Everyone knows the premise for the Friday the 13th movie series. Even if you haven’t seen the movies, you’ve heard and seen clips of the terrifying Jason Voorhees dismembering and brutally murdering anyone he can get his hands (or ax) on. Gun Media set out to make a third-person horror, survival game that was faithful to its cinema and delivered.
The focus of 13th is survival. You and up to 8 other “teammates” must survive the night after Jason unveils his presence by murdering one of your fellow counselors before he could get the s’mores to the campfire. Since it is so extremely unlikely that you will survive the 20 minute round, the game provides a variety of ways to escape the map. Counselors must search cabins high and low for parts to get the car or boat running. The car requires gas, a battery, and keys while the boat requires gas and a propellor. Each part has a small mini-game required for installation that will test your mouse reflexes. Another means of escape, definitely more suited for the entire counselor group, is to call the police. To do this you must locate which cabin houses the phone and fuse box that Jason has disabled. Find the fuse, install it, make the call, and a 5 minute timer will begin a countdown to police arrival. Now all you have to do is make it to whatever map exit they appear at. Finally, a counselor can also call a local hunter pulled from the movies, Tommy Jarvis. While Tommy is not a means of escape, doing this allows a fallen counselor to re-enter the round as Tommy armed with a gun that has 1 shot to stun Jason that can give counselors a precious few extra seconds towards escape. Even after you have been killed, the game allows you to watch your other counselors escape or be picked off, and the added bonus of a potential comeback as Tommy is a great mechanic.
Other items in cabin drawers include maps that allow you to see where the police and other counselors are across the entire play area, walkie talkies that let you communicate with the counselors that aren’t in your hearing range, and a variety of weapons ranging from a pocket knife to escape Jason’s grasp to firecrackers to stun him. Many bathrooms also contain healing spray that can give you second life after being hit by one of Jason’s throwing knives and unable to sprint.
As Jason, you have 4 abilities that assist you in hunting down counselors, aside from being able to grab and murder counselors in a variety of ways that looks just as intense as the best Mortal Kombat brutalities. When a round begins, you start with the ability to Morph. You can open the map and teleport anywhere you choose. Next you have Sense, allowing you to see a red outline of nearby counselors or highlight the buildings in which they are hiding. Shift allows you to disappear from the counselors sight and move extremely quickly. While Shift doesn’t last but a few seconds, it allows you to chase down a sprinting counselor and grab them for the kill. Jason’s final ability is Stalk, which deafens his theme music and allows you to sneak up on unsuspecting counselors. Counselors can hide in cabins, but if you find the right cot or closet they have no chance of escape. In addition to his abilities, Jason has a number of home-made bear traps at his disposal that are perfect to place by escape components and can collect daggers around the map to injure counselors and slow them down. Each Jason character based from his movies has strengths and weaknesses that allow you to choose which build suits your hunting style, as well as unique kills available in exchange for xp that allow you to butcher counselors in unique ways adding to the excitement of getting your hands on a player. Since you usually gain anywhere from 500 to 1500 xp per round, the cost of 500 xp for a new kill style is inexpensive and adds depth to the game and keeps it entertaining. Even as a counselor, once you know you’ve been caught and at your end, you can’t help but eagerly watch just how you meet your demise. Throughout each map, once you have a counselor in your clutches you may be able to perform a situational kill. Impale a stupid teen on a birdbath, stab and hang them on the coat hook, wrap them around a tree and rip their arms off- and if that isn’t satisfying enough, you gain extra xp for it. The killing never ends.
Each counselor character has his or her strengths and weaknesses as well. Some will have better stealth skills to make Jason less likely to sense them, while others will have better repair skill making it easier for you to repair your means of escape. Each factor such as stamina or composure allows you to choose which counselor caters to your play style. In addition to abilities, you can equip your counselor with perks. Gain a random new perk for 500 xp ranging anywhere from improved stealth while indoors to gaining stamina when you escape from Jason’s grasp. My personal favorite lets you use a health spray twice and has saved my counselor on more than one occasion! There is a process for actually killing Jason that is cleverly in sync with the movies, but complete communication and coordination with other counselors is required and I have yet to accomplish it in a round myself. Communication with other counselors is absolutely key to survival. Let someone know you found the gas for the car so they can hunt for some keys. Have another counselor distract Jason while you call the police. In addition to Jason’s presence music, this game does a fantastic audio job in only allowing you to hear and speak with counselors in a close range unless you find a walkie talkie. Walkies and maps don’t use up item slots and can be the difference in knowing to book it to the car or being left behind. Maps also show which exit the police appear at and give you complete advantage over those wandering around searching for the blue lights. The game does a good job of balancing Jason’s power and counselors escape by allowing him to stop the car by smashing the hood or being run into and pull passengers out of the window. If you take the boat, keep in mind Jason can move extremely fast underwater and perform an insta-kill by pulling you under.
You’re going to have good and bad rounds, as in any game. Spawning by a car is always unlucky because it’s usually the first place Jason is going to check out. While playing as Jason, if a counselor spawns in the fuse/phone house and calls the police quickly, you have a much smaller window to kill your prey. While random matchmaking can be fun, the way to truly fall in love with this game is to get a good group of regulars to play with. People that give you a chance if they find you in the first minute of the game and don’t leave you behind if they get the car running. Sure, it means you might not get the max xp or a perfect kill round, but it makes for an awesome experience with plenty of opportunity for hilarious circumstances. Similarly to Evolve, unless you have a private server Jason is selected at random. With a full server this means your chance of being Jason is around 12%. You can set your spawn preference in settings, but playing private rounds is the only sure route to have your preferred game.
Most of the complaints I’ve seen for the game so far have been centered around gameplay and are totally warranted. It’s far from polished and includes several frustrating little quirks, like getting caught behind a tree or rock due to terrible collision detection, that can make or break your kill/getaway. Teamspeak in the lobby is glitchy and unintelligible, game lobbies themselves have connectivity issues, and servers are just as likely to send you to China rather than be based in the USA. It definitely needs work, but keeping in mind that the game is only a month old makes it no worse than PUBG. 13th uses Unreal Engine and at the same time I feel that a truly seamless game wouldn’t be true to the cliche 80’s grainy horror genre anyway. It’s all about your perspective, but going into this purchase knowing that you’re getting an experience rather than masterpiece will hopefully give players some patience with the game. On that note, the current Steam price is $40.00. Most might wait for a summer sale on this one, but as for me I find this title the most addictive multiplayer since Rocket League’s release. The graphic kills are fierce, the soundtrack is clever, and the fun you have with your gaming click with F13 can be endless. Shut off the lights, dust off the hockey mask, and turn up your headset. Teenagers need some murderin’!