Friday the 13th review: Where players drop out like flies

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Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.

As one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, Jason Voorhees has had his fair share of video game appearances. From the Atari 2600’s basic rendition, the NES’ awful, confusing mess, and home computer failures, he’s not exactly had it good, though. An appearance in Mortal Kombat X was a highlight however, with the silver screen murderer fitting in well with the brutal cast of brawlers, and now we have the current gen console version of the newest attempt to bring the 80s horror franchise to the small screen.

Like the ill-fated Evolve, Friday the 13th is an asymmetric multiplayer title that pits one player as Jason, and up to 7 others as camp councillors. Unlike Evolve, however, this is purely online only, with no solo play at all. What’s more, there’s no choosing sides here, and one player is picked at random to be Jason. With up to eight people in a game, this gives you a one in eight chance to play as Jason, otherwise you’ll be cast as a councillor.

This is where your experience of the game will vary wildly, as this is far from a balanced title, and it weighted heavily in favour of Jason, not just in abilities, but also in terms of fun.

Unless, you know, dying is your thing.

Getting the jackpot and playing as Jason rewards you with the game’s definite highlight. Taking control of the masked monster himself is a joy as you stalk the game’s various maps hunting down and killing each councillor before they can escape or call for help.

There are various Jason iterations to choose from, with selections based on the various film outings, and each has strengths and weaknesses, as well as special skills. Some, for example, can run, whilst others are harder to stun.

As Jason, your job is simple enough – kill the other players. You do this by hunting for them in the various locations, smashing open doors, breaking through barriers and walls, and generally being destructive and violent. Once you find a councillor, you can kill them in many and varied ways, with different kills being unlockable as you level up and progress. Jason also has various senses to help locate councillors, and can even teleport around to cover large distances quickly.

Playing the powerful, nigh-on unstoppable Jaosn is great fun, and the game does a good job of endowing you with this power, making you feel like the predator the movie icon is. You’re a terrifying sight to other players, and there are few movie tie-ins that manage to do as much justice to their subject matter, and characters as this. Sadly, the other half of the game is not as impressive.

Unlike this guy’s hair.

Given the relatively low chance of being picked as Jason, you’ll be spending a good deal of your time as various camp councillors. In this role your aim is to survive the night, or ideally, escape. You can do this via car, boat or by being rescued by the authorities. To achieve this result, you have to sneak your way around the location, searching for car/boat parts, fuel, or a means to contact the police. Manage to do this and escape, and you win. Survive the night – you win. Like the movies, it’s also possible to kill Jason, but this is a multi-stage process that requires a high level of cooperation, and is very, very tricky.

Searching cabins for a means of escape, you can also find weapons to fend off Jason, or at least stun him long enough for you to escape, and you can find healing items. You can shore up and lock doors to make it harder for Jason to reach you, but this often simply delays the inevitable, unless you work as a team.

Good luck…

This is where Friday the 13th hits it first major bump in the road. Unless you play the game in a preset group of friends, it can be very difficult to find random groups of people to play with properly. It is possible, sure, but rare. Because of this, councillor players are more often than not on the wrong end of a very biased, and fairly tedious game.

Jason is very much the focus here, and the game is heavily biased towards him. Even when the councillor team is working together, Jason is very OP and can easily dominate. This is by design, obviously, as the original movie villain is just the same, an unstoppable killing machine, but in a competitive game it doesn’t really make for a well balanced affair. This is especially apparent when other players in the lobby quit out when they find out they’re not Jason – an occurrence that happened a whole lot during my time with the game.

Don’t get me wrong, the challenge of playing against Jason can be great, and with a good team of friends, it’s a huge amount of fun, perhaps one of the most enjoyable online games of the year. The problem is the general lack of fun without this. Sneaking around match after match looting drawers and hiding in cupboards or under beds doesn’t really make for a great time. Let’s face it, playing hide and seek as a kid was only really fun when you were searching. Hiding alone in a corner wasn’t exactly amazing. The same can be said here, at least for most public games.

Good hiding…

The game’s flow isn’t the only issue, and I’m sad to say there are more serious problems behind the scenes. Friday the 13th is not a very pretty, or well tailored game. It’s janky and very buggy. Animations are stiff, controls are clunky, and there are so many graphical and physics glitches it’s hard to go one match without seeing something odd. The collision detection is awful too, and the camera can be a major headache, especially when you’re hiding and trying to look around obstacles.

Even this isn’t the biggest issue I found, though. More concerning for me was the all too common inability to even get into a game. Many times I was sat waiting as the interface informed me it was searching for games, room in sessions and so on. Eventually, I’d be dumped into my own lobby, where I sat, crying, alone, and unwanted. Occasionally a lone player might show up, only to promptly leave. Bah!

Bet it was this asshole, seems like something he’d do.

Often, even getting into games saw only two or three players in the session, which lead to a classic game of hide and seek as the Jason player search for his limited victims, and in many matches, players left mid-game, making the whole experience frustrating and unfulfilling. I should point out that this wasn’t at quiet times either, and even at prime traffic times, it seemed as though no one was playing. That’s not good for a multiplayer-only title.

Of course, playing with a group of friends remedies this, and I had a lot of fun, even if it was buggy, lop-sided fun. The game successfully nails the feel of the movies, even when you’re a councillor, and it’s a very unique co-op adventure that deserves praise for trying something different, and actually trying to tailor a game around the subject matter, not just taking the easy route and slapping the license on a box.

The selection of Jasons and movie-themed locations means there’s a lot of fan-service here, and you can even summon an extra hero character in the form of Jason’s nemesis, Tommy Jarvis. A dead player can return to action as him, armed with a shotgun, and gives councillors a much-needed boost. There’s even a ‘retro’ Jason, all clad in purple, paying homage to the NES game.

I had fun with Friday the 13th. It has a definite, pre-release and budget feel to it, and I do doubt the longevity, as the game mechanics do wear thin after a while, but while it lasts, and with a group of friends, it’s a good laugh, and well worth a look. I just wish it was more polished.

Good

  • Playing as Jason is great
  • Brilliant reproduction of the movies
  • Very unique premise

Bad

  • Playing as councillors can be dull
  • Very buggy
  • Major issues with matchmaking

Summary

Friday the 13th is a very intriguing online title that should appeal to co-op and competitive players regardless of their familiarity or appreciation of the movies. It works on many levels, and is perhaps the best example of asymmetrical multiplayer yet, but it comes with some ugly baggage and a woefully sloppy presentation. Despite this, it's still worth a look, and should provide a few hours worth of fun, the likes of which you won't find elsewhere.

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