Ka, ka, ka, ka, ka… ch, ch, ch, ch… Good. Now that’s out of the way and potentially stuck in your head, we can get on with the horror at hand. After a successful Kickstarter back in 2015, Friday the 13th: The Game is finally stalking ominously on PS4, Xbox One and PC on Friday 26 (of May). Given that the next unlucky Friday this year is October, we’ll give developer Gun Media the slightly awry date.
Jason Voorhees has slashed a bloodstain across modern horror and, while he’s been relegated to almost comedy material in movies like Freddy vs Jason, he’s still a gory icon. Friday the 13th: The Game is giving him back his true horror stripes with a gory asymmetrical multiplayer offering. A single player option is coming in summer but from Friday you’ll be able to take on the role of Jason himself or one of his potential camp counsellor victims. Here’s how Friday the 13th is breaking the terrible movie adaptation mould and making something truly, horrifically special.
1. You can play as a truly scary version of Jason Voorhees
Friday the 13th’s asymmetrical multiplayer means than not only can we scurry like rats and hide under beds from the infamous hockey-masked mummy’s boy, we can play as him. You’d think that 1 vs 7 just wouldn’t be quite fair - no one mention Evolve - but stalking through the darkness as Jason Voorhees is almost godlike. Crickets and screams blow on the wind while Jason’s mother softly encourages him to continue his slaughtery ways. This is something horribly new and exciting. “Although Mortal Kombat provided a glimpse of what it’s like to be Jason, the truth is fans have never been able to fully take control of this iconic character before now,” co-creator Ronnie Hobbs tells me.
“There’s a lot of questions and unknowns when it comes to Jason’s world and how he interacts within it,” he continues. “For example, what does the world look like through the eyes of Jason Voorhees? How does he instinctively know where the counsellors are hiding? Does he have a predator-like heat vision, or does he see the world like the rest of us? When it comes to sound, what does he hear? Is Pamela’s voice constantly repeating in his head, driving him to seek revenge? These are just a few of the questions that we get to answer. So that’s really exciting.”
Even better is the fact that you can play Jason however you want. He unlocks more and more powers as counsellors become afraid so whether you want to loom in the dark and send them insane with fear first, or just batter down doors and brutally slaughter away, the choice is yours to make your own kind of horror movie. “Jason is innately terrifying,” adds Wes Keltner, co-creator and president of Gun Media. “The hockey mask, the machete... he’s iconically scary. But then you allow a player to take the wheel. So then it becomes up to that player to be scary. We give them the tools to play Jason how they want to. They can be a sneaky, quiet, jump-scare Jason. Or they can be fast, brutish and bull-in-a-china shop Jason. Each style can be scary, and fun as hell to try out.”
2. Jason wants you to be afraid. Very afraid
So while ‘ol hockey mask can’t see like the Predator he can track noise and, wait for it, fear. The more terrified his victims become, the easier it is to find them and the more powerful Jason becomes. Cabins glow red if that’s where a counsellor is cowering but won’t show their exact hiding place. A quick get out might be hopping out of the window before Jason heads inside, or you could hide under a bed upstairs and hope to not fall victim to one of the movie’s infamous kills. Oh, wait, no, you’re skewered to the floor. Oops, better luck next time.
“The more brutal you are and the more cool things you do, the faster you get abilities like Sense where Jason can scan the world for the Fear Meter,” Hobbs warns. “All counsellors have a composure stat. Dependent on the movie trope you pick, you have higher composure or lower composure and that determines your fear level.” That fear level is essential to your survival. Stay in the safety of light and it’ll decrease but you’ve got a better chance of becoming mincemeat when Jason spots you just lingering around a lamp post. Horribly, fear doesn’t just make it easier for Jason to use his Sense abilities, the characters themselves will start talking out loud to the darkness or breathing louder, making it even easier for Mr Voorhees to come knocking through the wardrobe you’ve crammed yourself into.
3. Horror movie tropes matter
In the dev team’s quest for true authenticity, nothing was more important than making the various horror tropes of the original movies actually matter. Every counsellor is a character you’ve seen in scores of ‘80s video nasties. Take the bookish girl, Deborah Kim, she doesn’t just wear glasses and look vaguely frumpy in knitwear, she’s got high intelligence for working out solutions and seriously good stealth. Just don’t come to her when it comes to needing a car lifted during escape attempts. For that you’ll want someone like the traditional Jock, Brandon ‘Buggzy’ Wilson, who has high strength and speed but the stealth of a not insignificantly sized elephant. The team has obsessed over the stats, making sure that everyone is just right. If you’ve ever been angry about how someone reacts in a horror film, now’s the time to try and fix it. Chances are you’ll still find yourself dead with your head in a fireplace.
Gun Media has also spent a long time thinking about how to accurately recreate the feeling of watching a horror movie. “There's a recent study that proves our brain doesn’t trigger fear responses while watching horror movies, but instead causes the portion of our brain responsible for attention, problem solving, and planning to fire rapidly,” Hobbs says. “To me, this is exactly what it feels like to be a counsellor in Friday the 13th: The Game. There’s a sense of dread, panic, and certainly fear because you know this unstoppable killing force is out there somewhere, but you have to be constantly thinking and adapting your plan in order to survive. You have to stay calm and manage your fear, both for yourself and the character. Combine this with seven other human controlled counsellors, and you can start to see why people would enjoy playing as camp counsellors instead of Jason. People love to be scared, perhaps even more so when they can share that experience with a group of friends.”
4. Death is definitely the end
All of Jason’s mo-cap has been performed by none other than Kane Hodder who played Voorhees in four of the original movies. Throw in creative deaths designed by infamous special effects master Tom Savini and Friday the 13th turns murdering your friends into a brutal artform. “We have some really incredible weapon and environmental kills thanks to Tom Savini’s twisted mind, but there’s something really sinister and personal about Jason using nothing but his two hands to put you out of your misery,” warns Hobbs. “So having said that, my current favourite kill is the Head Squeeze, which is a tribute to Rick’s death in Friday the 13th Part 3.”
And if you thought one Jason was enough, there’s multiple versions of the slasher hero, each with their own special abilities and powers. Jason Part 2 can run instead of walk but has a slow speed in water, while Jason Part 8 has better destruction to smash through walls but thankfully can’t run after you. Small mercies and all that... Regardless of which one you go for - or indeed are running from - each Jason can earn abilities such as a Corvo-style Blink to appear right behind counsellors or the horrifying Stalk. Stalk lets the Jason player mute the music that the counsellors normally hear to let them know Jason is near. It also increases Jason’s hearing so he can hear their footsteps or attempts to open doors and windows to escape. Urgh. Even writing about it is tense.
5. The devil is in the details
From the fuzzy ‘80s movie video intro onwards, Friday the 13th is all about the little moments that make the franchise truly special. Everything has been made with series fanatics in mind and while we can all enjoy the grim, there are serious amounts of detail if you’re brave enough to get close enough. “We certainly have Easter eggs hidden throughout the game, but I would say the casual F13 fan or gamer might not notice the extreme amount of detail that’s being put into recreating Crystal Lake and the multiple versions of Jason Voorhees,” says Hobbs. “Jason’s mask from Friday the 13th Part 3 has a very specific color tone, along with over 100 unique markings on it. Most casual fans or moviegoers think it was a pristine, solid white hockey mask but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s that level of detail that will be a nice treat for those fans that know the difference.”
The team is even enriching the game world with never before seen content. The so called Pamela Tapes have been penned by Tom McLoughlin, writer and director of Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives and you’ll find them scattered around Camp Crystal Lake. While you can hear Pamela egging on Jason if you choose to play as him, these tapes give more background to his ultra murderous mother dearest. Just the bedtime story you need.
6. Camp Crystal Lake feels fresh every time
While you’ll always be in a camp in the woods next to a lake, you’re never going to get the same horror layout twice. Just be glad someone’s cleaned the blood off the cabin floors between takes. Camp Crystal Lake is randomised for every bout and there are three different maps that include Packanack Lodge from Friday the 13th: Part 2. “Our map system has a variety of random elements in place; buildings, cabins, weapons, vehicle parts, and other items all spawn uniquely, so each time you play Crystal Lake feels like a new environment,” Hobbs says. “Also, when you take into consideration that all characters are human controlled, you get a variety of actions from players that simply can’t be matched by A.I. Humans are unpredictable, and that’s represented very well in our game.”
When it comes to the ways to actually get out unharmed, it is possible, it’s just as difficult as you might expect for an experience where everyone is meant to die. “Counsellors have multiple ways they can escape,” confirms Hobbs. “Vehicles can be repaired and driven away, phones lines can be fixed to signal the police for help, and you can also take the more direct approach by finding a weapon and confronting Jason head on. It’s not impossible to escape, but we’ve yet to experience a play session where all seven counsellors have made it out alive.” Given the fact that there’s not enough seats in the boat or car, someone’s going to have to be sacrificed to the masked one. Just make sure it’s not you.