Just over 30 years ago, I got my hands on Friday the 13th on the Commodore 64, Barely in School it might have been a little early for me, but running around trying to find Jason is a gaming memory I’ll remember forever.
As the years passed, plenty of films came around, along with the realisation that not many people search for Jason, they’re usually too busy running, but I could never quite understand why we haven’t seen more games following the story of Jason and Friday the 13th.
Let’s get things straight, many gamers, the developers themselves and myself are fully aware that Friday the 13th on the Xbox One didn’t have the best start to life, matchmaking was terrible, servers where unstable and memory leaks would cause the game to crash periodically, many rendered the game unplayable, but a month later, I found myself able to sit with Friday the 13th, and boy was I surprised.
Firstly the game starts up with retro 80’s inspired splash screens for the developers and unreal 4, it’s a nice nod to the origin of the series, but as the main menu appears, things start to look considerably fresher. You get a close up of Jason, with eerie music accompanied by the Ki, Ki, Ki, Ha, Ha, Ha just as reminiscing, but deadly realistic.
While there’s never much in the way of a story, apart from a brief cut-scene to start things off and some unlockable backstory ‘tapes’ you’ll find a host of options but first off you’ll want to take a look at ‘How to Play’ which does a pretty good job of outlining the basics. The Team of Counselor’s need to survive the night, and Jason needs to kill them. There’s a wide range of ways to do either, so you’ll want to get a vague idea, but it’s not until you’re actually in game where you’ll really start to get a feel for the objectives and perks.
Quick play or Private match will head for the game lobby’s which fortunately have been vastly improved since release, I found myself in a game with 7 other players and started off with the game deciding I’d be a counselor, unsure of exactly what I was doing, it seems a great community is forming around the game as I had a few people advising me, aim for the phone and cars, so that the Counselor’s could either escape by running to the summoned police, and drive away on the cars. To do each you’ll need to perform a number of tasks, find and fix a phone, or get fuel a battery and the car keys to escape.
Meanwhile Jason is on the hunt, so you’ll want to explore for weapons, evasive items such as fire-crackers, or even a flare gun to slow down the main man. Counselor’s each have their strengths and weaknesses such as stealth, stamina and maintaining composure, but unlocking AJ early on takes some of the fun away as she’s clearly the preferred character for 90% of the players I came across. YOu can outfit your character with a handful of different outfits, and there’s also perks that will give added benefits at the cost of a slight negative, such as recharging stamina faster with a slight increase in the noise your character makes, or improving your dodges and hiding capability but with the downside of taking more damage if you are hit.
Jason on the other hand has pre-defined traits dependent on which ‘Jason’ you select, the Defaukt Jason from Friday the 13th part 3, can run and has improved grip and weapon strength, with weaknesses when stunned or using Jason’s special abilities, while Jason from Friday the 13th part 9, can’t run, isn’t great when caught in a trap and has less hit points, but he does have the ability to use his shift and Stalk abilities more often.
Jason’s abilities shed light on why you can never run from a killer in the movies, Morph allows you to move around the map instantly, while Shift let’s you cover short distances quickly when chasing fleeing counselors. Jason can also increase his stealth by Stalking his prey, and Rage allows Jason to smash through doors quickly while enhancing his powers, most useful of all is Sense, which highlights buildings with a Counselor in them, and depending on their fear, draws Jason towards them. Fear is calculate din a number of ways, and each Counselor will react differently to seeing Jason or stumbling across the dead body of their friend.
It’s fair to say that Friday the 13th isn’t the best looking game on consoles, but it’s certainly not bad, the darkness means there’s not much emphasis on the depth of the tree’s around the maps, and the interiors of huts and buildings around you are usually pretty repetitive, there’s a range of gory deaths, but dependent on what’s been chosen by the player controlling Jason, as well as context kills which are available when performing a kill in certain places, such as beside a fireplace.
The dark, grainy nature adds to the tension of the game and the minimap does a good job of helping you get around the map, whether your looking for the car to place the battery, or rushing to kill the counselor who’s trying to fill it up with fuel. Joining the iconinc background music is plenty of ambience from the surrounding area, and the odd annoying squeal from a counselor, it’s suitable, but can feel a little plain at times with only the crickets to keep you company until Jason is close enough to kick-in the dynamic music.
One very pleasant surprise was how well balanced gameplay is, there’s no dead cert, certain characters will prove more popular, but a carefully selected team who work together to get the boat/car/police moving, will have a pretty good chance of survival and likewise someone controlling Jason, with careful attention to detail (such as spotting buildings that have had drawers opened, showing Counselors have been nearby) or ability management and quick, efficient kills will see Jason come out on top.
In my first 3-4 hours of Gameplay, I found that Counselors surviving and Jason Killing them all where just about even, I’ve never encountered all of the counselors getting away, nor have I found Jason able to kill them all without some headway in making an escape, but there’s a refreshing balance meaning the game is incredibly fun to play and just as impressive regardless of killing or being killed.
As mentioned previously the game has suffered from a few teething problems, but I found very little with my first evenings play only broken by one crash to dashboard, and my second full evening problem free with some great matchmaking finding me a full game within 30 seconds and only a few graphical glitches during gameplay.
I’ve heard many people say ‘When it works it’s a great game’ and I have to agree, thankfully it seems that the developers have Done a fantastic job of ironing out the bugs, and while not perfect, it’s now at a stage where I can easily overlook the handful of issues for the hours of fun to be had in between them.
Bottom Line : Friday the 13th might have had a horror at launch but during my play-time problems have been few and far between.
There’s a deep, unique and enjoyable experience and this is certainly a game I can recommend to others looking for a fun, online horror title.
Gameplay : 8
Graphics : 7.5
Sound : 7.5
Story : 6
Value : 8