Friday the 13th: The Game Review – A bland, messy Hunt
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Gun Media
Release: 26th May 2017
Normally, I´m not big of a movie watcher, spending most of my time either gaming or watching series. However, in the unlikely occasion I ever give one of these so called “movies” a shot, it will most likely be one of the horror genre, my dearest genre of all. Of course I quickly stumbeled across the “Friday the 13th” movie series, as it´s one of the most known representative of said genre … and fell in love with it almost instantly. So, naturally, I was pretty hyped, when I heared about Friday the 13th: The Game, especially as soon as I saw, they wanted to create a “Dead by Daylight” gameplay mixed with items and more possibilities. Well, now it´s here and like the recent RiME or Dark Rose Valkyrie … it´s not good.
In general, Friday the 13th: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer horror game, quite comparable to Dead by Daylight. At the start of each round 7 of the 8 players are put into the roles of Counselors, while the remaining one gets to play as Jason, in order to make these teenies run like little mice. Similar to other games, Counselors need to escape by completing different subtasks like fueling/starting a car, in order to drive away or calling the police. Jason on the other hand has to kill every single one of them, before the 20 minutes timer of each round ends or everyone escaped. So far, so classic, luckily IllFonic tried to add their own touch, by adding various items and weapons for the Counselors, giving them the tools to defend themselves and escape.
On paper, Friday the 13th: The Game doesn´t only adapt the genre but implements different systems, to add more complexity and length on top of already established systems. Sadly, instead of improving the game, letting it stand out as the biggest represantative yet, everything starts to backfire.
The item system on the one hand, which allows you to equip weapons and other things found in houses, transforms the beginning into a boring scavenging hunt. Since you need to find everything needed to escape, like fuel or a battery, on huge maps, every game will consist of opening the same drawers and doors, searching for the same items, to do the same minigame and eventually escape. Overall, it may add some complexity but in exchange for diversity. During my time with Friday the 13th, I found myself doing the same things every round, hoping something would change gameplay-wise, some may call this insanity.
On the other hand, the fear system, another attempt at adding more depth to the genre, also fails at enriching the experience. While we stay in the dark, look at corpses or encounter Jason, our fear meter will rise, making us easier to sense for one of Jason´s abilities. As a consequence we´re forced to run from house to house, encouraging the boring scavenging mechanic once again. However, the biggest problem is the shadiness of this system, due to the lack of any visual representation of it. At no point I knew how “scared” I was or how easy to sense I became, especially because the game only delivers some feedback once it´s already too late. For a system, that decides about our life, it never makes an attempt to explain itself.
Unfortunately Friday the 13th: The Game´s biggest problem is its balancing, Jason is just too strong. Not only can we control him in third person view, giving us way more overview than in every other one, are able to sense the Counselors depending on their fear, run, shadow walk, but also to teleport to any point on the map. Normally, killers are slow, making them a constant threat, yet giving you the possibility to escape by limiting his sight etc. IllFonic did the exact opposite, probably because they thought Jason needs to be faster, due to their huge maps, completly destroying the balance.
Combined with the shady fear system, Jason will often be able to see you, teleport to you and kill you, he can run after all. Along the lack of speed advantage, Counselors also can´t escape from Jason´s grab, leading to an inevitable death, without a fitting item. If you´re not lucky enough, having houses around you, in which you can hide or barricade, Jason will catch you and kill you with one of his instant grab kills. Denying any possiblity of a thrilling chase, followed by attempts to rescue a team mate, like in Dead by Daylight, in most cases. At every corner it gets obvious, how they tried to transform the killer into the ever present, overpowered Jason, we know from the movies, without thinking about the game itself, a classic example for lore over gameplay.
These problems eventually result in the reason why the different tasks themselves don´t work. At the beginning it sounded awesome, having to complete a multi-step plan, in order to get a car running or even be able to kill Jason! Most of these tasks revolve around bringing the right item to the right place and complete the well known reaction mini game, which sends out signals to Jason, if you fail. Here´s the problem, normally these signals would inform the killer you´re at the car, giving you a time period to escape before he slowly walked there. In Friday the 13th: The Game, he will just teleport to you, guaranteeing at least one kill. You can´t just change the whole gameplay flow but keep other things, which only work in another environment.
Content-wise Friday the 13th: The Game can´t offer much as well, only featuring three maps, some Counselor skins and different Jasons. For 40 dollar, that´s nowhere near the needed content to justify such a high price tag, especially considering the balancing and gameplay problems. Everything about this game eventually ends in an endless repetition of the same experience. Oh, wait, it also has unlockable perks for the Counselors and kills for Jason, giving you some random percentages on your stats, like 11% longer sprinting, in a desperate attempt to somehow motivate you in the long run.
Luckily, graphic-wise there´s not much to criticise, textures seem sharp, lighting works pretty good and the maps look pretty and atmospheric. It just looks good, no matter how you look at it, with only the character models seeming a bit plastic-y. Mostly due to the Unreal Engine, Friday the 13th: The Game is a game worthy of its 40 dollar price tag, presentation-wise. Only the facial animations are horrible, since they try to imitate a cheesy horror film, overreacting like hell, but never nailing the perfect balance between cheesiness and awkwardness.
Friday the 13th: The Game sounded like the wet dream for fans of the newly established multiplayer horror genre with its addition of items and more complex tasks, along the amazing Friday the 13th license. Sadly, nothing of these new systems improved the game in any way. Instead we´re presented a Dead by Daylight, clustered with repetitive gameplay, broken balancing and not working design choices, topped by a huge lack of content.
When it works, normally every hour or so, chases between Counselors and Jason are thrilling, jumping through windows barricading doors or using items to stun him, however, these are way too few. Most of the time, we´re outrun by Jason, dying in seconds and leaving. However, most importantly, all of my best moments could be experienced in Dead by Daylight as well, for half the price and way more content, in a better and more fun way.
All in all, there´s honestly no reason to buy Friday the 13th: The Game and that´s a true shame …
[A Review Code was provided by Gun Media]