Fond Memories of Friday the 13th: The Game

It’s a dark, moonlit night at Camp Crystal Lake in the mid-1980s. You and your fellow counselors stumble upon a dead body in one of the cabins, hacked to bits by a bladed weapon. “Jason Voorhees, the Crystal Lake killer, is back,” you think to yourself grimly as you run to the phone to call the police, but the power is out. You quickly bolt to the supply room and grab a flare gun and whatever else might help you escape.

As you struggle to formulate a plan, you hear the sound of shattering glass followed by a high-pitched shriek coming from the room your friend Deborah was in. You run to check on her, but all you find are shards of jagged glass on the floor, reflecting the dancing flames of the nearby fireplace. You notice that the car keys that were on the table are missing, and it’s clear that Deborah made a desperate attempt for the car, hoping to save herself.

A standard Jason kill

Like a Scene From a Movie

Well aware of the futility of Deborah’s plan, you dash outside hoping to catch her before she gets to the car, but the painful snap of steel interrupts you mid-stride. Jason had placed a bear trap next to the driver’s seat door, and Deborah, who was in too much of a panic to pay attention to her surroundings, stepped right in it. The hulking killer appears behind her in the blink of an eye, lifts her up above his head, and breaks her spine on his knee. 

Jason flings aside Deborah’s body as if it were a doll, and the single-minded juggernaut slowly turns toward you. The moment he takes a step in your direction, you raise the bright orange gun and fire a flare directly into the eyehole of his hockey mask. He falls backward, body stiff as a board, and collapses into the dirt. You take the opportunity to grab the car keys that had fallen by Deborah’s body, but look up to see Jason standing above you as if nothing had happened. He raises a bloody machete to the sky, and…

The ’80s fashion is often more horrifying than the violence

Friday the 13th (Online, But Still Scary)

The scene I describe wouldn’t be out of place in one of the official Friday the 13th movies, but also accurately describes the majority of my online matches in Friday the 13th: The Game. The influential asymmetric multiplayer game sadly received its final patch on November 10th, which takes away the dedicated servers that were added in 2018. The game will still be playable via peer-to-peer matchmaking and private lobbies, but for diehard fans like myself, this is the end of an era.

For those unfamiliar, the game puts players in the shoes of a Camp Crystal Lake counselor, where they must evade another player who controls the series’ iconic antagonist, Jason Voorhees. As the match progresses, Jason grows stronger and gains the ability to “phase” across the map at a rapid speed or sense which cabin a counselor is in. Counselors either try to survive 20 minutes or escape the camp using a vehicle or police assistance.

Meet Chad. Also, the textures often take a while to load.

Asymmetric Horror

The more you play, the more counselors and Jason “skins” you unlock, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I personally prefer playing more of a support role as counselor, focusing on repairing equipment and installing parts in vehicles while my stronger and faster teammates distract Jason. A perk system allows you to randomly unlock or upgrade perks that improve your stats or let you begin each match with a helpful item. Jason unlocks different kill animations as perks, but would anyone really prefer anything else?

This sort of “asymmetric” gameplay, in which two groups of players play the same game together, but in a very different manner, is not particularly unique these days. Friday the 13th sets itself apart from the pack, however, in its uncanny ability to make players feel as if they’re in one of the movies that inspired the game. Well, until a glitch causes your character to drop through the floor, that is.

This Jason “skin” pays homage to the NES Friday the 13th game

Forever A Work In Progress

Saying that the game had a rocky start is putting things mildly. Between myriad technical and balance issues and having the ability to kill your teammates with melee attacks, the game turned off many potential players in its early months. The combination of diligent developers and a devoted player base helped give the game a second wind, however, and the game proved to be popular on console, where it was released for PS4, Xbox One, and even the Switch eventually. 

A single-player mode was introduced nearly two years after the game’s launch, allowing you to play as Jason in a series of challenge scenarios – some of which are taken straight from the movies. This mode feels more inspired by Hitman than the main game due to an emphasis on stealth and memorizing the movement patterns of your would-be victims. It’s a fun way to familiarize yourself with Jason’s mechanics, but not worth a purchase by itself. The multiplayer mode is far and away the draw here.

Playing with a group of friends in a private match is absolutely the best way to experience the game, but the, um… “enthusiastic” player base makes random matches occasionally hilarious. For one thing, there is a surprisingly large number of children who play regularly, and they are vocal, to say the least. While I normally roll my eyes upon hearing the sound of loud children through my headset, there’s something charming about hearing a child comment about a decades-old series that he or she has zero familiarity with.

Slain players have a chance to come back as series protagonist, Tommy Jarvis.

Memories of Murder

I’m saddened that the game will receive no more updates and limited support from here on out, but I will still hop on from time to time to see what the player base is like. There’s still nothing quite like the experience provided by Friday the 13th: The Game, and many of my fondest gaming-related memories from the most recent generation of gaming are derived from it.

Some of my favorite memories:

  • Watching a teammate setting down a bear trap while being stalked by Jason, being chased in a circle, stepping into his own trap, and dying.
  • Only being able to use the “dance” emote to signal to teammates that I needed something when my mic wasn’t working
  • Discovering that Jason can swim like Michael Phelps and doesn’t take kindly to people escaping by boat
  • Watching a friend dive out a window to escape from Jason… and plummeting to their death because they were on the second floor of the house
  • As Jason, phasing behind a counselor as they run into a house and close and lock the door, only I had already phased into the house.
  • Accidentally running over approximately 78 unfortunate counselors with a car (hit detection can be a little clunky).
It’s easy to forget that Jason didn’t always don his iconic hockey mask

There are too many other memorable moments to list, but needless to say, I had a great time playing this game over the last three years. It’s a perfect homage to one of my favorite movie series, and no two matches are exactly alike. The updates and support may be gone, but as long as passionate fans such as myself exist, Friday the 13th: The Game will prove as difficult to kill as Jason himself.

Steve Wittkamp

Steve Wittkamp

I like bad movies, good video games (Dragon Quest, Castlevania, etc.), and all manner of trivia. ...OK, I like some really bad video games too. AKA Falion.

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