You can watch my best moment in Friday the 13th—a moment of heroism!—in the video below, though be warned that there's lots of cursing so don't blast it out of speakers at work. I'm not talking in the video: what you're hearing is Jason taunting a camp counselor who's been backed into a cabin while I watch from behind a tree. And then, with only slight hesitation, I bolt into the cabin and whack Jason on the back with a wrench, stunning him long enough for the both of us to escape. The sing-songey "laaater bitch" from my fellow survivor is spectacular. (Update: Follow the KatieRouu on Twitter and Twitch!)
Based on what I've played so far, Friday the 13th is great fun. The setup is much like Dead by Daylight: one player is the killer, the iconic Jason Voorhees, while the rest are camp counselors trying to escape. Both games have their merits (and Dead by Daylight is half the price), but I appreciate that there's a lot to do as a survivor in Friday the 13th: You can hide under beds, try to repair and drive a car or boat out of the camp, call the police and run to them when they show up, or even kill Jason—if you figure out how.
Before I settle down to really review Friday the 13th next week, I want to know a few more things. If the general playerbase isn't as boisterous and giggly and friendly as the beta testers I played with this week, the tone could completely change. And I've already encountered several bugs, so I've got to root them out of their hiding places with the lights on to see how bad they are. I also haven't spent any time as Jason yet, spawning in repeatedly as a counselor. But I like being a counselor, even if death can be swift.
I was long dead before the match in the video above ended, but one survivor did escape into police protection. With Jason standing between him and the tunnel to safety—the goalie mask is fitting—his only option was to deke. Even though it can be a long wait, there's always a good show to watch after you die.
Above: The glitchy movement may have helped, but still, what a move.
Jason is assigned randomly to one player, though you can set a preference for playing as the killer or as a counselor to increase your chances of spawning as one or the other. The masked murderer can teleport around the map and make instant leaps through local space, supernatural skills that give him an omnipresent feeling. He can also sense things like which cabins have counselors in them. Once he grabs someone, they're toast, unless he takes too long trying to set up his kill.
The unlockable and environmental kills most resemble Mortal Kombat's fatalities in that the guiding question is: what's the most fucked up way to kill someone we can think of? I had a pick stuck through my face and my head turned all the way around. I saw another player pulled against a tree until her arms came off.
The brutality is softened by how goofy the wide-eyed, glowing-toothed counselors look, and the way a splatter of dark blood instantly appears on their faces when they die—it's gross, but videogamey, unreal, dreamlike.
And then there's the voice chat. The way everyone laughs and taunts each other, it reminds me of playing tag with the neighbors as a kid, scurrying around the empty lot behind our houses with flashlights on summer nights. Rather than feeling competitive, it feels like all of us, even Jason, are working together to tell a story. If that one kid who takes playing tag way too seriously shows up, I could see the fun draining out of it, but everyone's played their role beautifully so far. (As for me, I've opted to stay muted, but I'll get my mic on before I play more.)
Above: Just because you've fixed the car doesn't mean you're out of the woods.
As one of the counselors, most of my time has been spent rooting through cabins for supplies. To get the car running, for instance, the loosely allied team of survivors (you can kill each other, I think, but I haven't tried) needs to find a battery, gasoline, and the car keys. Some players run around searching, while more cowardly players might hide out by the car, hoping someone else gets it running so they can jump in the back seat. If Jason shows up, you can choose to gang up on him, shooting flares at his face or whacking him with weapons to stun him, or dash away while he's busy performing some hideous kill. I admit I've done the latter a couple times.
There are unlockable counselors and Jasons, randomized perks to roll, and lots of skills and tactics I still need to figure out. And then there are the bugs I mentioned. At one point, I got locked into the run speed but with a walking animation, which gave me a much appreciated, but unfair, advantage. Now that Friday the 13th has officially launched, I'll be checking for patches and fixes before the review goes out.
I also wonder how long running around the same camps and trying to fix the same car will remain fun, but Battlegrounds hasn't gotten old yet, and this is like a bite-sized, semi-cooperative version of that. More maps and tools for the counselors—however much they might diverge from the fiction of the films—would be welcome to keep the same stories from repeating too much. For now, though, I haven't experienced nearly all of the possible outcomes as a survivor.
Friday the 13th is out now, and I'll play much more before our review posts next week. I'm more nervous about screwing up my first game as Jason than I am fleeing from him as another counselor. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself by not murdering everyone terribly.