Monster Mania: The Many Lives of Jason Voorhees

Monster Mania is a weekly column celebrating the unique and varied monster designs in horror gaming.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, Jason Voorhees has lived many bloody lives. From his potato sack days to donning his iconic hockey mask, Jason has always worn his history on his sleeve. Unlike other slasher icons, Jason’s costumes have always reflected the punishment he has received over the decades of his seemingly never-ending streak of murder and mayhem. And rather than simply include Jason’s various fits from the films as a cosmetic inclusion, publisher Gun Media and Developer Illfonic would make these fits an integral part of the Friday the 13th: The Game experience.

It has to be said that Friday the 13th: The Game got a raw deal.  

Undertaking the monumental task of faithfully adapting one of the most iconic horror film franchises ever is no easy feat. And to adapt it as faithfully as Gun Media did, along with direct involvement from those involved with the films, was an incomparable success story in games at the time. Unfortunately, these successes would be short-lived due to the licensing issues in the franchise’s legal battle with co-creator Victor Miller. This ensured that no new content could be developed for the game, leading to the servers being shuttered and plans to delist the game from store pages at the end of this year. 

I preface with this brief history lesson, as much of the vitriol spewed at Friday the 13th: The Game tends to generalize it as a “failure” or “cash-in.” In reality, the game is one of the most faithful handlings of a horror film IP in gaming. 

Back to those deliciously deranged costumes. Friday the 13th: The Game features the various outfits that Jason has worn throughout his tenure of terror. From Friday the 13th, Part II, III, VI-IX, a neon retro 80s-inspired outfit and a newly designed Jason by gore grandmaster Tom Savini. If each of these outfits were simply cosmetic, there would undoubtedly be a novelty to dressing up in one’s personal favorite. Me personally? I’m a baghead Jason stan until the casket drops. What makes the inclusion of these costumes pivotal to the multidimensional dynamics of Friday the 13th: The Game are costumes blending novelty with strategy.

Each of Jason’s fits is a unique class featuring a specialized weapon and abilities. For example, in Part II’s Baghead, Jason’s starting weapon is his iconic pick axe, which he can swing with devastating brutality. Meanwhile, on the attributes side of things, baghead can run (as opposed to fast walking) while also having an increased sense and morphing ability. As with most well-balanced multiplayer games, each Jason has a weakness to counterbalance their devastating strengths. While Baghead can run on land, he moves at a snail’s pace through water and is more susceptible to being stunned by survivors.

By giving the iconic sledgehammer entity that is Jason, more strategic layers ultimately stop him from simply playing as a simple brawler character. And more importantly, these costumes and their play styles have a basis in how their film counterparts were utilized. For instance, in Part VI, Jason begins matches with the same throwing knives he uses in the film. Part VII Jason moves faster in water, given his connection with a watery grave. And in Part IX, Jason is more susceptible to having his mask knocked off due to his necrotic state. 

While the functionality of these different classes gives players several options for picking off campers one by one, I have to praise the game for just how pristinely recreated these Jason models are. Each model is like Jason stepping off the silver screen and into the game world. From Baghead’s solo eye hole to Part VII’s exposed spinal cord to Part IX’s necrotic majesty, Illfonic’s dedication to honoring Jason’s history is apparent. Seeing Part IX Jason, with his bloated, waterlogged corpse and mask melted to his face stepping from the shadows is as pants shitting in the game as it was in the film thanks to these subtle, and not so subtle, details.

While negativity is nothing new within the discourse of games and media, the hate that Friday the 13th: The Game has received has always bugged me. Janky upon release? Absolutely, but what live service game isn’t? It improved. There is also a portion of the fanbase who simply cannot move past the unfortunate reality of the game’s untimely death. You know, something entirely out of the developer’s control. But when you look at the foundation of Friday the 13th: The Game and how faithfully the IP is utilized, the last thing you could ever successfully accuse the developers of is “cashing in.” 

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