I recently sat down with the team of the upcoming Friday the 13th video game and got to see some of the gameplay in person. I sat with Wes Keltner, Ronnie Hobbs, and Randy Greenback to see what the 12,000+ Kickstarter backers were getting for their $823,704. For those of you unfamiliar with the game: This is an asymmetrical versus game that pits one player (Jason) against 2-7 players (camp counselors).
I'll be honest, I was skeptical going into the demo. Jason isn't just the figurehead of Friday the 13th, but is a sort of twisted ambassador of horror genre. Everyone knows who Jason is; he's one of the most iconic villains of all time. It's important get him just right.
After seeing the demo? I'm very happy with the direction his gameplay. The final release is too far away to really know how the game will pan out as a package, but this ended up being one of my favorite titles from E3. Why? The developers are putting time into answering a big gameplay question.
"What's the game mechanic equivalent of a jump scare?"
In slasher flicks, you've often got a classic, iconic jump-scare scene. You know it well, even if horror isn't your thing: a character is going about their business, thinking they're far away from the slasher and then BAM! Out of nowhere, there's a guy with a machete, and the cheerleader loses her head.
The Friday the 13th game tackles this in two ways:
1. Jason can actually fast-travel around the map with the ability 'Morph'.
The ability is on a cooldown, so it's not something he can always do, but if you hear or sense (more on that in a sec) a victim, you can open your mini-map and teleport.
This effectively allows the player controlling Jason to get the drop on an unsuspecting victim without being heard or telegraphed. This let's a clever Jason initiate a jump scare with good positioning.
2. Jason also has a short-range teleport to reposition.
See, Jason, like most slasher villains, struggles to walk faster than a slow, terrifyingly relentless lumber. The slow walk-speed creates fantastic atmosphere and creep-factor, but Jason needs to be able to get the drop on people and suddenly appear in just the right spot when he needs to.
The solution is the short-range teleport ability 'Shift', which is on a cooldown timer so it can't be abused, and either scare or execute a counselor.
You get a perk for freaking people out instead of just hacking and slashing.
Jason has the ability to 'Sense' fear in the camp counselors. If they see a body, encounter Jason, run through the woods, or anything similar, their fear level rises. Not only will the counselor will start to physically tense up, start looking over their shoulders, and let out involuntary voice trembles - they'll also be easier for Jason to track.
When Jason activates his Sense ability, he'll see any frightened counselor in a certain radius for a short time, regardless of line of sight. In the early-stage demo I saw, this meant the victims were indicated in red.
You could just hack and slash your way through some counselors, but you'd be giving up your ability to track them.
One of the coolest parts of the demo was when Jason heard two counselors making noise in a house and slowly walked up to the porch, and then just STOOD there in their view.
This alone, mechanically, is enough to jack up the fear level in the counselors. Meaning: as they fled the house, Jason could use his Sense cooldown ability to figure out what direction they were heading in. Armed with this knowledge, Jason quickly teleported ahead and ambushed on them with a gruesome-as-hell death.
I'll admit this is when I leaned forward in my seat. This game actually incentivizes you to mess with your friends.
But my favorite part is the head swivel.
At one point in the gameplay demo, we see Jason walking up to a house, standing still, and head-snap swiveling his head towards a counselor. Wes said:
“This was just something I really wanted so bad, just for me! You can actually swivel Jason’s head separate from his body, so you can get those moments of just snap-turning your neck to stare at a counselor and freak them out."
Over the past two days, I have found it hard not to tell everyone about this feature when I talk about this game. Not only does the head-swivel look badass, but it also can mechanically raise the fear meter of a counselor who sees this happen. Yep, you can actually just look at someone menacingly and strike fear into their hearts.
Stick around - next, we'll dive into what it's like to be one of those camp counselors!