Much like the film franchise from which he arose, Jason Voorhees has had a very inconsistent run of quality in video games over the years. He had some okay-ish outings on the NES and the Commodore 64, but he’s mostly been resigned to the odd cameo here and there (including a stint in Mortal Kombat X, of all things). But, two years ago, the hockey masked horror finally got his due with Friday the 13th: The Game. The asymmetrical multiplayer concept might have failed the likes of Evolve, but on paper it suits the simple hunt and evade tactics of a slasher film to a tee. As a counsellor at Crystal Lake, you need to keep yourself from succumbing to fear and escape the clutches of Mr Voorhees. As Jason himself, you need to satisfy your mother’s internal ranting by murdering everything that breathes across each semi-open-world map.
As you might expect, playing as Jason in the Switch-optimised Friday the 13th: The Game - Ultimate Slasher Edition is the best way to experience this murder simulator. The nigh on invincible force of evil can be a little slow to move, but over time you’ll gradually unlock new abilities that empower him. For instance, you can Morph across the map, enabling you to cross huge distances in no time at all, or Sense the sounds and overall fear of the survivors left on the map. You’ll start off with an axe, but eventually you’ll unlock more implements of death, as well as special signature kills and all manner of grisly environmental murders. Players controlling counsellors can even fight back, but you’ll always rise again. When controlling a counsellor, you can attempt to sneak around Jason, set traps to slow him down or simply run around screaming until he grabs you and throws your head in a campfire.
If you’re playing Friday the 13th for the first time you might not realise just how far the game has come since its rocky 2017 launch. Two years on, developer Illfonic has tried hard to iron out some of the kinks that weren’t as endearing to fans as the infamous ‘Chad Face’, while introducing new elements that were sorely missing at launch. The introduction of an offline mode, complete with AI bots, serves as a brilliant way to get your head around how the game’s multitude of elements work (such as working out how best to start a car, setting traps and disorientating Jason with firecrackers). Sadly, the AI is utterly thick and you lose the hilarious teamwork (or lack thereof) when Mr Voorhees suddenly appears. It is, however, a great way to really understand how best to maximise Jason’s deadliness.
Where Friday the 13th really shines is in its online multiplayer. Because, let’s be honest, nothing is going to be as fun as playing as a lumbering killing machine that can warp across the map and appear from nowhere to bury an axe in your head. But playing with your friends, attempting to find a car battery while that ominous music herald’s Jason’s imminent arrival as everything goes to pot is so much fun. You can see why it’s proved such a hit on streaming services, and with multiple layouts of each map you’re always scrabbling as things inevitably descend into bloody chaos.
Why it’s taken so long for someone to take the brutal stalking of a slasher and combine it with an asymmetrical multiplayer game is anyone’s guess, but here are in 2019 with not one, but two such games dragging immortal bloodlust onto Nintendo Switch. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if you often confused Friday the 13th for its very similar looking (and similarly playing) cousin, Dead by Daylight. Both games involve in a one-versus-all setup, with ‘survivors’ tasked with attempting to escape an area before one player eviscerates them. However, while screenshots might suggest they’re largely the same game, Friday the 13th has some murderous ideas up its gore-soaked sleeves.
Unlike Dead by Daylight, Friday the 13th supports more players in a game at one time - almost twice as many in fact, with up to eight players (1v7) per session as opposed to the five (1v4) for its competitor. Dead by Daylight has a greater number of killers (a total of 16, including plenty of famous horror faces including Ghost Face, Michael Myers and Leatherface), and a larger number of maps (27 across 12 realms) - however, all of the seven maps in Friday the 13th are based on locations from the franchise, and each one has multiple layouts thanks to the randomisation of the map designs.There’s also a lot more variety in the moment-to-moment gameplay of Friday the 13th, with multiple means of escaping Jason (Dead by Daylight only as one way to gain freedom) so matches are often a lot more fun as you find new ways to elude your hunter or dispatch your prey.
Illfonic has also done a decent job of bringing its incredibly popular asymmetrical multiplayer affair to Nintendo Switch. Many of its mechanical quirks are still there - such as clunky controls and often completely unpredictable physics - and it still takes far too long to actually get a turn at playing as Jason considering matches can last up to 20 minutes or more. The frame rate mostly holds true, although it can get a little giddy when there are a lot of counsellors on-screen at once. However, there’s very little texture pop-in and or any of the other presentation issues that dogged the game at launch two years ago. The online sessions we played during our review all ran without a hitch, which is a good sign for a game that’s already had its fair share of server woes.
Friday the 13th: The Game - Ultimate Slasher Edition serves up a bloody feast that’s a treat for schlock horror fans who want an authentic Jason experience while taking that tricky asymmetrical multiplayer template and making it truly enjoyable. With a ton of extra skins, weapons, signature kills and more this complete edition couldn’t be any more stacked with DLC. Sure, it’s still a little janky, but with servers that are seemingly holding and two years of refinements straight out of the box, this multiplayer gem still knows how to make an entrance on Switch. Mrs Voorhees will be pleased.