We’re not going to see another new Friday the 13thmovie for a long time. Unfortunately, the lawsuit that’s held up the series for the past few years has affected things beyond the films as well. Friday the 13th: The Game, a stunning if glitchy love-letter to the franchise and its fans, had a lot more content left to go before the lawsuit stopped them from being able to release any new content. A Jason X map, UberJason and a pajama party clothing pack were all left nearly finished an unable to see release. But that doesn’t take away from some of the great content that had been added while they still had the opportunity to do so, and I can’t help but think what a bigger bummer it would have been if the lawsuit had halted things when all we had were those first default maps and characters, before any of those other great things had been added.
There’s one aspect of the game that I really want to talk about, though, because I think it showcases how great that game is when it’s firing on all cylinders. As a love letter to the series and a general creative enterprise, this is the thing that holds up best and it’s yet another thing that was a late addition to the game. I’m talking about the Single Player Challenges.
These were promised very early on and were naturally enticing for people like me who had never touched an online game in their lives. I had no idea what to expect, but I was a massive Friday the 13thfan and knew there was absolutely no way that I was not going to play this game.
By the time the single player challenges actually came out, over a year after the game’s release, I almost felt like I didn’t need them. That sounds ridiculous even to me, considering I’d waited so long, but I had developed a great group of people to regularly play the game with. But I’m so glad we got them, because the single player challenges blew me away from the moment I saw the first few minutes of gameplay.
The first day the game launched, I remember being blown away by the recreations of major movie locations like Higgins Haven and the Packanack Lodge, not to mention stunningly recreated versions of Jason and other characters from the movies. Seeing the inside of Jason’s shack, the fact that you could put on Pamela’s sweater to momentarily stun him, the inclusion of Tommy Jarvis as a playable character, as a fan of the series I felt absolutely spoiled. I didn’t think any bigger love letter to the series was possible. But the Single Player Challenges took everything that had been established and blew it all out of the water.
The things I love most about the Challenges are actually very specific, but I think an overview of why they work so well in general is important to provide context. Each of these challenges is a kind of vignette, much more cinematic than the main online gameplay, providing both new scenarios as well as homages to specific events and classic scenes in the films. They’re a perfect mix of old and new and they’re also chock full of movie-worthy kills. Some of the new kills are original, while others are a perfect remix of iconic kills that fans remember from the movies.
The challenges allow players to play through scenes that heavily homage Part 2, 3, 4 and 5. Some of these scenes are more direct than others, to be sure. The first challenge sees players take Jason on a stroll to pick off two people by a broken down car. This scenario is a callback to A New Beginning, but none of the deaths in the scene are particularly lifted from that film, necessarily. Other challenges lift major kills (and in the case of Shelly, characters) from their respective movies in much more overt ways. These challenges are hard, but they are also so exciting and rewarding because they legitimately feel like you’re playing your way through a Friday the 13thmovie.
They also provide a lot of insight into how much work Jason puts into these things and how much of it comes down to timing. Just as it must be in the movies, the challenges are mostly a waiting game. There’s so much more planning involved that you don’t think about until you’re right there. Because if you pick this person off without getting this other person first, then you might risk everyone seeing you, and those are always things that you have to take into account. People like to call Jason stupid, but having stood in his place in these challenges, he’d actually have to be a tactical genius to pull off even the most basic of the Friday the 13thmovies.
Really, though, the gameplay is just an excuse to get from one death to the next, because the game looks great and that goes double for the cinematic sequences. We complain a lot about that next Friday the 13thmovie we’re not going to see for years, but I’ve said it before: the Single Player Challenges are it. They don’t just look great, they look and sound like a movie. They’re an anthology of greatest hits and a celebration of franchise history while also providing a lot of new kills that are—in some cases—more gruesome than anything attempted in the movies.
We’ve got people being shoved into wood chippers, people having their faces ground off by boat propellers, people being doused in gasoline and burned alive as a lit flare gets shoved down their throat—it’s imaginative stuff. But it’s an interactive movie in a lot of different ways, and that’s ultimately my favorite thing about it: the variation. You can play the challenges a little differently each time, and you’ll always pick up on things you missed, because the characters are always talking even when you’re not around.
Because of the game’s limited cast, it also feels like the Traveling Crystal Lake Theatre Company, as you’re killing the same basic batch of counselors each time. And they’re a little different in each of the challenges, usually to better reflect the relationships of certain movies. In one challenge, A.J. might be dating Mitch, but she’ll be dating Adam in another. Tiffany might shoot Shelly down in one challenge, but by the last one she’s hooking up with Lachappa. Each of these relationships, in each round, are explored in different ways.
When you’re stalking a character in a particular challenge, there might be a group on the other end of the house talking about how much they hate whoever just left the room. Just the simple eavesdropping of it is a lot of fun.
The variation that, for me, is the selling point has everything to do with the Jason you pick. That’s why I wanted to talk about the challenges, because even after this long, I think it’s ridiculously cool. This is what truly turns it from just a Friday the 13thgame rehashing classic moments into what truly feels like an interactive anthology film.
If you want to recreate the major moments from The Final Chapter with the Jason from Jason Goes to Hell, you can do that. Would you like to see the biggest kills from Part 2 executed by the Jason from Jason Takes Manhattan? You can do that too. Or how about letting Roy recreate some of the main moments from Part 3? That’s always an option as well. That might not excite everyone, but it excites me a hell of a lot. And it’s a huge part of why I still feel the Single Player Challenges are this game’s best kept secret.
When you put them all together, these challenges—hard as they can be—make up a Friday the 13thanthology that can retell some of the best events from the franchise’s history, but in a fresh and remixed way. It’s something that, like the movies, you can re-watch endlessly but unlike the movies can be a different thing every time you do it. Any Jason from any movie can be injected into any classic Friday the 13thsituation. Never mind everything else that you get, the challenges alone make the game worth the price. Even if the online servers disappeared tomorrow, there’s a hell of a good game to be found in the challenges, one that serves as the ultimate love letter to the franchise, the fans and most of all to the masked murderer who has to spend a lot of time hiding in the bushes and waiting for people to get in position before he really gets to do a goddamn thing.