[Review] The thrills & annoyances of being Jason Vorhees in "Friday the 13th the Game Solo Challenges"
Your heavy feet thud against the ground. Cold moonlight shines down on you through the trees of Camp Crystal Lake, otherwise known as Camp Blood by the locals who fear your legend. Ahead, a camp counselor, your victim, enters their quiet cabin, unaware of you and your grisly intentions. You are Jason Vorhees, the iconic hockey masked killer...
...You decide to draw your victim out, so you smash the electrical box outside the cabin, cutting the lights. The counselor screams. She runs for the door…and gets stuck in a running animation while trying to open it. You sigh. For the 500th time, things have not gone as you planned. This, in a nutshell, encapsulates the invigorating yet frustrating feeling of playing the Friday the 13th the Game Solo Challengers.
The game, released by the passionate, hardworking creators at Gun Media, has seen its fair share of issues since its release on May 26th, 2017. What we got was a game made by Friday fans for Friday fans. With only the multiplayer option available at the time, fans crowded onto servers to explore intricately designed cabins full of fun easter eggs and references to the Friday the 13th franchise, all the while being stalked by different iterations of Jason from the films, complete with clever, gory kills designed by the special FX master himself, Tom Savini. When it actually worked, the game was fun (who doesn’t like giving counselors deadly swirlies as Jason?) and if you were a counselor, the game had a sense of terror to it unmatched by others of this nature, because few killers carry with them the imposing horror of Jason Vorhees. But note the key there: when it worked. For one reason or another, the game came LOADED with bugs and server issues. This is a common problem for most online multiplayer games, but when you have players waiting sometimes thirty minutes to get into a match (or longer), only to be dropped because some asshole host decides to quit, it becomes a problem. Over time the people at Gun Media, who I deeply respect for all their passion and efforts, have worked tirelessly to resolve most of these issues. Now, a year later, the solo challenges have finally been released, and here we are with some of the same problems again.
Despite my negative tone, I actually really love this game. See, I want Friday the 13th the Game to be as good as it possibly can be, so its depressing to yet again have some issues with the solo challenges we’ve been waiting a year for. In the solo challenges you play as Jason Vorhees, tasked with multiple scenarios in which you must hack & slash your way through unsuspecting counselors. In each mission, you have a list of objectives (usually revolving around different ways to kill counselors), including a hidden objective, all of which award XP points. Each mission also has three achievable skulls: No Survivors, Undetected, and XP. All pretty self-explanatory. In order to unlock the next mission, you must obtain two of the three skulls, which allows players to blow through however they want, right? Wrong. See, you really can’t achieve one without the other. Want to just storm in and ki ki ki ma ma ma your way through everyone? Now you won’t go undetected, and since most of the objectives involve killing counselors in specific ways, unseen by the others, you also won’t be able to achieve the XP goal. I get that this is a game and the creators are challenging the player, but this severely limits your options in how you approach each mission. For many of the challenges, I felt as if I was working on a trial and error basis, learning the exact pattern of each counselor and having to work out to a T the route the game wanted me to follow, with little to no variation. So the game succeeds in giving the player a challenge, but for any of you looking to stalk and pick off counselors through methods of your choosing, you’re going to find yourself playing missions over and over again until you do what the game wants. An easy fix would’ve been to make it so that only one skull was needed to move onto the next mission, but that’s not the case, sadly.
To make matters more difficult, you’re also on a considerably short time limit of about 8-10 minutes. Not a problem in most of the missions, but some of these see you going after 5-8 counselors, which doesn’t allow a lot of time for engaging in some of the game’s more fun aspects, such as stalking counselors (the game has certain “stalker” points on the map that allow you to see through a voyeuristic POV). Not to mention, as I hinted at above, the AI in the game is, well, lets just say the characters in the Friday the 13th films may not always be the brightest, but they weren’t THIS dumb! Just when you think you have the pattern of an AI down, the counselor will veer off in the wrong direction, or turn around unexpectedly, and, in some cases, get spooked and run to the door where they’ll get “stuck”. The film Mosquito doesn’t have this many bugs! Trust me when I say that, in order to successfully complete each mission and check off every objective, you’ll be playing through most of these challenges A LOT. Which wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to sit through a twenty second cut scene EVERY time you restarted.
Let me make myself clear: despite everything that’s wrong with Friday the 13th the Game Solo Challenges, there is still a lot of fun to be had here. Those cut scenes I mentioned may not be thrilling to watch a gazillion times, but damn, is the corny dialogue just right, like Tiffany saying “I’m gonna go for a dip in the lake” followed by Chad’s remark “Uh, I’m gonna go for a walk myself…hope to see some wildlife”. The creators made sure to include enough fan favorite kills that would make Jason himself smile, including the speargun kill from Part 3, the spear through the lovers in bed from part 2, and more. Challenge 10, Vacation Party, is in itself a reenactment of my favorite Friday film, The Final Chapter, and is a total BLAST in which you’ll get to throw a twin out of a second story window in awesome cinematic slow motion, and yes, the famous corkscrew kill is available as well! This is where the game really gets things right, and has since its launch. You’ll never doubt that the creators are fans themselves, and they know how to make us grin (or laugh maniacally, whichever you prefer), despite whatever issues are inherent in the gameplay itself.
So for those expecting to walk into the Friday the 13th The Game Solo Challenges with total freedom as Jason Vorhees and all the time you want to create your own little fan entry into the franchise…you’d have a better chance of being rescued by the cops in a Friday film. BUT, if you’re coming into this as a fan wanting to revel in some of the best moments from the franchise, then you won’t be disappointed. Doing so is a challenge, and there may be times where you come close to destroying your TV in a murderous rage, but if this game has taught me anything, its that Jason Vorhees is a more patient man than we likely give him credit for, and in this game, patience is greatly rewarding.
By Matt Konopka