Game Review: Friday the 13th – The Game (Xbox One)

While asymmetrical multiplayer games aren’t anything new, the premise of trying to escape from one of the iconic campgrounds from the Friday the 13th movies, while Jason attempts to slit your throat or club you to death in a sleeping bag, is one that sounded intriguing. The finished product by IllFonic games; however, feels vastly unfinished as along with its numerous flaws, its launch has been plagued by massive server issues and in-game systems not working as intended.

The horror survival title sees you in the boots of either Jason himself, or one of the many Counselors the game allows you to unlock. As Jason, you will attempt to track down and brutally murder one of the 7 Counselors that are attempting to escape. As said Counselors, you will work together to fix cars, boats, or radio’s needed to escape or to summon help, all while being hunted by the lone player in the role of Jason Voorhees.

When you start the match as a Counselor, you’ll be scattered across the map and will need to regroup with your allies, find items needed to escape, or weapons to combat Jason should the need arise. You can communicate via headset with local players, or should you find a pair of walkie-talkies, then you can communicate over large distances with those that have them as well, but beware, Jason can hear you if he is nearby. You can hide in tents, under beds, in armoire cabinets, all in your attempt to not be seen by the player hunting you. Houses contain a variety of objects that contain maps, car keys, first aid sprays, firecrackers, and more, many of which are crucial items needed to survive or distract Jason.

In order to escape, you’ll need to track down many of the following items: car keys, gasoline canisters, car batteries, boat propellers, and phone fuses. When you have collected enough items to repair one of the escape vehicles, you’ll then initiate a button prompt mini-game, one that is a lot shorter should your Counselor have a high Intelligence stat. While not all maps have a boat to escape on, there is always the ability to repair a car, as well as summon the police so you can make an escape at one of the entrances to the camp. With keeping to including fan favorite moments into the game, you can summon a dead or escaped player back into the game as Tommy Jarvis, the first person to ever defeat Jason in the films. Tommy has boosted stats and is the only player in the game that can actually kill Jason, a feat that takes quite the effort to do.

Each of the 11 Counselors in the game is based on certain tropes of horror movies and only look to resemble certain character types from the films. Selecting a Counselor may depend on certain stats you favor in your desire to outwit Jason. Vanessa has a benefit in her Speed stat, where Eric and Deborah have maxed Intelligence, making them ideal for repairing the escape vehicles. There’s Brandon who has max Strength and Tiffany who shares max Stealth with the rocker chick A.J. As you level up you will unlock more Counselors and will be able to outfit them in new clothing that you unlock as you level. You can also equip a variety of perks that you’ll purchase with in-game points, these are usually stat boosts that have a bonus as well as a handicap to them.

As Jason, you have a few abilities that will help in your efforts to cleanse the camp, as well as several executions that will put down your opponent in a mess of gushing blood. Jason’s core abilities include fast traveling long or short distances, often having him simply appear next to you, making for some very intense chases. Jason also has a vision mode where nearby Counselors will glow a bright red, making it extremely easy to spot them. You can also mute the danger music that you’ll normally output when nearby one of the Counselors, making it easier to get the drop on them. Finally, there is a rage mode that enhances Jason’s abilities and allows him to burst through walls and closed doors with ease. These modes have cooldowns and are not always active, giving the game some sense of balance.

As you level up and gain experience, you can purchase new executions with points earned in-game. These range from stomping someone’s head off, punching it off, or lifting a Counselor up to eye-gouge them. There are also environmental kills like slamming someone’s head with a door, throwing them into the fireplace, or a classic beatdown of someone in a sleeping bag. The kills are brutal, and extremely fun to witness, even if you are one of the Counselors being killed, or seeing him gut one of your teammates right in front of you.

Leveling up as either Jason or a Counselor will allow you to unlock characters with better stats, or different movie versions of Jason himself, with each having a variety of different weapons to wield. Currently, the leveling system is not working as intended with experience points not being added correctly after some matches. You will also unlock badges as well, but I’ve had my badge progress reset several times. There are also cassette tapes to be collected, but no matter how detailed I was in exploring my surroundings, I just couldn’t find them. It is possible that these tapes are part of the planned Single Player content that looks to roll out this summer. For fans of the franchise, they should take note that these tapes plan on talking about the backstory of Jason’s father.

Regardless of server issues or the progression system being bugged, the game comes off as looking unfinished or at least looking the part of something still in early access. The game itself feels clunky, and its movements and animations are sometimes painful to watch, with nearly every facial expression looking like some sort of possessed animatronic puppet attempting to mimic human behavior. I’ve consistently clipped through doors, walls and even glitched while being killed in the water by Jason, only to get right back up and be invisible for the remainder of the match. I’ve seen escaping cars fly into the sky while driving away and Jason himself hovering over traps only for them to snap him up after he’s clearly moved away from them. There have been several times where my ability to interact with doors, cabinets or even picking up items was met with failure, forcing me to either get killed or wait for someone to open a door or summon the police to bypass the glitch. I lost track of how many times I would hear on my headset that this same thing was happening to one of my teammates. There were a few times where Jason would get stuck in the water and was unable to move, allowing us to either take some cheap shots at him or just escape without the fear of what lurked around the corner.

The game also crashed fairly often, and this is the case across all platforms, with each community of gamers expressing the same concerns about the stability of the game. Out of the maybe 40 or so matches I’ve played start to finish, I’ve had double that crash mid-match or crash at the start of matchmaking. Currently, the quick match mode isn’t working and even the developer on Twitter has stated that finding a way into a private match is about the only way to get into a game. Thankfully, Xbox One has a Looking for Group system built into the console and it has made finding a match fairly easy. There have also been Database Errors that prevented me from playing for about 4 hours straight on release day. This error prevents you from even logging in at all, and since it is server based, no method of rebooting the console or your router will fix it. An easy workaround was discovered to work, but it requires you to play via a guest account, preventing your main account from unlocking characters and earning achievements. At the time of this writing, the Database Errors have lessened, but still pop up from time to time.

As is the case with games that lack a narrative story to follow, you are often left to create your own adventures with a group of other players and there was one such match that created a sense of imagination I never expected from this game. As we were running around trying to find bits and pieces for the car, we could hear another player laughing while screaming “oh no! oh no!” and it wasn’t until Jason was nearby that we realized what caused this panicked laughter. The player that was Jason for this round had Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” playing through his headset, and if you’ve ever heard the song, then you know how disturbing it can sound when applied to horror. As Jason approached, all you could hear was this song playing, creating a sense of fear that was stronger than anything a player could do in-game as the iconic Jason. One minute you were calm, collected and trying to find a gas canister for the car and then suddenly the song would inch its way closer to you, filling you with dread and fear.

As far as visuals go, the game isn’t great looking by any means. Jason looks ok, but the Counselors are cartoony and look made of plastic. There is a Counselor that screams at the beginning of each match that causes the whole party to just explode in laughter, even after the 50th time seeing it. While I am sure that the developers intended for the look of the game to appear cheesy, it combined with the clunky and robotic mechanics just doesn’t mesh well at all. Environments are ok, but eventually, apart from a few specific cabins, the three locations all tend to blur together and it can be hard to figure out which campground you are playing in without finding a map or the entrance sign to the grounds.

The voice acting is what you’d expect a game about an 80’s horror franchise to sound like and is so bad it’s rather enjoyable in that “so bad it’s good” sort of way. There isn’t much voice acting present, but you do get a few lines at the start of a match, when you find dead bodies, or when you call the police for assistance. The music, however; is fantastic, and the tense mood of Jason being nearby is made even more enjoyable with the shift to some suspenseful music. You can also turn on radio’s you find in the game that features some actual music, which can also be used to distract Jason.

I’m hoping that the developer adds more to this game, and not just in the way of more skins or new characters. I want more variety in how to escape, like making your way to a helicopter as it drops down a rope ladder or just something beyond the 3 ways to escape currently. Trapping Jason in a cabin and then setting it on fire would make for some fun visuals in a game that is normally very dark. I want the ability to assist other players out of a bear trap, or tend to someone’s injuries. As fun as the game can be, it is a very shallow offering of content for a $40 game. I also want quality of life improvements to core systems, menus and other things that games like Witcher 3 have done to make their game just function better.

Friday the 13th: The Game is an experience where its flaws are nearly the first thing you see, should you even be able to log into a game in the first place. Its instant popularity was something the creators of the game never anticipated and it’s very possible that by the time you are reading this review that most of the technical issues have been addressed. For every time I’ve thrown my controller when a game would suddenly drop, I’ve lifted a Counselor by their neck and snapped it in satisfaction. Server issues aside, the core gameplay elements of Friday the 13th are clunky, yet give way to a satisfying and enjoyable experience with the right group of people.

Stay tuned for an updated opinion on this game once the Single Player content is eventually released.

Friday the 13th: The Game was reviewed on a digital copy purchased on the Xbox One Marketplace. All Screenshots were taken via the Xbox One and uploaded to the Windows 10 App.

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