Gaming Spotlight: Friday the 13th: The Game
Hey Talk Film Society readers! Welcome to the first installment of Gaming Spotlight where the TFS Staff takes a look at the world of video games with a cinematic eye. This week, staff writer Sean Beattie and Editor-At-Large Matt Curione are going to be discussing IllFonic and Gun Media’s new release Friday the 13th: The Game!
Sean Beattie: So, full disclosure; I was a Kickstarter backer of this game, jumping into the backer tiers once I’d heard that Gun Media secured the official license for the films and characters. That license being given to them lent the team (of which, there’s only four people) some respectability, but also jumped expectations a few notches, since the last time we got a game with this license was the NES game from LJN. And that’s the nicest thing I can say about that game.
Matt Curione: Oh boy, that NES game, growing up I didn’t have a Nintendo Entertainment System but my neighbor sure did! That was a game we consistently tried to beat over the years and to no avail. It’s pretty darn terrible, but man I love it as a relic of its time. So much so that a few years back I purchased a sealed copy from a local pawn shop. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll say that unlike you, Sean, I never backed this new Friday the 13th game while it was on Kickstarter, mostly because I was sure that the fanbase was there and it would eventually get made. When it would be released was another question entirely but now that it’s finally here, I must say I’m pleasantly surprised by what we got.
Sean: I’m pretty surprised by the results, as well. In balancing (or not balancing, because c’mon, it’s Jason Voorhees vs. Camp Counselors) the game the way they did, Gun Media really managed to capture the atmosphere of the final act of a Friday movie. Every match begins with a rando counselor (who is unplayable) being murdered horribly in front of the others, which sets two things in motion: it lets us know shit got real, really fast, and it also sets up which version of Jason we’re playing as in the match (or against). It’s an “oh shit” entrance for a character who gets no lines, and it’s pitch perfect.
Matt: Yeah, that intro is a great setup for players to encounter at the start of each match. After that, the match starts “five minutes later” and we’re off to the races. I tend to play as Jenny Myers as she is an overall well balanced character and reminds me most of Debbie from Friday the 13th: Part 3, one of my favorite final girls in the original series of films. She’s quick on her feet, decent with a weapon, and has a good amount of stamina. Early on I realized how important the Stamina Stat is to surviving any encounter with Jason, who is just as vicious here as he is in any of the pictures. This adds a hint of a “puzzle” to the game, something that’s rare for these types of multiplayer games.
Sean: And the puzzle aspects don’t just stop with that detail. Every action you can take as a counselor in the game has the push/pull of Doing the Thing vs. Taking Longer, and letting Jason know where you are. The only real “failure state” in this game, is dying. Everything else just adds difficulty instead of not working. For example, the repairs to the cars or boat you can do: none of the repair quicktime events in the game can outright fail. But every missed button press sends a noise indicator to Jason, shown as ripples in the game world. So if your character sucks at repairing things, maybe hand that off. Or else you’ll have Pamela Voorhees' special boy on you, right quick.
Matt: Oh man those mini-games. These also bring about the great teamwork aspect of the game. In a session earlier today, I was lucky enough to find the gas can needed to fuel the getaway car and so I searched the map for the car and found two other counselors; one with the key and the other with the car battery. As I rushed to fill the gas tank, failing at the mini-game multiple times, the other two were ready to escape, but just as I finished filling the tank, Jason appeared right behind me. Mr. Voorhees proceeded to gouge both of my eyes out with his thumbs as those two lucky camp counselors drove off into the distance. Sure I died, but at least I helped?
Sean: Yeah, those minigames really produce some great moments for essentially recreating scenes from the movies. Coordination between the counselors is beyond key, and for a few reasons: the more you can do together, the faster you can escape (or call the cops, or call in Tommy Jarvis). Also, the more time you spend alone, the more obvious you become in Jason’s sight - playing as Jason, you see fearful counselors highlighted in bright, crimson red in the camp. And they glow. In teaming up, that’s less likely to happen. Those kills when you get so close to getting away are the best to watch, though. And weirdly, playing as Jason, with the 30-or-so years of cultural consciousness we have about him and his character’s supernatural qualities, just feels right.
Matt: To be honest, I wouldn’t know because I’ve yet to play as Jason! That’s the one issue I have with the game, the player who gets to play as him is random with every match. I’ve been relegated to Camp Counselor duty, but to be fair, I kind of prefer it. Trying to survive is one of the most intense things I’ve experienced in a game and I’m having a blast. Well, when the servers work that is.
Sean: Yeah, server issues and launch weekend woes coupled to make for a bit of a headache with this new game. I’m willing to write off a lot of it due to the small size of the team, though-- only four people plus some extra help from Illfonic. If you get the chance to play as Jason, though, it’s a whole different game. There is the “unstoppable force of nature” aspect to how he handles, but each different movie’s version of Jason (no Roy here, sorry fans of Part V) plays like a different character. Which makes a lot of sense. Sackhead Jason can’t take as many hits as Part VII’s Zombie Jason, but Sackhead can sprint like a damn Olympian. It’s all about how you use the four abilities all the Jasons have. But the kills are the real gravy, here.
Matt: The kills, Sean, the kills! I love how each one is pretty much tailored for the Jason at hand. In one of my first matches, the Jason from Part 6: Jason Lives morphed right in front of me, holding that trademark spear. He shoved me to the ground and proceeded to stab me straight in the face with that spear, complete with a lovely spray of blood. Gun Media were smart to include these iconic kills as it really shows that they have a love for the franchise that matches that of the fans. This brings me to another crazy moment that occurred during my next match. Thanks to some great teamwork by the counselors, they were able to actually defeat Jason! It was four counselors; three of which were armed with machetes and a fourth with a flare gun. Flare gun guy shot at Jason to stun him as the three other counselors proceeded to wail away on the Unhappy Camper, it was an amazing experience that made me fall in love with the game. And yes, before you ask, while this was happening, I was cowering behind a tree.
Sean: Well that’s just the smart play if you’re not prepared to lend a hand. But when you die, is when I really get transported back to the late 80’s with this series’ heyday: spectator chat can only be heard by spectators, and they are LOUD. Like, midnight screening, yelling-at-the-screen, loud. And it’s the best feeling, as a fan of this franchise. I haven’t felt that way since my first viewing of each of these movies, and for that I have to thank Gun Media profusely.
Matt: Totally agree on the midnight screening aspect of the game. It’s a ton of fun to hear players either cheer someone on or mercilessly ridicule them. I think it’s safe to say that we’re both pretty decent fans of this new game, warts and all?
Sean: Yeah, I definitely am a fan in these early goings. The warts, such as they are, can mostly be written off to a small team and launch weekend server issues for what is really a deep, complex game that exclusively (for now) relies on multiplayer. Gun Media has said they plan on adding in single player and offline “bot” matches later this year, but for now it’s relying on those servers everyone’s had issues accessing. But when the game loads, it plays like a (fever) dream.
Matt: Also, you mentioned Tommy Jarvis earlier and for casual fans of the series, he’s definitely a deep cut. This has me thinking, as a way of looking forward, what characters we’d like to see added in future DLC or updates. Personally, I think a bruiser like Bounty Hunter Creighton Duke (Jason Goes to Hell) or someone with “superpowers” like The New Blood’s Tina Shepard would make for some really fun additions to the formula.
Sean: I was actually just thinking Creighton Duke myself, or maybe throw in Julius from Jason Takes Manhattan, and let him box Jason in the game. Pamela Voorhees would be the ultimate, to me, though. Just let her appear as another counselor til Rage Mode kicks in.
Matt: Well I guess we’re ending this on a Carrie 2: The Rage reference? Thanks a lot, Sean. But seriously, this is one of those rare licensed games that feels like the film it’s based on. You get the fear of being a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake, and you get to go on a killing spree as the NHL’s Most Feared Goalie (1980-1993). It’s an easy game to pick up and play, and for fans of the series, it’s a pleasure to behold.
Friday the 13th: The Game is now available digitally for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.