Nearly 30 years after the release of the first Friday the 13th video game spinoff for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Friday the 13th: The Game has officially been announced — and it's unlike any slasher game you've even seen,
Rather than taking the single-player route, Friday the 13th is actually an online asymmetric multiplayer title: One player takes on the role of iconic slasher Jason Voorhees, while the rest do their best to take him down (they're camp counselors, of course).
The game was announced under the working title of Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp, but it's debuting Tuesday as the official companion game to the storied Friday the 13th film franchise. Maxim sat down with Friday the 13th: The Game creators Wes Keltner and Ronnie Hobbs and creative director Kedhrin Gonzalez to see what's in store for players.
The "final girl" trope — that there's always one woman left alive to confront a killer — is always present within horror/slasher flicks. Does the Friday the 13th game depend on this?
Wes Keltner : In the Friday the 13th films, the majority of them, save the ones with Tommy Jarvis, the female lead is the one that stops Jason. I say stop and not kill, because, well, you can’t really kill Jason...
Ronnie Hobbs: Oh yeah. Chris Higgins, Sally Hardesty, Ellen Ripley, and even Ginny Field — everyone loves the Final Girl! Since Wes mentioned Tommy Jarvis, it’s important to point out Tommy was a child when he first defeated Jason Voorhees, and he truly never recovered. The mental toll this took on Tommy over the years is really interesting when looked at from the Final Girl perspective. Had Tommy not earned Jason’s sympathy as a child, would he have been able to defeat Jason in the later films as an adult? I’m really not sure.
Additionally, this trope is something that has been studied by scholars for years, and there have been many great books and articles written on the subject. Personally, I find the Hero, or Final Girl, fascinating, so I’m really excited to replicate this trope within our game. The exact advantages that she will have over other characters is still being determined, but rest assured the Final Girl will be playable in Friday the 13th: The Game!
With sex as a given theme in most slasher flicks, did you find it important to include more sexual moments in-game?
Keltner: Sex is a common staple in slasher films, but we didn’t feel like we were required to include it. We want to include some risqué scenes and nudity, but we also have to stay cognizant of the ESRB [Editor's note: the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assigns age and content ratings for video games]. We don’t want to spend a lot of money animating two teens, going at it, only to have it cut later. But we have a few ideas.
Kedhrin Gonzalez: Shoving a spear through a counselor while he’s on the toilet dropping a deuce would be epic! But, one of the discussions we had early on was if there were ways to put the counselors in situations like this during actual gameplay, possibly as a way to get extra points or something. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t make sense in our multiplayer experience. In the movies, the counselors don’t know about Jason at the start. Once they do though, all the fooling around ends. Our experience is built around the latter. Trying to force players to work with each other to mimic these moments can really take away from the horror experience.
What will set the game's planned multiplayer features apart from more pedestrian shooters like Halo or Call of Duty?
Keltner: For starters, we aren’t shooters. In fact, there’s little to no gun-play in this title. Also, those types of games are competitive in nature. Friday the 13th: The Game is not a competition. Who can compete with Jason? He’s an unstoppable killing force.
Hobbs: What sets us apart is definitely the Killer vs Victims dynamic. This concept just hasn't existed in video games to this extent. It has dominated films for decades, but for whatever reason, the slasher genre has yet to fully invade the video game industry. We are hoping to change that, and asymmetrical multiplayer is going to help us realize this effort. With humans controlling both Jason and the camp counselors, we will be able to pull people into the experience like never before.
Gonzalez: Yeah, I think the biggest difference is the fact that you are helpless. You should feel helpless. If you went into a more known survival horror game, say Silent Hill, and walked up to pyramid head and expected to whoop his butt – it would just completely take away from that feeling you have when you see him. When you see pyramid head, you run like hell. You should get that feeling when you see Jason. I’m not saying you don’t have any chance of standing up to Jason, but just like in the movies, some try to be brave and step up — and we know what happens to them.
How do you want to attempt to appeal to "mainstream" gamers who may not be as well-versed in the horror scene as others?
Hobbs: Much like the films, you don’t have to be an expert on horror to enjoy our game. Because it’s all user driven, I think everyone can see the fun in trying to survive a night at Camp Crystal Lake, or fully controlling Jason Voorhees for the first time ever. There’s definitely something comical in a sense about watching your friends abandon you when Jason shows up, or helping you find a set of keys but then stealing the vehicle to save their own skin. It’s those types of user generated stories that set our game apart. We think that’s enough to transcend genres.
Gonzalez: Playing this feels like playing hide and seek as a kid, except the kid who is ‘it’ will kill you if he finds you. It’s a relaxing experience that almost everyone can easily pick up and jump into. If you didn’t know you were into horror, you’ll quickly discover you are. The fun factor is built within the horror. You might be scared, but you’re having a blast while being scared. You’re not worried about being in first place or looking at a scoreboard. This ease of access will make it so anyone can jump in and have fun.
What kind of pressure comes with being responsible for making game based on a popular franchise like this?
Hobbs: The pressure to get it right is tremendous, but I’m lucky to even feel that pressure to be honest. I’ve been thinking about a Friday the 13th video game since I was a kid - It's always been in the back of my mind, I was just never in the position to act on it until now. When I joined the video game industry my ‘bucket list’ of projects I wanted to work on contained two properties - Final Fantasy and Friday the 13th, and that’s not an exaggeration. Everyday I try to remind myself of this, and I know the rest of the team feels the same way. This franchise has a fanbase that’s unmatched, so the biggest personal fear I have is messing it up. I definitely don’t want to be that guy.
Keltner: It’s a huge responsibility to take this project on. Some days it feels so surreal to be working alongside horror icons, on the largest horror franchise on earth. Other days, I feel the weight of that, and it’s immense. I love this franchise, dearly. It would probably be easier if I didn’t. Then I wouldn’t care about the tiniest of details. I wouldn’t study the films frame-by-frame. Ronnie and I wouldn’t stare at each Jason mask, discussing the space between the holes, the amount of dirt and scratches, nor the gash from the axe wound. I personally feel the pressure, but it’s a good thing. It pushes me to give everything I have, to do this right.
Gonzalez: I like feeling challenged and this is certainly a big challenge and honor to work on this. I’ve always wanted my career to start diving more into horror and this is definitely one of those titles that really allows exploring new territories.
Fans of the Friday the 13th license will want the authenticity but also want some fresh new ideas too. I think we have that on lock down, between us all focusing on those details it’s going to be knocked out of the park. The part I’m anxious about is the multiplayer survival horror aspect. It’s a new area in games and a lot of good designers are starting to play with ideas in this field.
Merging these two concepts together makes me want to put on a head band and do a montage.
What was it like working alongside horror legends like Kane Hodder and Tom Savini?
Ronnie Hobbs: A dream come true. These are the guys we always looked up to as kids or teenagers. Typically the best you could hope for was the chance to get an autograph at a horror convention, but we are lucky enough to work and hang out with them. The excitement is nearly impossible to explain for sure.
Wes Keltner: Hands down one of the coolest opportunities I’ve ever had. I could spend hours (and have), just hanging out with these guys, telling stories. But the real joy comes when they are there, in the trenches with us. Where Tom might be discussing and dismantling how Jason might kill this character or that character. And Kane begins to act that scene out, as we’re discussing how the animations will come together. There’s a lot that goes into making a game, but with these guys around...It doesn’t feel like work, I can tell you that.
Gonzalez: When I was finally able to meet the guys responsible for messing up my dreams at night when I was a kid, I couldn’t believe it. In one way or another, they had molded my current creative path. I love working with people who I’ve referenced before to create new things. Why just reference when you can create new things together?
If you could adapt any modern horror franchise into a game given the same timeframe and challenges as you face with Friday the 13th, what would it be?
Hobbs: If I’m choosing outside of Friday the 13th, then I’ll go with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Vulnerable characters, a psychotic family, and beautiful Texas sunsets….it’s the perfect combination!
Keltner: Well, I’m already working on my dream game. But, I would have to say the Halloween franchise. More specifically, Halloween 2. Since the majority of that took place in a hospital, it had a claustrophobic feeling to it. There would be some intense gameplay moments in a setting like that. Almost maze like layout, with long hallways that create sight lines that mess with your mind. Super creepy, right up my alley.
Gonzalez: Doing a Nightmare on Elm Street would be amazing. Because Freddy works a lot with dreams, you could really do a lot of creative stuff. Other than that I think Hellraiser would be sweet. Cenobites will always have a special place in my heart.