A good slasher flick is sure to have a lot of blood, plenty of violence, and a lot of laughably dumb moments. All of that is definitely found in Friday the 13th: The Game, a multiplayer horror game that has players trying to escape in one piece from Crystal Lake. The concept is a great one, which is why IllFonic’s latest game was able to nab the license to one of horror’s biggest franchises and have a very successful crowdfunding campaign. Now that it’s finally out, potential doesn’t mean much, as backers are now forced to look at the monster they helped fund into existence.
My initial experience with the multiplayer-only title wasn’t a positive one, as I attempted to get into a match for over 10 minutes to no avail. When restarting the search amounted to nothing, I eventually gave up on trying to get into a match. When I returned a few hours later there was a patch out that nearly doubled the size of the game, so I thought that my problems were over with. That wasn’t the case, as my nightmare of glitches, loading times, and crashes was just beginning.
Once I installed the first of two launch day patches, I eventually found myself finally joining a match. As one of seven surviving camp counselors, I was tasked with fleeing from the terrifying Jason, who had started decimating the property value by slicing up anything that moved. Similar to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game starts the player off with nothing, so I had to search every inch of empty cabins to find something to defend myself with. I found a wrench sitting on a table, and left the house in search of the other survivors that were on my map.
D Is for Dangerous
Before I could find any of the other players, I had my first encounter with Jason. I had feared this would happen as music started playing (which I later learned meant he was nearby), and then the screen flickered for a brief moment. Out of nowhere the terrifying figure appeared in front of me. He grabbed my character by the throat, and managed to squeeze the life out of me despite my best attempt at mashing the cross button in order to break free. It was a sudden, shockingly violent moment.
It’s these moments where Friday the 13th: The Game really shines. Jason Voorhees is a nightmarish figure that is extremely powerful. He’s so overpowered that merely the sight of him is enough to scare any person playing the game, as death is potentially only moments away. Some will probably dislike that the game feels unbalanced, but I loved that Jason truly felt like a monster. To escape from Jason, players will have to work together, as the best an individual can do is stagger the psychopath for a few seconds.
There are a few ways that players can win a match, and that’s by either managing to escape from the area via a vehicle or managing to evade the killer for 20 minutes. Escaping via a vehicle is easier said than done, as players will have to either phone in police cars to pick them up at exit points or find several different items scattered across the map in order to fix a broken down car. Communication is key, and the only times I was able to successfully escape was when players were working together as a group, and not as individual units.
Unless you’re playing with friends, that becomes a rarity. I found that to be fine, as dying in Friday the 13th: The Game can be just as much fun as being successful. Once dead, players get to wait out the rest of the match in a spectating mode where they can see how all of the other players are doing (and one lucky dead person can actually rejoin the game as a shotgun wielding Tommy Jarvis). Due to the killer’s teleportation and keen instincts, an encounter is never too far away, so I got to watch most of my teammates get decimated while myself and a friend laughed about the gruesome action.
Only Ones Who Know
While I had a few really fun matches in Friday the 13th, they were overshadowed by a lot of bad ones. The game is shockingly unpolished, as I regularly clipped through furniture in houses, and found button prompts to be unresponsive. This is generally more amusing than annoying, but it becomes downright infuriating when a murderous man with an axe is chasing you. Since Jason is so overpowered in the game, the controls and systems need to work properly in order for the player to have the chance of escaping. That just wasn’t the case, and I died more than my fair share of times due to my character getting caught on geometry.
Glitches were also a common occurrence, as I once saw a survivor manage to take over 20 attacks from Jason. Somehow, the character had managed to become invincible by running around in circles enough, and I actually found myself feeling bad for the hulking brute of a man that had murdered me prior. Try all his might, Jason just couldn’t kill this buffoon who was just running around as if he was a chicken without a head. I’d be lying if I didn’t find it hilarious when it first occurred, but it had grown stale when I noticed that there were still over five minutes left in the match.
I also managed to watch a woman take flight, which is just about the only thing Jason can’t do, and constantly hover 10 feet above the ground. That wasn’t enough to beat Jason, though, as he was able to throw knives into the air, and kill whatever mutant found itself into our match. On top of all of the bugs I encountered, the servers have continued extremely hit or miss as well. I’ve had connection failures mid-match, and games freeze while loading several times. That wouldn’t be a huge issue if it didn’t take 10 (or more) minutes to find other players, but right now the potential fun isn’t nearly worth the hassle. Even worse, I also experienced instances where the servers wouldn’t allow me to login for several hours. This is a completely botched release if I’ve ever seen one.
If You Were There, Beware
Besides the many technical issues that should’ve delayed the game, there’s just not much content in IllFonic’s game. There are only three maps, which means players are looking at the same wooded areas a lot. This this isn’t a huge issue due to how placement of items is always randomized, but it did start to feel repetitive aesthetically. The only real hook to keep players coming back is to unlock new counselors and versions of Jason, which all have slightly different stats and can be customized with perks (or specialized kills in the case of Jason). It ultimately relies on players loving the core gameplay loop, which is awfully hard to do at the moment.
Friday the 13th: The Game shouldn’t have been released in the sad state it currently is in. From glitches that make players invincible to terrible matchmaking that had me waiting over 10 minutes to get into a room, it’s putting it nicely to call the end product a mess. It’s really heartbreaking to see since there are still positives that manage to shine through if one can look past the galling lack of polish. The core gameplay, when it works properly, can be fun when played with friends, and there are some refreshing ideas underneath the jank. Several months from now it may become the multiplayer hit it strives to be, but right now it’s an embarrassing release that can’t be recommended.
Review code for Friday the 13th: The Game provided by the publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.