Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 has made a surprise appearance on Steam. If I know anything about trends, I’d say you’re going to be seeing lots of videos concerning this game for the next week on YouTube’s gaming section. So is it actually any good? Let’s find out!
Here We Go Again
The Five Nights at Freddy’s series has always been a bit of an odd beast. It’s hard to believe that this game series has been around for less than a year. With just a few still backgrounds and primitive animations, series progenitor Scott Cawthon has carved an unassailable niche for his lucrative franchise. So kudos to him!
Having said that, I don’t think the series as a whole is terribly inventive. The original game was a well-made product, but really felt like more of a demo for a larger game that was never made. The game’s reliance on jump scares made it a one-trick pony, and all subsequent games seem to come from the same stable. I’d have said the third game was the point at which the series was stretched too thin.
But this game actually deviates from the formula quite a bit, and in many of the ways I’ve hoped it would since the first game. This Five Nights at Freddy’s does not actually take place at a Freddy Fazbear establishment. You do not play a luckless security guard being stalked by the animatronics. And unlike the previous games, there’s actually a reason why you don’t bolt for the nearest exit.
You’re Not Ready For Freddy
Here’s the story, as far as I can go without spoiling too much from either this game or the previous ones: You are a child in his bedroom at night. You are something of an outsider and you’re bullied by your older brother. Also, you appear to have been targeted by the animatronics, for reasons that are not immediately clear.
At night, nightmarishly grotesque versions of the Freddy Fazbear animatronics stalk the hallways of your house and try their hardest to get into your bedroom. You have a flashlight, which you can flash in the faces of your attackers. If they are far enough down the hall, you can scare them off. If they are too close, well…
Most of the things that have thus-far been staples of the series are gone. There are no security cameras for you to keep an eye on the animatronics as they stalk around the building. There are no remote-controlled distraction devices. However, the layout does bear a strong resemblance to the security room from the first game, especially with the placement of the doors and the attack patterns of Bonnie and Chica.
“You Can’t Save Them”
Far be it for me to speculate as to Cawthon’s influences, but I sense something of the Silent Hills Playable Teaser in this FNAF entry. The game takes place entirely in a small portion of a family home, and the various sights and sounds associated with this mundane setting enhance the horror rather than diminish it. There aren’t any of the series’ previous moments of dark humor to alleviate it either.
There is a sense of dimension that was sorely lacking in the previous games. You can actually move between the different doors to look out of them. You can turn around and look behind you, and you have to in order to scare off the miniature versions of Freddy which will gather on your bed and reform into Freddy if you’re not careful. I really wish there weren’t a screen-changing animation whenever you run to one of the doors, because it breaks line of sight and can kill the flow of your strategy.
Despite this sense of dimension, the game feels very confined. The upside of having security cameras to look at was that it gave the sense that you were in a building and that there was some space, even if you couldn’t move to it. This game eliminates that and gives you only one room to move around in.
Reboot All Systems
In addition to the omnipresent threat of jump scares, the game builds atmosphere through subtle noises throughout your house. Skittering noises mean that the mini-Freddies are coming up behind you. Occasionally you’ll hear what sounds like silverware clinking down the hall. And the supposed sign that the animatronics are close is that you will hear breathing or some such wheezing noise.
The problem is that it’s sometimes very, very difficult to hear the sounds of breathing, if they are there at all. I died multiple times to Bonnie on Night 2 because I would stick my face up to the door, wait three seconds for a sound that didn’t come, and then turn on the flashlight only to have Bonnie jump on me.
As far as tech specs go, there was one big problem with the game on my PC: It went into windowed mode immediately and I had to manipulate the window carefully in order to get it to take up the whole screen. I know it’s typical for there not to be an options menu in a FNAF game, but it would certainly have made things easier for me. The game also crashed on the night loading screens occasionally.
Tomorrow Is Another Day
I am far from a FNAF devotee, so I don’t think I got quite the kick out of the game that series fans will. There’s lots of lore to enjoy and dissect, though there aren’t as many abstruse puzzle minigames and secrets as there were in the last game. Though there is one minigame where you play “Red Light, Green Light” with a toy to skip two hours the next night.
If you’ve played the rest of the series, it’ll be worth the eight dollars just to see the series go in a slightly different direction. If you’ve never had an interest in Five Nights at Freddy’s, this game won’t turn you into a believer.