Friday The 13th: Ultimate Slasher Edition is a feature-rich version of the multiplayer game, but it's hard to see the Switch as its ideal home.
One of the interesting things about the ongoing span of ports to Switch is that Nintendo’s platform might represent a kind of do-over for some games which were visibly rocky in their early days. For asymmetric multiplayer games — a genre which has an extremely troubled and weak-kneed pedigree — reintroducing them to a completely new ecosystem does seem to energize them with an essence of tabula rasa. This brings us to Friday The 13th: Ultimate Slasher Edition, a brand new boxed version of the horror game, brimming with DLC and updates and surprisingly limber and exciting, even within the doubtless downgrade it's received in order to play nice with Mario’s console. It can’t help but feel slightly out of bounds on a handheld, but it’s a properly feature-rich and high-quality release of a multiplayer horror escapade.
The burning-coal path to launch for the Friday The 13th game is definitely well outside the scope of this review but, long story short: it had substantive issues upon launch. License disputes, tech foibles, outright bugs in the code, and a possible lack of wise initial direction shoved it into that predictably misguided corner of other asymmetrical competitive multiplayer games, with growing pains leading to a sluggish evolution. However, the ship eventually got properly righted, the fundamentals and expectations of the game began to get locked down, and a sturdy product persevered. The great thing about the physical Switch release is that this proven version has been adapted here and — minus a few absolutely reasonable cut corners in terms of visual fidelity — Nintendo’s consumers get a content-rich and highly-functional game after all is said and done.
For newcomers, Friday The 13th is a dark-lit competition through the rules of engagement as-per slasher films, with lines divided between the super-powered Jason and his counselor quarry. Jumping into a multiplayer game means rolling the dice to determine whose role you draw, and the lottery can be obviously demoralizing. Jason is an absolute thrill to control here, and though his abilities are abstracted through the language of third-person gaming, cooldown-fed skills and all, jumping into his shoes and hunting for your terrified adversaries is an altogether unique and disturbing thrill. This isn’t to imply that playing Jason is overly easy or anything — well-organized counselors can subvert his hunt through traps, map mastery, and skills, and the lumbering gait of this classic villain takes some getting used to — but there’s no real comparison with the inspired counselor-likenesses and the blade-wielding hockey-masked man himself.
And it’s not just a matter of luck, but the fact that there are so many different Jasons to control, each of which have their own leveling system and ability pool. When a given skirmish offers you 14 combatants and one of over a half-dozen super-powered killers, there’s something about the balance that feels tilted in an unsatisfying way. Still, there’s an attempt to level out the playing field, and though Jason can intuit loud noises and even wall-hack vulnerable counselors, being on the more heavily-populated side shows these to as the opportunities to compromise his approach that they really are.
Counselors can juke around Jason, stagger him with weapons, perplex him with traps. Collaborating with your online incidental friends can make the entire experience much less of the uneven cakewalk it seems like at the start of a match. As for Jason, his powers let him quickly teleport (referred to as "morphing"), sabotage windows, and grab counselors outright. Square the distance with your victims and there's not a lot that they can do, but some special late game opportunities can completely disempower you, if you allow them to stray far for too long, activating mouse traps and working towards an exit.
Now, of course, the Switch can’t deliver a PC-comparable experience, either in terms of frames-per-second or graphical detail. Characters are obviously simplified down, which makes certain screenshots more comparable to a PS Vita version of a recent game than a modern-GPU-powered beast firing on all its cylinders. Additionally, the gamma settings seem intensely unbalanced and dark, especially when playing the game in handheld mode, which is an apparent inclusion given the hardware being discussed here.
It’s not just the notion of taking Jason with you, though; Friday The 13th’s Switch version feels like an awesome portable option, but it should be noted that any time you’re not connected to the internet, experience points aren’t gained. Since these points unlock all-but necessary upgrades for competitive play, the game doesn’t feel precisely suited to the disconnected experience, which is a shame. It would be amazing if players could spend commutes to work playing on their Switch, shifting to online mode once back home to test their newly garnered abilities, but gaining experience is locked off whenever you’re not connected to the internet. It makes some kind of sense, in the case that players somehow figured out a way to brute force level-ups in offline matches, but also contradicts the apparent expectations of a portable console.
It’s really the most troubling aspect of this port, rather than the expected graphical downgrade. Outside of that, though, the passion of Friday The 13th’s developers is obvious. Everything from the voice acting, atmospheric ambiance, down to the absolutely superb emergent Pamela Voorhees narration is outstanding. This is clearly not a quick cash-in game in the least; it’ been built and massaged by a team with a resonant love for the franchise it’s based on, with detailed inclusions pushing well past the terms of fan-service and into the realm of obsessive gratitude.
Collaborating with fellow Switch players to survive a deadly encounter or even triumph over Jason as an adversary can be completely thrilling. Somehow, it’s as if Jason’s skills — like his ability to teleport quickly to a counselor in danger — require players wanting to reach a successful endgame to bind together, a game mechanic which is so poignantly relevant to the film series Friday The 13th is based on. Figuring out if Switch owners are ready to devote adequate time to play and learn this game at home and with a stable internet connection doesn’t feel clearly established yet, and looking at the server stats a few months down the line will probably better communicate whether this is really worth its price tag or not.
Die-hard Friday The 13th fans who have somehow not encountered this until now will feel recognized and respected — of that there is no doubt — but its online-only requirements for progression feel inhibiting to a device that many gamers exclusively play away from home. All the same, this is a feature-packed multiplayer survival horror game, but it’s also an unmistakably downgraded experience when comparing it other consoles.
Friday The 13th: Ultimate Slasher Edition is available now for $39.99. A physical copy was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.