Mother knows best.
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If nothing else, Friday the 13th does a great job of both making you feel weak or powerful, depending on which side you're on. Playing as a camp counselor on the run from horror-icon Jason Voorhees, almost every move in Friday the 13th could be your last. One sloppy mistake--slamming a door shut, a frightful gasp, or testing your flashlight in a moment of panic--is all it takes for Jason to quickly pinpoint your location and move in for a kill. Unsurprisingly, with Jason's strength and supernatural powers under your command, a night at the infamous Camp Crystal Lake takes on a far more maleficent tone. Maim, rend, or pulverize the innocent; whatever it takes to win.
The game's asymmetrical multiplayer arrangement benefits from this dichotomy, particularly because counselors are encouraged to escape with their wits rather than to outright "defeat" Jason. However, the extent to which the game develops as you unlock new characters and abilities remains a mystery as we've only had a day and a dozen matches to put it through its paces.
Our full review will come in the near future, once we've had the chance to explore the extent of the game's maps, characters, and the multiple ways you can fight back against the formidable slasher, Jason.
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Some things, however, are immediately clear. It doesn't take long for the hunter-versus-hunted dynamic to take hold, but there are also plenty of telltale signs right up front that Friday the 13th could benefit from ongoing development and future updates. Facial animations are often laughable; abrupt and cartoony in a way that feels at odds with the ever-present sense of dread you feel with Jason nipping at your heels. It's not clear whether this was done intentionally or for comedic relief.
The most egregious example is in the opening cutscene, which happens to be the same from map to map save for backdrop adjustments. Chad, the game's version of the blonde moneybags archetype from the movies, has a face that contorts like a surprised character from a low-budget '90s CG cartoon: stiff and otherworldly. There are also plenty of mistimed and misdirected animations that occur when sprinting around camp and performing tasks such as opening and closing windows. Characters face the wrong way, or get caught in a stuttering loop.
All of these blemishes are easily forgiven in the moment as nothing ends up broken mid-match for long, but problems exist elsewhere that can make even getting into a match something of a chore. Currently, you may find that you're booted from pre-match lobbies on a regular basis due to connection issues. Or, you may wind up in a match with nothing on your screen, save for the mini-map in the lower-right corner. Call them launch woes or something else, but these events aren't uncommon enough to simply brush off.
But perhaps the biggest annoyance of all comes down to the game's progression system, which rewards you with experience points for completing small feats. In isolation, it's a good way to look forward to new characters (with new stats) and the ability to roll for random perks as you continue to play the game. The catch is that you need to wait for a match to end to collect your experience (and a fat bonus for sticking it out), which can take upwards of 15 minutes if you're caught by Jason early on. To be fair, there is a small chance that you will be resurrected as a special character armed with a shotgun and high stats, but waiting for minutes on end while you jump from one player's camera to the next to pass the time all but saps your interest in this rare event and the match at large.
We will unfortunately have to put up with this as we continue to test Friday the 13th's servers, but the hope is that the more we play, the better survivors we become, and the less downtime we'll have to endure. While it's fair to say that the game currently bears a number of issues, it's still a very tense experience that captures the fear that made the movies genre classics. It would be a stretch to call Friday the 13th: The Game a classic in the making, but it definitely has something going for it beyond its hockey-mask wearing murder man. How that fits into the overall picture remains to be seen, so check back in the coming days for our full review.