Recently, Kickstarter backers for the upcoming Friday the 13th: The Game had the opportunity to test the beta. For the rest of us, we have footage courtesy of IGN. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to play the beta. However, I watched the 17-minute demo, and I think Friday the 13th looks promising as a party horror game.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with its development, Friday the 13th is a third-person survival horror game, although you likely expected that. What you might be surprised by, however, is that it’s an asymmetrical multiplayer game. Players take on the role of one of six counselors or Jason Voorhees himself, although the video showed the game from a counselor’s perspective. Polygon reported in October that Gun Media delayed the game to add the “most-often requested features” such as single player and bots. It will come as an update in the summer of 2017, and it will feature missions like the movies.
The gameplay mode looks like a cross between team deathmatch, free-for-all and hide-and-seek. Players can arm themselves with axes and other tools; however, Jason seems impervious to man-made weapons for the most part (apparently, it is possible to take him out). They better serve as quick distractions. Sneaking, hiding, and setting traps are more viable options. For instance, Jason cornered two counselors in the cabin and would have got them had he not stepped on a bear trap located in the threshold of the bedroom door. Other than that, a lot of the gameplay relies on contextual ques. Quick-time events exist to heighten the counselors' struggle to start the car, and contextual cues allow Jason to brutally smash or dismember his teenage victims in ways that hopefully meet fans’ expectations.
It’s quite apparent that the developers are fans of the franchise because they included visual and audio homages to the movies. Discordant music signals Jason’s arrival, and the game displays the kinds of errors you’d get from a VCR when the counselor’s fear is heightened. Jason will also wear different costumes from the movies he’s starred in. Sure, the characters have the texture of porcelain dolls, but the slightly cartoonish aesthetic makes a bit of sense considering this is a multiplayer adaptation of a popular slasher franchise. To truly nail the look and feel of the franchise, the team is working with big names from the film including director Sean Cunningham, Tom Savini and Kane Hodder, who is reprising his role as Jason and serving as the motion-capture coordinator.
Based on what I’ve seen, it looks like the key difference between the game and the few Jason movies I’ve watched is that players are in on the joke (so to speak). IGN’s hosts did a good job providing relevant commentary throughout the demo. Will players remain in character when the game is finally released? Probably not, but you never know. I’ve seen videos of WoW players taking the game very seriously, and I’ve seen a video of players trolling players. I wouldn’t be surprised if Friday the 13th attracts both types. I also wish there was local multiplayer because my biggest worry is that if playing online, how do we make sure Jason isn’t the one who leaves the game? That said, if I’m playing with my friends I know personally on Steam, with whom I’d rather watch a slasher film or play a slasher game anyway, then that might be the best way to play.
Slashers can be equal parts scary and fun, so it’s fitting that Friday the 13th: The Game seems equal parts survival horror and party horror. Just because everyone’s talking, planning, and trolling doesn’t mean that Jason can’t catch us off guard, causing one player to jump and the others to laugh with him or at him. That’s what I look for when I watch old slasher films to watch with my friends. And if Gun Media is successful, then hopefully they’ll receive the license for A Nightmare on Elm Street and more.