Saturday, August 30, 2014

Five Nights at Freddy's Review

Well that was a short lived, yet fun little break for me! The summer slump finally hit last week, which essentially means that nothing really of note will be coming out until at least October, so reviews may be a bit slow for now... or that would have been the case if it wasn't for Five Nights at Freddy's. This game has become an internet darling in the past few weeks, becoming a Youtube hit in the same ways that Slender did a few years ago. That begs the question though; is Five Nights at Freddy's a good horror game? Is it even a good game period?

I'm actually a bit surprised that I have to dedicate a rather decent amount of time to discuss the plot of this game. In reality, the premise of the game is simple. You are a security guard at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza for the night shift. You have to watch security cameras from midnight to six in the morning, and just make sure nothing goes wrong. However, the one thing that the management neglected to tell you is that the animatronics on stage, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Duck, Foxy the Pirate, and Freddy Fazbear, all come to live after hours and roam around the place. And by roam, I mean they want you dead. So truth be told, you just have to survive the night with limited power. You have six hours, four animatronics want you dead, and the power is always draining. Good luck!

When it comes to a game like this, it's much more interesting to talk about the horror aspects of it than the gameplay, but I might as well address the gameplay first. All you can do is sit in your guard room and watch cameras to see the animatronics move. They don't move when you're watching them. They only move when you can't see them. Think the weeping angels from Doctor Who and you have a general idea what they're like. The only way you can hold them off is to use the doors to lock yourself inside your room, yet locking the door drains your energy, so you can only keep them locked for so long. It's minimalistic for a reason, and that reason is that you can easily enter the game world and let it freak you out. If you have a fear of people in costumes, or even giant cartoon characters, this game will mortify you and make you crap yourself.

Just let this face stare into your soul...
I will come right out and say that I am not that big of a horror fan. I love it when it's done right, but most of the time horror is done in all of the wrong ways. Now I'm fully aware that horror is subjective, and one person may find something terrifying while someone else won't, so I'm only going by my own personal theory behind what makes things scary. The reason why horror fails most of the time for me is usually the atmosphere does not condone the scares that are expected. To put it another way, take a look at two different horror movies: The Thing and Leprechaun. Both are technically horror movies, but only one of them is consistently terrifying. The Thing is a horror classic because the atmosphere and the mood created by the characters and the setting makes every scare impactful. Everything that happens in that movie can be tarrying because the world around it makes it terrifying. In The Leprechaun, the movie tries to be scary, but the atmosphere doesn't allow it to be scary. What is supposed to be scary is there, but because we're disconnected from the setting and the characters, we aren't affected by it.

It comes down to how easily you can be absorbed into the world that the creator is trying to make. The easier it is, the more invested you get, and the more invested you get, the more effective the scares. Five Nights at Freddy's is a game that is all about trying to invest you into its world. All that you do is literally looks through cameras. You are looking at a screen, and you're looking at monsters looking right back at you. There is barely any separation between the player and the game because you yourself are looking at a screen as you play the game. The separation is non existent.

But does that make Five Nights at Freddy's scary? Yes and no. Yes, the game is terrifying to play through. You're always on your guard and always afraid at when the animatronics will come at you. Are they right outside your door waiting to attack, or are they just staring into the cameras, fully aware that you're watching them? Your imagination is able to take hold, and you start to let your fear get the better or you, which means you'll mess up more. The more you mess up, the easier it'll be for them to get you. And they will get you. They will wait for the right moment, swarm you, and make sure that you die an agonizing, painful death. They will make sure that you will never breathe again. It's just a matter of how long you can hold them off.

This is the stuff nightmares are made of.
However, I would be a bit hesitant to say that the game is 100% terrifying. The biggest problem with these scares is that they can be predicted. The animatronics will only enter through certain doors, have certain locations they frequently visit, and will wait outside your door for a bit to attack you. On the second night, Bonnie the Bunny was standing outside my door staring at me for God only knows how long. I quickly closed the door and waited for her to leave, and she did. But afterwards, whenever I saw her close to my room, as soon as I lost track of her, I assumed she was right in front of my door, so I shut it off, then turned on the light outside to confirm. Lo and behold, she was there waiting for me, but I couldn't see her because the door was closed. I could tell she was there through her shadow through the window. I could predict what she would do, and I countered it, effectively stopping the scare. Great horror should not give that kind of satisfaction or power. You should be helpless all the time for it to truly work.

A few rare instances aside, the game lived up to its reputation. It was scary, made me on edge, and makes me afraid to go near any animatronics. Missions accomplished, right? Well it would be, but people are now debating the merits of jump scares as a means of horror. After all, all jump scares are is a person jumping out and startling you, so it isn't scary. It's just startling. Well let me paint for you a little scenario to tell you why exactly Five Nights at Freddy's is frightening.

You know that there are animatronics roaming the halls. You can hear their footsteps in the hallways and you can hear them move stuff around. You look outside your door, and you see one in the doorway looking back at you. You slam the door shut, and think that it's all over! But then you realize that they're still out there. Your visitor leaves you, but he's still in the building, and you can't leave. You're frantically checking all of your cameras to see where they are, and you see all of them. Your power is running out though! You need to turn off your cameras! But if they're off, they can get you! But where are they? You need the cameras to see! It's a giant mental battle to find out where they are, save yourself, but not drain your power. You have to let yourself become a sitting duck in order to win. You have to lose yourself to the atmosphere to win. You have to let fear get inside of you. That is what true terror is. It's when you let all of the fear and fright inside of you against your own free will, but you know that it's the only way to win.

Kids love him
The gameplay is simple, the fear is complex, the game gets into your head, and everything about this game is designed to make you afraid of everything. This game is better than Slender because you have to let yourself be vulnerable to win. Slender is scary just because you have the Slender Man stand there without actually doing something. Freddy has action. Freddy has real fear. If you want some cheap horror, and by cheap I mean inexpensive, then Five Nights at Freddy's is right up your alley. Can you survive the night?

Who wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese?

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