Friday the 13th: The Game

Developer: IllFonic

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

Once again, guest reviewer Neil Sheppard joins us!

You know those drunken video game discussions you have down the pub? The ones where you and your friends design the ultimate game in your heads and bemoan the fact that real video game designers could never compare to your genius?

Well, an indie publisher has Kickstarter-funded one of those dream game ideas into a reality: an online multiplayer where one person plays Jason Voorhees and the rest play a bunch of terrified camp counsellors. Somewhere along the way, Sean S Cunningham, director of the original movie, and the great Tom Savini himself heard the hype and arranged for the game to be an official part of the franchise. Hooray for armchair game design!

If you’re lucky enough to have seven friends with similar proclivities to you, you can arrange a private match, if not, you’ll be teamed up with strangers, and randomly assigned the role of Jason or a helpless victim. As Jason, you can detect roughly where the other players are, teleport to spots on the map or zip forward in first-person, Evil Dead-style. If you get close enough to the campers, you can grab them and perform your choice of gory kills, such as decapitations or Bane-style backbreakers. To be frank, the counsellors’ chances are slim and, if the Jason for the match catches sight of you, you’re probably gonna buy it.

Thankfully, the play area is littered with items you can use to stun Jason temporarily or repair cars, boats or phone lines to aid an escape. You can even resurrect a deceased player as a shotgun-toting Corey Feldman. Allegedly, this is part of a complex series of steps to actually kill Jason, but they’re so elaborate, you’ll almost certainly need Jason and all the other players’ co-operation to do it.

Not that you’ll know any of this starting the game, as there’s no tutorial; all you get are basic text instructions. Since your chances of success are ridiculously slim, however, there’s no need to take the game too seriously, which is probably for the best, as this is still very much a fan project and it shows. The game is buggy as hell and the controls don’t always do exactly what you ask them to.

Still, it’s all part of the fun seeing your character occasionally bug out, continuing to swim after returning to dry land or getting stuck on an invisible ledge out of Jason’s reach. Likewise, if you’re a good sport, trying to jump out a window to escape Jason’s clutches and, instead, accidentally getting trapped opening a drawer and dying horribly, is hilarious (once you’ve stopped swearing).

Alas, however, the game has a much bigger problem: the players. The kind of gamers who are drawn to the idea of playing as Jason are not the sort of people who will go easy on newcomers. In the few weeks I’ve been playing the game, I’ve seen players collaborating with Jason to attack their fellow campers and a Jason repeatedly knock a player out of her boat, not killing her or letting her escape, over and over again until the time ran out.

In the first match I ever played, I was thrown in at the deep end as Jason. I struggled to figure out how to use the powers and couldn’t even find the control to grab the other players, meaning I failed to kill anyone. I also didn’t know how to mute the in-game chat, leading the other players to chant “Jason sucks” while dancing around me. I would describe the experience as ‘mildly traumatic’.

Still, despite my PTSD, I find myself wanting to recommend the game. It’s so intense, you’ll need a stiff cuppa after every match and you could talk about strategies and gameplay mechanics for hours. There’s so much potential here, particularly for the price (£31 right now), that it’s an awful shame you’ll occasionally struggle to find a match as there aren’t enough players online.

If more people buy the game, then the developers will be able to fix the server issues and bugs, and there will be other people to play with than chav trolls. You won’t be buying the game so much as investing in it.

Just… please add me when you do…

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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