Admittedly, despite my love of the slasher flick, I missed the boat on the Friday the 13th game. Now, in a rare opportunity to re-introduce the title to a fresh audience on the Switch, as well as gathering up all of the available DLC into a physical release, I’ve gotten my hands on Friday the 13th: Ultimate Slasher Edition. It’s time to don the iconic hockey mask and pop the heads off some teenagers!
At its core, Friday the 13th is an asymmetric 1v7 multiplayer game. One person plays as Jason Voorhees, and the other seven players get to play his eager victims. Naturally they don’t want to be victims, so it’s all about evasion, traps, and escape. But the world’s most enduring and unkillable murder machine has more than enough tricks up his rotting sleeves. It’s cat and mouse with carnage and a bucket of blood.
As has been the case in most of the Friday the 13th movies, the camp counselors are often nitwit teenagers with the character depth of a teaspoon. That’s still the case here, but with you the player at the helm, they have a much better chance of survival. While they start the game unarmed, exploration of the environment reveals various tools that can serve as impromptu traps or weapons, and even the occasional firearm. Ducking underneath a bed won’t be enough to save you, however, so you’ll have to get creative to keep Mr. Voorhees at bay. In fact, literally nothing will stop him, but that doesn’t mean you are helpless. Baseball bats can brush him back, a bear trap snapped around his foot will lock him in place for a short while, and a knife to the neck will stop him from strangling you to death. Bullets tend to piss him off, but can slow him down, and even kill him, but after eleven movies, you know that ugly son of a bitch is going to get right back up. That said, it is possible to slay the masked one, and being a fan of the movie series will guide you to precisely how that can happen.
If it’s been a minute since you saw the original Friday the 13th movie, you might have forgotten that Jason Voorhees was, in fact, not the killer. His mother, Pamela Voorhees was going around the camp murdering the counselors who allowed her baby boy Jason to drown in the nearby lake because they were busy getting it on. As the movies go on, we see Jason’s connection to his loopy mom and Tommy Jarvis (as portrayed by Corey Feldman) — the two people in his life that can stop him semi-permanently. I don’t want to ruin it because that’s part of the fun, but stopping Jason involves finding Pamela’s nasty sweater and wearing it, as well as calling Tommy Jarvis and having him confront Jason with a mask and machete in hand.
It’d be a boring game if all you could do is hold off an unstoppable killer until you eventually fail. Thankfully, the counselors have far more to do than die in fun and interesting ways. Naturally, their plan is to get the hell out of Dodge, and that usually means having to find a number of objects in the environment. Escaping in a car or boat means finding a battery to get it started, finding fuel to gas it up, finding the keys to the car or the propeller for the boat, and then successfully escaping the map. Calling the police can also get you armed reinforcements to take out Jason, but that means finding the phone box fuse, repairing the phone box itself, locating the phone and bringing it back to the box, calling the police, and then evading him until the police arrives. You can kill Jason in the methods I hinted at above, but you can also simply run the clock out by staying hidden. Thankfully, not all of the counselors are the same, so picking the right person for the job can be just as important as picking the right path to victory.
There are a total of ten counselors to choose from, and each of them have a raft of stats that can help them survive. Composure reduces the amount of fear the counselor gives off as Jason is able to sense fear from across the map. Intelligence helps the counselors repair things, though I never felt like this stat mattered as the repair minigame isn’t overly difficult to begin with. Luck provides a bonus to weapon durability, which can be the difference between stunning Jason or your weapon ending up snapped in half. Speed and Stamina are inexorably linked and fairly self-explanatory. Strength gives a bump to attack damage and reduces the aforementioned stamina required to, as an example, swing a bat. Stealth, in a game literally built around not being killed via hiding, is probably the most important stat in the game as it reduces the amount of racket you make as you scurry about. With the stats understood, let’s talk about how Jason can rip the limbs off of the people carrying those stats.
Just like playing as the monster in asymmetric games like Evolve, playing as an unstoppable killing machine is the biggest lure. Jason has evolved over the course of the movie series, and as a result, every “version” of Jason has their own advantages and disadvantages. As such, there are versions of Jason from part 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9 that you can unlock over time. Each version has their own signature weapons like axes, machetes, pick axes, and spears. They can also have faster running speeds, regeneration, stronger choking grip, longer Sense skill range, and more. These advantages come with their movie-inspired disadvantages which are usually just the inverse of the advantages you’ll find on another Jason variant.
Beyond the stats, advantages, and disadvantages, Jason also has five skills he can unleash on the meat-popsicles scurrying around the camp. Jason tends to be at the right place at the right time in the movies, and that is translated as the Morph ability which lets Jason travel extremely quickly across the play space. Similarly, the Shift skill lets Jason disappear and move short distances to pop up where he is least expected, but with more granular control than Morph. In the movies, Jason is able to blast through walls and doors like a deranged Kool-Aid man, and that is powered by the in-game Rage skill (though this power kicks in permanently when the clock runs down halfway). The last two skills, Sense and Stalk, are a working pair. Sense lets Jason sense his potential victims fear, giving off a visual red ping to help him hone in on them. Similarly, Stalk lets him use his sense of hearing to find his noisy victims, but also temporarily mutes the “Ki ki ki…ma ma ma” (it’s short for “Kill him mommy” — the voices that hallucinating Pamela heard in the first movie) that those counselors hear when he is nearby. All of these powers have a cooldown so it keeps things somewhat balanced.
Progression in Friday the 13th is accomplished by earning CP. CP, or “customization points” is the in-game currency that lets you unlock perks for your counselors (those do not carry over between counselors, so be mindful of this), as well as new executions for Jason. Similarly, unlocking characters including the other versions of Jason. Both are accomplished by just accomplishing the myriad objectives of the game, with just completing the match (instead of bailing out the second you die) giving you one of the largest bonuses. Better still, when you do complete a match, you’ll be graded on how you did. Locking doors, placing traps, and exploration can earn you XP, so getting this rundown will help on your next outing.
Beyond all of the murder there is one last basion of fun, and in the place you might expect it least — a virtual cabin. Looking around the cabin you are treated to an absolute deluge of awesome trivia about the series, props, production, music (Harry Manfredini returns to score the game). Interacting with these goodies will eventually start to reveal that there is a huge puzzle hidden underneath. Missing masks from the various sequels sends you on a search around the house, mysterious DOS-like interactions with the PC reveals opportunities to put in passwords for more clues. I won’t ruin it for you, but when you need a break from the multiplayer, you’ll want to spend it in here.
As this is the Ultimate Slasher Edition of the game, all seven of the maps that have been released since 2017 are included in this version of the game. Each of these maps are inspired directly from the various locales in the series, but randomization within the map means you never really know where the useful items might be hidden. It’s nice to get all of the developer’s work in one package.
Now…all of this incredibly positive narrative out of the way, we need to talk about some of the things that will slow this version down like a harpoon gun spear to the leg. The Nintendo Switch’s ability to render a game with as much detail as the PC version had is a very tall order. As a result, the characters look incredibly waxy and very low-polygon. Environments are muddy and occasionally pop in, making this, by far, the ugliest version of the game to date. The framerate is mostly stable, especially in handheld mode, but when you get a bunch of counselors scrambling around inside of a space it can push the Switch into the 20 fps range. You buy this version because you want to take it on the go, not because you think it’s going to knock your socks off visually.
There is an offline bot-driven mode to play, but I simply cannot recommend it. Jason’s AI is incredibly easy to evade, and the counselors are just completely stupid. More than once I watched an AI-powered counselor do their best Mo Howard from the Three Stooges impression, running in a circle as they couldn’t find a path out of an enclosed space. I also had an offline match where two of the counselors disappeared, leaving me wandering and using all of my senses for over 15 very boring minutes until I timed out and lost. Jason’s Morph ability also tends to get stuck on the environment, negating its usefulness with a long cooldown. There are other examples, but they all tend to fall into the “this just needs a few patches” level of quality.
The biggest pain point with Friday the 13th is just the lack of a community on the platform. Matchmaking had me linked up with many of the same folks repeatedly, suggesting either a small player base or an incredibly solid algorithm that matches me with similarly (un)skilled players. Given the state of the AI, I’m leaning more towards the former than the latter.