Thursday, May 17, 2018

Friday the 13th: The Game review *Updated May 24th, 2018*

    I've been holding off on this one because I knew the game was going to be not really what I wanted but was probably going to be enjoyable. Just probably barely so. You see, I'm a huge Friday the 13th fan. What introduced me to the series? I'll tell you what, THE NES GAME! When I was a wee tiny tot, I got to face Jason Voorhees in one of the mostly badly designed games of all time. Except, I still remember I beat Jason ONCE during one of the boss battles. That stuck with me and made me think I could someday play a great Friday the 13th game.

This animation reached meme-proportion early on.
    I was a Kickstarter supporter of this game and while I don't play on PC, I picked it up on Xbox One as soon as it came out. I had a somewhat mixed set of feelings from the beginning because, well, it was a multiplayer only game and I'm not a big fan of multiplayer.

    Still, I was ready to trudge on with the game because I have a spectacular love of Jason Voorhees. I was bitterly disappointed that the 2009 Friday the 13th movie didn't become a new franchise. I'd accept almost anything from the series because I want to see it continue. I also was happy Jason Voorhees was in Mortal Kombat and got more attention than being another boss in Dead by Daylight.

    So what did I think of the game? It was okay when I first started playing it and updates have moved it to "good" but it's not amazing either. Still, I'm glad I bought it and kept apprised of the fact the game's continuing additions by the developers. This is one of the few games which has changed dramatically from its initial release and become a bigger more complete system as time has gone by.

    The premise of the game scarcely needs to be explained. There's a bunch of counselors partying at Camp Crystal Lake when Jason Voorhees interrupts with a murder of an unfortunate teen. The surviving counselors flee in every direction and Jason has to hunt them all down while they try to escape. You either play Jason or you play the counselors and matches take about 15 minutes to complete. This scenario is repeated whether you're playing multiplayer, Single Player Challenges, or against offline bots. In single player mode, you always Jason and this is a bit of a shame because I tend to root for the counselors versus the Man behind the Mask.

Counselors vs. Jason is the classic set up.
    The game is presently a lot more playable than it was at launch with the addition of an offline mode where you can fight against a bunch of dumb-as-post bots. I actually had to turn up the difficulty to Hard to get any sort of challenge and I'm a perpetually casual gamer.

    Recently, this changed and the counselor bots have gotten significantly less stupid but it's still unlikely for them to escape or kill Jason. The update also introduced new bugs like glowing sparkles after kills (I'm not kidding) as well as making it too dark to see unless you turn up the lighting for your game.

    Additionally, the developers have added a number of additional maps to the game versus the original, including some spots from the original series like the Jarvis House as well as the Higgins Farm. I'm looking forward to the eventual spaceship design from Jason X and hope we'll see the ship from Jason Takes Manhattan.

Try to run Jason down with a car. I dare you.
    I love the fidelity of the game developers to the franchise. There's every variation of Jason available from the movies except for Jason X (who is coming) as well as Jason vs. Freddy and the remake version (which is a rights' issue). There's even the NES retro-Jason which is just plain awesome. I also like the counselors, that include most of the archetypes found in the movie as well as a couple of homages to older characters. I loved the Jarvis and Voorhees Tapes that chronicle what passes for backstory in this game. Sadly, finding them is all but impossible and I think 99% of gamers actually interested in this game's story just listened to them on Youtube.

    I was especially fond of the counselor Tiffany for being the pretty cheerleader type that usually gets offed quickly in these games as well as Chad, who is the rich doofus who has equally poor survival prospects. All of the counselors have different states which makes them a surprisingly variable character to play. I also appreciate they put in Tommy Jarvis as a character that "dead" counselors can play if they're killed during the match (or escape). It's extremely hard but possible to kill Jason using Tommy and that's extremely satisfying.

All versions of Jason and a couple of new ones are available.
    Surprisingly, the thing I enjoyed most about the game was the Virtual Cabin that contains a cornucopia of franchise trivia. Unfortunately, even that is sort of tainted because there's no clues except the internet to resolving the complicated parameters to "solve" the puzzle. Even so, I had a huge amount of fun with it in a 7th Guest sort of way. It makes me think a Telltale Friday the 13th game or outright adventure game would have been a lot more fun.

    As for bugs? Yeah, this game is buggy. There's clipping issues, dropped connections, missing hits, and more. Even logging onto the game was an enormous hassle. There's also a number of weird elements that render combat problematic. Jason can't reach through windows, cross over knee high fences, or crawl through spaces. This is meant for game balance purposes but it reduces Jason to doing a lot of tedious door chopping. I would have made the counselors faster and had Jason have multiple ways of entry to make the game more fast paced.

So many young and nubile victims.
    Still, there remains hope for the game as they've recently uploaded single player Challenges that allow Hitman-like missions where Jason must kill his prey in a variety of interesting ways.These challenges are based on the movies and allow Jason to re-enact the plots of Friday the 13th part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and a few original stories.

    The Single Player Challenges are fully voiced maps and "quests" which give a lot more personality to the Counselors even as they sometimes re-enact scenes from the movies scene-for-scene. I was especially fond of the twists which sometimes occurred like the fact A.J. has dated multiple male Counselors, Chad is actually a decent boyfriend, and Tiffany has a twin sister. None of these are probably "canon" as this is not a game with a serious story continuity but they captured my imagination.

    I've had a good 4-5 hour experience completing all of the Single Player Challenges and that's worth the game's purchase price alone. If they had it at the beginning, this might have been a much bigger success than the sleeper cult classic it's been. Even so, this mode is also flawed because you can't skip the opening cutscenes and that's murder when you're trying to replay them for the complete number of Challenges available on any given map. There's only so many times I can listen to A.J. talk about how Mitch is a bad lay or Shelly insult Tiffany for not giving him pity sex.

    The best time and place for this game is to get a group which enjoys playing the role of Jason as well as a group of counselors who enjoy communicating during the game. Sadly, like with all online multiplayer, there's no way to determine what sort of players you'll get. You may get a Jason who enjoys stalking and taunting the other players or you can have one who just wants to murder you as quickly as possible. Thankfully, the leveling system is a minor issue as experienced players as well as inexperienced don't have much difference in what they can do except how they look killing people.

I love how the campers freak out when they see Jason.
     There's also the counselor who work with their match Jason and wreck the balance of the game. Supposedly, they're creating "Salt Mines" where cheaters, rage-quitters, and griefers are assigned. It worked for Grand Theft Online so I hope that will help things as well. This is a fandom problem, though, not a gameplay problem. So far, reports are that it's not working.

     One thing I do recommend is that players purchase the beachware and Halloween costumes for their character at the store. While they aren't dolling out micro-transactions, I think the alternate costumes and emotes are really quite good this time around. I'm hoping they'll continue to update the game with more content even if they have to be purchased. Plus, I don't supporting games which actually add things I might use.

    In conclusion, Friday the 13th: The Game is okay. It's fun and playable, especially after being updated but not the best game ever. I feel like I got my forty bucks out of the experience due to the love of the franchise on display. This is a game made for playing with headphones and those who don't have them or friends willing to play are missing out. Ironically, for a game not meant to have a single player mode, I enjoy that much more.


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