Review: Friday the 13th(game)

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For better or worse, fans of the film franchise can finally don the infamous hockey mask(or burlap sack) of iconic killer Jason Voorhees or try to survive his wrath as a camp counselor in Friday the 13th: The Game.
 
 
 
 Written by James Orrell
 
 
Friday the 13th is a franchise that has been near and dear to my heart for nearly as long as I can remember. Growing up in the '80s and 90's, I remember the weekend trips to the local video store which almost always resulted in at least one of the Friday the 13th films coming home with me. They connected with me on a level very few film's ever have and to this day I count the franchise as one of the greatest of all time.
 
So to say that I was excited for Friday the 13th: The Game is a massive understatement. The last game the franchise has had was that horrendous, broken and unplayable NES game. Anything over that had to be an improvement. Sean Cunningham, Tom Savini and Kane Hodder all were hands on in the development of the game. I've got to be honest here. That fact alone gave me a bonafide fanboy boner.
 
However, as a video game fan that has seen the leaps and bounds that gaming has made ever since the Atari 2600 days, I realized that I had to temper my excitement with a dose of realism. Point blank, video games are held to an incredibly high standard of quality these days and for very good reason. The medium is simply at a level that was unheard of when I was a child. So with that in mind I went into this game with as reasonable expectations as I could muster.
 
Does Friday the 13th: The Game meet those expectations? Yes and no.
 
Lets start with what the game does right. First and foremost it absolutely nails the tone of the classic franchise. The look of the cabins, the characters, hell even the music is incredibly reminiscient of the 1980's. Each of the counselors is a play on the classic stereotypes of the franchise. You've got the rebel, the rich boy, the awkward kid, all of that is set into how the characters look(and to a lesser extent how they play, more on that later).
 
The plethora of various Jasons(from parts 2,3,6,7,8, and 9) all look as they should from their respective films. Each Jason even has his own signature weapon and a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. For example, Part 3 Jason can run but he's slow in the water. The differences between the different Jason characters adds to the reasons I keep returning to the game.
 
There is also a unique Tom Savini created version of Jason available only to those that preordered the game. I cannot speak about this one other than to acknowledge he exists as I do not have him. As far as his look goes, imagine he arose from hell as a true hellspawn with a wicked trident. Honestly, I could take him or leave him. I'm happy enough with the originals.
 
Playing as Jason is incredibly satisfying when things are going as they should(for you at least). The game touts a large amount of unique kill animations and all of them do feel true to the character. They are gruesome and all of them were designed as if they were made for a film. What I mean by that is that Tom Savini made sure each one could be done practically in a film rather than use CGI. As a purest, that fact means a lot to me.
 
They even included a sleeping bag kill. It's tricky to get and requires some luck but if you do pull it off it's incredibly satisfying.
 
The teenagers have their own tricks up their sleeves. They have multiple ways of escaping Jason(or even killing Jason outright, but that is NOT easy to pull off and requires a team effort and a lot of luck) which gives them plenty of options. Call the cops and escape with them, escape by boat, fix up a car, even calling in Tommy Jarvis himself. The awesome Part 6 Tommy Jaris modeled after Thom Matthews, not Corey Feldman, mind you. They can pick up weapons and stun Jason. Depending on the version of Jason you are playing against(as well as what sort of upgrades he has) determines how long he is stunned for. Still, you don't want to loiter around for too long. That's how you eat the business end of a machete.
 
The little touches what really get me. Beyond the character models of Jason and Tommy, there are easter eggs all over the place as well as little cues that speak to any fan of the franchise. Jason's altar to his mother, including her severed head and sweater is in the game. When Jason is nearby little musical cues from the series pop up. And this is probably just me, but whenever Jason teleports in the game the screen shows the classic static on screen that would pop up all the time on VHS when you needed to adjust the tracking. 
 
Now, here comes the other side of the bloody machete.
 
The image clipping through objects can be horrendous and throw you for a loop. It's mostly little things but enough ant bites can take down an elephant. This leads to the graphics that while can be great at times(such as the Jason models) can be incredibly bland otherwise. The counselors, while all where unique clothing to them, look about as bland as video game characters can get.
 
I never thought I would say this, but Jason can be way too overpowered. This works great for the films. For a video game though it can be a big problem. If you are new to the game, expect to die early and often until you learn how the game works best and when you earn enough points to start leveling up your character. When you die, unless you come back as Tommy Jarvis, expect to sit and wait for awhile until Jason picks off the rest or they escape. This can take awhile or it can go quickly. It all depends on how good and how leveled up the other players are.
 
Seriously, Jason is great when he's overpowered in the movies. In the game, it could be a deal breaker for those not willing to exercise the patience it takes to get good at the game. I didn't mind it too much but believe me, I heard many angry gamers who minded it an awful lot.
 
The person playing as Jason is randomized throughout each game. That randomizer needs some serious tweeks. It can be a long, long time between the times you get to don the hockey mask. Or it could be incredibly short times. a much more even randomizer would definitely help the game out immensely.
 
The fact that we have to wait until later this summer for the single player component to come out is a drag. I appreciate the fact that it is coming but it feels incomplete without that major element.
 
Friday the 13th: The Game is not for everybody. As a stalwart fan of the franchise and having more patience than most gamers, I have been truly enjoying my time with it. There are plenty of, "Oh Shit!" moments to be had and more than enough winks and nods to the films to keep me entertained. It's clear that the development studio behind the game have a clear reverance to the Friday the 13th franchise. But with today's improvements in video game technology, whether or not you have the patience or can overlook the issues that the game most definitely has is up to you. Odds are most of the problems will be ironed out over the next few months as the developers patch the game. Personally, I'm enjoying the hell out of it. Warts and all. I can think of worse things to spend $40 on.
 
Like crack. Although, Friday the 13th is sorta like crack... In a way...

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