Friday the 13th: The Game
Released in May this year, Friday the 13th: The Game was initially met with both cries of delight and howls of derision. The game’s a great idea in principle and is certainly an incredibly faithful homage to the franchise. It looks the part, has a great atmosphere and a superb soundtrack. However, it was buggy and flawed upon release and now six months later, still has a lot of problems. Some of these are performance issues and bog-standard QA matters. Things that the developers can hopefully address. It is fair to say that patches have been forthcoming, and the game has improved but still remains a work in progress. Sadly, there are other problems that may prove harder to fix. These are inherent flaws in the gameplay which can potentially discourage players from actively participating in the game in full. And as ever with any title that is founded upon co-op online gameplay, you have the inevitable problems of trolling, douchebaggery and general assholery. As I found out within minutes of logging into the game for the first time tonight.
I bought Friday the 13th: The Game today because the latest patch finally adds an offline play mode against bots. This presents an invaluable opportunity to try the game out and learn it’s subtleties and foibles at your own pace. Something you can’t always do online. Sadly, the patch was delayed so I found myself having to use the “quick play” facility and rely on a random pick up group. Like many contemporary co-op titles, Friday the 13th: The Game has voice chat enabled by default. Let it suffice to say that on my very first game, I was greeted by a player trolling the rest of the group in the lobby. This pretty much set the tone for the remainder of the game. I spent about two and a half hours playing both on European and North American servers and found that about half of the players I encountered had absolutely no inclination to participate properly. Often, I’d find that the majority of the PUG would focus on unlocking achievements or simply messing about. It is also a common occurrence for players to abandon the game once they become bored or have achieved what they want.
For those who are unfamiliar with this game, it’s an asymmetrical multiplayer, semi-open world, third-person survival horror game. The game maps vary in size but are all variations of the rural summer camps featured in the film franchise. Eight players can group together, with one being randomly assigned as Jason Vorhees. The rest are councillors that have to either escape from the area or hide and wait out the timer. Games tend to be about twenty minutes or so in length. To escape you can either repair a car or a boat and use that as a means to leave, or you can fix the camp phones and call the local police. If you do this, they arrive on the perimeter of the game map and you escape once you reach their patrol vehicles. Different councillors have different abilities. Some are stealthy, others are strong. You can also arm yourself with various items. Jason has several unique abilities, such as heightened senses that allow him to home in on councillors. He can also warp around the map. Naturally, he has multiple kill animations that can be unlocked. On paper, all the elements are present to make this an engaging homage to the eighties movies.
However, potential and reality often differ greatly. The key to success in Friday the 13th: The Game is to play collaboratively, to communicate and to be situationally aware. Sadly, you are highly unlikely to find any of these elements in a PUG. What you get, is either a group of people doing their own thing, or a group of people bellowing at each other all desperately trying to take charge. And of course, you run the risk of the usual trolling and antisocial behaviour that comes with random internet encounters. During my limited gameplay so far, I’ve found that most people have their own standard way of playing. The police where often called quite early on in each game and experienced players then made a swift exit. On one occasion I spent twenty minutes hiding in a tent which allowed me to survive the game but did not make for interesting gameplay. Then there are issues like aggro tagging and players that abandon the game because they’ve become bored. This is not a real issue if they are councillor but if Jason leaves the game it can be a nuisance. Hence, the reality of this game when playing online, is vastly different from one’s expectations. Conversely, if you have friends that own this game, you can organise a private group and have great fun, or so I would imagine.
There is a learning curve to Friday the 13th: The Game, especially when it comes to mastering playing as Jason Vorhees. New players with dreams of racking up a major body count within minutes of logging into the game, are in for a big surprise and not necessarily a good one. I’m hoping that the offline bot option will improve the situation once the patch is released but as it stands at present, this game is flawed, and that flaw is being relaint on other people. At present, I summarise Friday the 13th: The Game as an expensive online version of “hide and seek”. It has a slick and creative veneer that oozes nostalgia, especially with its soundtrack by Henry Manfedini, who scored so many of the feature films. But beyond those trappings it’s a somewhat hollow experience. Your fun and enjoyment are dependent on who you play with and how well you function as a team. Pick up groups are not known for guaranteeing any of these things. Therefore, it may be prudent for those who have a great affection for the franchise, to wait a little longer before buying, to see if future patches and hotfixes improve the game.