by Daniel Dockery
As an overall experience, Friday the 13th: The Game is average. A lack of any sort of single player campaign and problems with the online matchmaking system leave it feeling like a skeleton. It plays just fine, but Jason’s reach seems to have an invisible extra two feet of arm, so if he swings for your neck and you’re in the same room as him, he’s probably got you. Also, if someone hosts a match and gets offed, often, they’ll just shut the whole thing down in a fit of rage. So, about a third of the time, matches don’t even finish. The most dangerous character in the game isn’t a Vorhees at all. It’s the petulant gamer who poses the greatest threat.
That said, there is one feeling that the game nails. I’m a fan of the Friday the 13th series. It’s not my favorite slasher franchise (My heart belongs to you, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but I find the movies in it to be endlessly rewatchable. There’s something so sweaty, charming and iconic about them. Higher highs are achieved by series like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, but in terms of consistent enjoyment, Friday is king.
And there’s a moment in a lot of these films that I like to call the “OH MY GOD OH NO” moment. It’s the moment where Jason appears, usually a half foot taller and a whole torso wider than anyone else in the cast, and proceeds to ruin everything. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a jump scare, as it can occur if Jason has been on the screen for two minutes or two seconds. It just has to incite the reaction of “OH MY GOD OH NO,” usually coming from the teens on screen or the people watching those teens.
You’re in the middle of replacing the car battery, while someone else stands watch with a flare gun and another person roots around in a nearby cabin. The rest of the party? Snapped in half, or decapitated, or hacked apart in various shadowy sections of the camp. But you and your final few? You will make it. You have to, right? First of all, you’re smarter than any slasher movie teen, and you’re controlling you, so you have that going for you. Second, Jason is pretty slow, so even if he does come, you could probably speed walk away. And third, time is almost up, so even if Jason does get to you, the clock will run out and you’ll be in the clear.
OH MY GOD OH NO.
The person shooting the flare gun misses wildly and Jason crushes their skull. You begin to take off running as you hear, in the background, the person in the cabin come outside to also be eviscerated. You’re staggering around rocks and trees and OH MY GOD OH NO Jason is right there and now you’re dangling in the air. Game over. Ya’ died. Jason lumbers back to his cabin for another pep talk from his mom’s severed head and you’re left hoping that, in the next round, you’ll get randomly chosen to be Jason. Because there’s nothing better than playing as Jason and finding those sweet OH MY GOD OH NO moments that let players know that their plan of “Lock the door, set the bear trap, grab the pocket knife, and go out the window unheeded” isn’t always foolproof.
That’s what Friday the 13th gets so, so right, and it almost makes up for the things that it gets so, so eh. I think this game has way better days ahead of it when the bugs get worked out, so I’m gonna stay optimistic. But if all this game turns out to be is an OH MY GOD OH NO simulator, I’ll be sort of cool with that.