It has been right around two weeks since the newest attempt at an asymmetrical multiplayer has dropped; Friday the 13th: The Game. Coming to us from IllFonic and Gun Media, this passion project turned massive hit has given new life to the many versus one style game that has fallen so short in the past. But what exactly is it about this game in particular that stood out from the other attempts at asymmetrical multiplayer games? Well, when the fascinating history that came with the game’s creation, the recognizable source material, and a truly enjoyable gameplay combine it is almost impossible to stop playing.
CREATING A CLASSIC
A brief insight into the creation of this game is always a fun story to recap. Years ago, IllFonic set out to create a video game that paid homage to the classic slasher horror that has shaped the creative flow and imaginations of so many. This lead to the beginnings of a game called Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp. In this original game, players would take on the roles of summer camp counselors doing everything that they could to escape a single player. This final individual was given the role of the brutal slasher, stalking the camp and murdering the “innocent” teens.
Does this sound a little familiar? It should, because the entire purpose of this game was the reflect the story from the Friday the 13th film franchise. It was sort of a love letter to the movies and their creators. Only, a lot more in-depth that a Hallmark card.
Apparently, the love showed through, because after looks at early builds of the game got out, they quickly caught the attention of legendary effects designer Tom Savini and iconic horror actor Kane Hodder. Having both been integral to the success of the Friday the 13th film franchise, they helped move the gears to get IllFonic and the game licensing rights to the intellectual property they loved so much. From here, Slasher Vol 1: Summer Camp officially became Friday the 13th: The Game.
REVITALIZING THE HORRORS
Now, how could a franchise like Friday the 13th not spark a little creativity in the minds of video game developers and horror fans alike? The premise of the eleven films is rather straightforward, yet captivating enough to push studios to continue churning them out. If by some chance you do not know, the movies center around a deformed boy who was born on, you can guess the unlucky date, having died at a summer camp. The voice of his mother guides him along as he hunts down and murders camp counselors, who they blame for his death. Later movies start to take strange turns, such as sending the infamous, immortal slasher Jason Voorhees to terrible places such as Hell, outer space, and Manhattan. For now, the game has only taken the initial inspirations and stuck to the forest camp settings such as Camp Crystal Lake. But, DLC expansions can never be ruled out.
Taking all of the proper cues, this is where this game has risen well above all other attempts at asymmetrical multiplayers. Once all the server issues have been dealt with, given that there were and still are plenty, the game is shifting into an unforgettable hit. Launch was admittedly a digital disaster. And not in the typical way that online multiplayer-centric games have a rough launch. The publisher, Gun Media, is still a small team.
It is evident that there was no anticipation for the massive influx of day one players they would receive. This result in serve meltdowns and matchmaking taking incredibly too long. Some people lucked out and only needed ten-twenty minutes to find a match, and as long as the lobby stayed open you were fine to keep playing. Yes, even these lobbies would occasional drop for now reason. Still, some unlucky fans took to twitter the evening of launch showing their counter indicating twelve or more hours searching for a game. Those were the kinds of rough waters this game released into.
Since then, the game has been predominantly fixed and runs rather smoothly. Once in a match, you are randomly assigned to play as either a counselor or Jason himself. You can set your preference to try and swing the odds in your favor, but there is still no guarantee there. Provided that a full game consists of seven counselors against one Jason, you will be playing as the summer loving, scared of the dark teens more often than not. But do not take this as a threat or deterrent. Sometimes, playing as the counselors can actually being surprisingly fun.
THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED
There are about ten counselors in total once you have progressed and unlocked them all through leveling up. Each has their own set of stats, making each feel extremely different and tailoring them to different play styles. A character with higher repair stats will have an easier time with the mini-games, but will very likely have lower speed and stamina. Bear in mind, you can also cash in CP earned from playing to roll for additional perks that you can add to the counselor of your choosing. This helps to balance them all out while keeping them refreshingly different.
Playing on the hunted side of things, there are a variety of ways to escape the horrors of the camp. This ranges from fixing phone boxes to call the police to gathering all of the parts needed to escape in one of the cars or boats spread around the campsite. All of this falls under a certain level of luck and skill causing some games to finish in a matter of only a few minutes to some taking the entire twenty-minute course. Yes, if you can survive for twenty-minutes you are dubbed a winner automatically. And you can kill Jason, but it is extremely difficult. So, your whole team better be in it to win it if that is the path you chose to take.
This helps keep each and every match feeling fresh and new rather than repeated rehashes of the same thing time and time again. The online interactivity also aids this. You can work cooperatively, you may betray one another, or you can just be a real Chad. Don’t worry if you don’t get that reference, one of the hidden trophies can clear that up.
If you find yourself on the flip side, hunting down these teens looking to hangout and enjoy their summer counseling at the camp down by the lake, you are in for an enjoyable but taxing treat. Taking up the mask as Jason, your main focus is to kill all seven other players, including an eighth if they return as Tommy Jarvis. To do this, you make use of the four main abilities that Jason has: teleport, sense, shift, and stalk. Eventually you can unlock a few more, but these are your bread and butter. With these, you must cover the grounds, picking off counselors one by one.
But do not think this is the only variability here either. The game comes with six different Jason’s that you unlock as you level up. There is a seventh, but the Tom Savini exclusive design was saved as a Backer Incentive Exclusive for those who supported the game on KickStater and Backer. Of the six main to the game, each has a different weapon and varying pros and cons, once again tailoring each to a different style of play. Bundle all of this with the dozens of unique kills you can unlock and use and time as Jason is just as unique and varied.
The core tenant here, as far as the success of Friday the 13th: The Game as an asymmetric multiplayer seems to be that it is less of a many versus one and more one versus those aiming to survive. In a phrase, this does not look all too different, but in all actuality, they are vastly different styles of gameplay. Instead of having a group of arguably weaker character seek out one stronger character for a battle, the weaker ones have to play to survive. Both sides of the gaming coin are so inherently different that they could each stand as their own game. This is part of the success to Friday the 13th: The Game.
Aside from this, as of the writing of this piece, the online community are keeping things fun as well. Players are not rage quitting, screaming, getting angry, and verbally abusing others through voice chat. Yes, there is always a little bit of that, but so much less than just about every other online community. People are currently aiming to poke fun while help one another and mess around, all in harmless enjoyment. This too helps push this game further and further. Very rarely does a game come out an only grow and grow, perpetually over the weeks following release. Still, Friday the 13th: The Game is doing just that. By incorporating manageable variability and randomization into a new take on a somewhat failing genre of gameplay, Friday the 13th has cemented itself as a new standard in replay-ability and value. Now, do it for mommy, Jason.