It’s such a treat as a fan of the film series to be able to experience a detailed digital recreation of Camp Crystal Lake. This game allows you to play either as hockey mask (or sack) wearing killer Jason or as a teenager trying to survive a night in the woods with him.
The atmosphere of the first four films is very well captured thanks largely to the return of composer Harry Manfredini. The score lets you know how close Jason is to you, starting with a tense build-up of violin strings and ending in a bombardment of pure terror as the camera turns to broken VHS static alerting you that Jason is mere feet from you.
Fear is an important play element. As your character discovers dark areas, broken windows and the bodies of fallen players their fear level increases. This makes it easier for Jason to find you and if your character is in panic mode they’ll breathe heavily or scream, further giving themselves away. This give the opportunity for very fun and intense moments, such as trying to hold your character’s breath while hiding in a wardrobe as Jason walks by. It really feels like an interactive horror movie.
The game’s biggest issue is that your enjoyment is wholly reliant on other players. At the time of writing there is only one mode: multiplayer. Once Jason kills you you are free to leave the game session but you have to wait till the 20 minute round ends if you want to collect your points which are crucial for unlocking new kill animations and useful perks.
Being forced to watch other players struggle to survive can either be like watching a mini Friday the 13th sequel or a grinding bore. It depends entirely on who you’re watching. Some will work together on an escape plan and communicate via their mics. Others will silently hide under a bed for 10 minutes. Sitting through an hour’s worth of tedious rounds is enough to put anyone off the game.
Playing as Jason is where the game really comes into its own. Armed with an array of teleportation and sense powers the pressure is on you to make the chase fun, challenging and terrifying for everyone else in the round. When you catch someone you get to choose how Jason kills them, with his weapon, his bare hands or an “environmental kill” such as drowning them in a toilet or throwing them out a window. Each kill animation is gleefully brutal and gory, more similar to Hatchet than Friday the 13th. It’s a shame the game only lets you play as Jason around 10% of the time. Adding a single player mode will fix this problem and allow players to hone their stalking skills.
Friday the 13th: the Game is a must-play for fans of the series or horror survival games in general but reliance on server based gameplay, a system that has pacing and glitch issues and a general sense of incompleteness makes me question if it will survive any longer than the average Jason Voorhees victim. I hope it does.