So this past Friday I was finally able to play Predator: Hunting Grounds, a game I have been looking forward to for months. Created by developer IllFonic, Predator: Hunting Grounds is an asymmetric multiplayer game where four people play as human commandos and one person plays as the ultimate alien hunter, the Predator.
During gameplay, the human players will attempt to complete objectives against an AI opponent (the rebels from the first film), while the Predator wants to hunt down and kill the four player characters before they can “get to da choppa!” and exit the level.
Despite being from a different franchise, Predator: Hunting Grounds is in many ways a sequel to the Friday the 13th game, which launched several years ago and which I also had a ton of fun with. There really is no one who can blend gameplay with fan service like IllFonic, well – at least when it when it comes to 1980s cult classics.
The Friday the 13th series doesn’t have much life these days, at least so far as the cinema is concerned. It has nine years since the Friday the 13th remake tried and failed to breathe life back into hockey mask-wearing slasher Jason Voorhees. If it weren’t for the 2017 video game (aptly named Friday the 13th: The Game), the franchise would be all but dead.
Oh but what a game it is. If you’ve only ever played the 1989 indecipherable mess that was the Nintendo Friday the 13th, you may have written off the series’ gaming potential. Which would be a shame since developer IllFonic and publisher Gun Media have created a fan love letter to the series, complete with meticulously recreated campground levels.
When I first started playing Friday the 13th: the Game over Christmas vacation, I thought it was fun but frustrating. Months later and I’m still routinely diving into Crystal Lake, the Jarvis House and newly added Pinehurst. Clearly they’re doing something right.
That said, I do have some thoughts on how Friday the 13th: the Game can improve and, maybe more importantly, how these companies can keep financing their efforts. I know: Unsolicited feedback from a white guy – how original.
Being able to turn the male counselors into mock kid Jason
One of the most interesting aspects of gameplay in Friday the 13th: the Game revolves around killing Jason. Yes, it is possible (if unlikely) for the counselors to band together and turn the tables on their foe. This method is a multi-step process that involves summoning Tommy Jarvis, stealing a sweater, and knocking off a mask.
It is the second part where the potential issue begins: Only a female counselor can steal the sweater. This is to recreate the ending of Part 2 where the final girl pretends to be Jason’s mother, halting the killer in his tracks. It’s a cool bit of fan service to be sure and – as I said – really interesting gameplay.
Yet if there are no female counselors in the game, or if they have died, it prematurely closes the option to kill Jason. This is kinda lame. Rather than have Chad discover his feminine side, I believe I’ve come up with a solution that stays close to franchise emulation.
While only female counselors can steal the sweater, male counselors can cut their hair and mimic kid Jason (much in the way that young Tommy Jarvis did at the end of Part 4). This will require a procedure of its own. First, scissors. Every game would load with one set of scissors in a drawer. It would be exactly one item that would function much the same way as a pocket knife should Jason grab you.
Once the counselor has scissors, it’s time to look for a bathroom, more specifically a mirror. After this is done, the counselor will need time (perhaps a button-pressing mini-game like car repair, except based on composure stat) to re-style his looks. After this is done, he now has a one-time opportunity to stun Jason, much like the sweater.
I believe this will add variety and further develop what already is one of the most interesting aspects of the game.
Adding a more open water level
A lot of perks in the game revolve around water – this is true for both counselors and Jason. While it’s a cool aspect to add variety, it feels pretty weak right now for one major reason: There’s not a lot of water on the current maps. Most have a shoreline in a corner or narrow rivers running throughout. I don’t have any solid numbers to back me up here but I wouldn’t be surprised if the average counselor spent less than 10% of his or her time in water.
This makes all those water traits kind of useless. When I can only equip three perks – who cares if one of them pluses my water speed by 99%? I’m never going to use that. Oh, Part VII Jason has excellent water speed… does that matter?
While one new level won’t entirely fix this problem, it will help. I would propose one of two options. First, the setting from Part 7: A New Blood. I would design that map to have a massive lake in the center – maybe with an island or two scattered on it. This will force counselors to swim for rapid transit or item retrieval.
Second option is the cruise ship from Part 8. Since this boat inexplicably sailed from Crystal Lake to New York (how did that happen?!), it would make sense to have supporting islands. The claustrophobia of the boat would also be a nice change of pace from numerous levels of open cabins and sparse woods.
More weapon variety
I’m actually really happy that they toned down the amount of guns and machetes in the levels. I always wondered why a summer camp had like… literally a gun every few feet. While it could have been a commentary on the status of firearm worship in America, I doubt that’s what Gun Media and IllFonic were going for.
While too many top tier weapons is a bad thing, I hope they enhance the number of options for mid tier and low tier weapons. The branch is awesome but it needs company. So I propose three new weapons:
a paintball gun: Made famous in Part 6, this rapid fire projectile could temporarily blind Jason if enough shots hit. The blindness would work like the blooper ink in Mario Kart 8, physically obstructing the screen. Jason players could always wash the paint off in water. While it won’t do much damage, it would be a terrific irk weapon.
Dinner plates: I see them on every table, stacks of projectiles. This would be the lowest tier ranged weapon. Counselors could hurl plates at Jason, hoping with enough direct hits to knock him down or at the least stun him. Stun chance percentage would increase based on the number of direct hits. Plates would come in stacks of five.
A rake: This weapon would function purely as a push-away. Counselors could prod Jason from a distance, not doing much damage but keeping him from getting close. Given that they just increased the number of throwing knives, this would be a cool chance to highlight their effectiveness. Jason would also of course eventually just break the rake.
Monetization methods to support continued updates
Now here me out here fellow players: Games cost a lot of money to make and maintain. Not everyone can do what Minecraft did. Gun and IllFonic have, to date, done an excellent job of keeping their Kickstarter promises and delivering a slew of free content. There’s but some monetization but it has been limited to a couple dollars for costumes and kills.
I want them to build on that. Keep the Kickstarter promises free, obviously but augment them with DLC to justify their continued investment. The counselor costume variety is terrific – keep it coming! This nature of superfluous paid DLC is the best as it doesn’t make those who can’t afford feel like they’re at an unfair disadvantage.
To this end, I have a few suggestions:
New Jason starting screens: Currently, Part 3 Jason greets players every time they load the game. While he’s cool looking, some variety might be nice? Charging a dollar or so per main menu Jason seems reasonable. Again, no one needs it but I might fork over some money to customize my game further.
Roy voiceover: If players select the Part 5 – or Roy – Jason, they still hear Pamela Voorhees droning on about killing kids and making them remember and bla bla bla. Honestly, it would be cool to hear someone else. While Dick Wieand may not want to return to voice his character, it would still be cool to hear someone play Roy. Dialogue could be more focused around vengeance and his little brother and things like that. I would definitely pay at least $2 not to hear Pamela every single game.
Part 5 Tommy: Designing models is expensive and getting voice actors is also not cheap. These two factors together explain why we only have one version of Tommy Jarvis – the Thom Mathews Part 6 version. Having John Shepherd’s Part 5 incarnation (or even an adult Corey Feldman) would add some awesome variety to the game. But for free, it doesn’t make sense – not on the developer’s side. I would be willing to pay for a new Tommy, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
A Kane Hodder Jason costume: While Savini Jason remains locked away forever (single tear), they could add another cool/funny Jason to the game. Kane Hodder. That’s it, no costume, no mask (well maybe some kind of mask for gameplay purposes), just the famous Jason actor. It would be a fun extra and technically wouldn’t violate their policy of not charging for Jason.
Adding in a way to report bigotry/hate speech
One last quick thing: there needs to be a way to report players who are bigoted assholes. I was playing as Jason one night and came across a kid. I could tell his age because of his microphone – I could also notice an accent. But I think, whatever, all races and people are scum in the eyes of Jason Voorhees so I’m going to go after him.
As soon as I kill his counselor, this other one appears and starts shouting the most vile, hateful crap I’ve heard during gameplay. Honestly it made me feel awful for having offed the kid’s character. I hope he didn’t think I agreed with any of the shit this “adult” was saying (I didn’t have a mic at the time so I could not vocally voice my disgust).
I made killing the bigot my next priority but I didn’t feel like that made it right. People like that should face consequences for spewing vile garbage across the internet. Jason may kill people but even he isn’t that much of a monster.
A report option please – I never want to be in that situation again.
So there you have it, just some thoughts on improving the game. Obviously I’m not alone in having suggestions – just hop on the Forums to see more. If you haven’t played yet, give Friday the 13th: the Game your time and money – especially if you’re a fan of the film franchise. It may be a mess, but it’s a fun mess.