a perfect for the setting of a massacre. All the details, and respect for a source material, establishes Friday the 13th as deeply faithful to the Friday the 13th franchise whilst demonstrating it’s capable of being an atmospheric installment as a slasher horror game.

The setpieces are flawless in execution for an engrossing experience as a victim in a slasher film, revolving around Friday the 13th as the theme , and it’s a thrilling, tense experience: hunting ruthlessly as Jason or cowering as a likely victim.

 

Music & Voice Acting & Sound Design [9/10]
Voice lines are delivered with a frantic panic as perfect for the terrifying situation, increasingly terrified until their demise (or optimistically, escape). Footsteps are heard excellently, serving an awareness from the precise sound which generates vigilance or nervousness, and the screams of fallen survivors are foreboding echoes in the creeping night. The classic sound effect of Friday the 13th – Cha Cha – is there for tension at Jason’s nearby presence, reinforced with an incredible score, worsening dramatically as the situation does, harmonizing the tension.

 

Comparisons & Inspirations & Unlocks/Customization & Modding [Personal Opinion]
The gameplay is exceptionally fun for both roles and it’s unfortunate the theme is limited to Friday the 13th: it’d be brilliant to see the additions of new locals, villains, situations, characters and items in a balanced system as here. Perks are subtle for an emphasis on skill/luck to prevent any gaming to detach tension/dynamics. Unfortunately, customization is scarce to personalize a character much and modding is disabled to impair any future developments.

Dead by Daylight and White Light are the two closest competitors in this emerging subgenre, but those are both cheap in comparison: former a generic arcade PVP experience, comprising of cheap tactics for winning over either atmosphere or theme, and the latter basic in all aspects. Dead by Daylight is rigid (restricted to bare interactions) and stale (formulaic generator routine) in comparison, there’s no surprise it was a rushed to be before this release as a cheap counterpart. Friday the 13th: The Game’s budget and production values are evident from the core quality only deserving expansion: cinematic, balanced gameplay and a clear vision. Gameplay adopts elements, too, from the likes of Hitman to Metal Gear Solid – ideal when Hitman and Solid Snake/Big Boss are both ruthless human stalkers who’re deeply feared: deadly, silent assassins.

 

Stability & Accessibility [5/10]
Servers are unstable (solved) and the party system (solved) are broken, which is common with weak launches, and there are numerous bugs affecting a smooth playthrough: animation freezing, progression resets and volatile physics. These, however, are being addressed actively and two salient issues are already solved decisively within one day. The frame rate is steady and moderate hardware is able to sustain high graphics. Currently, there is an account-specific issue comprising of a ‘Database Login Error’ and their team are proactively resolving it as an admirable effort.

Friday the 13th is easy to learn and little impedes enjoyment or playing successfully.

 

Replayability & Variety & Value [3/10]
Overall, Friday the 13th is a tense, cinematic experience– unique each time from the core system without scripted events or a linear meta from powerful, predetermined factors– and it’s absolutely a brutal, unpredictable pleasure, with delightful balance between the perks to items, but it’s unfortunately limited in scope at the price of £30: superficial customization, similar spawn locations for key objectives, 2 roles, 3 unique kills for each Jason, one mode, no modding, three escape methods, three comparable maps, minimal items, few kill animations, one kind of killer and ten similar character choices. It remains, however, as a great focused experience that’s acceptable through misgivings on the insufficient polish to variety.

 

Conclusion
My total review is 7.6: great graphics, detailed maps, focused vision, classic horror, enjoyable mechanics, fantastic brutality and sweet balance, but the critical flaws are the value and variety. Furthermore, with the notable problems concerning physics and technical issues, it has limitations to polish which slay Friday the 13th: The Game from being ‘Great’ into ‘Good’ as a category. Note: This review may be updated according to patches/updates and I very much expect it to exceed 8 with further improvements.