Few games have taken the world by storm in the manner that Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights At Freddy’s series has for the past year. The indie horror game exploded last summer, quickly flooding YouTube and Reddit with fans and reaction compilations. Following the release of the original Five Nights At Freddy’s in August 2014, a second and third game were released in November 2014 and February 2015 respectively, continuing the theme of terrifying jumpscares, creepy haunted animatronics, and a sinister storyline that continues to unravel little-by-little with each passing level and game in the series.
Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 continues that theme, and it does it without feeling cheap or overdone like many series do this late in the sequel chain. Originally slated for a Halloween 2015 release, developer Cawthon later announced that fans should expect the game on August 08th instead. One to keep his fans on their toes, Cawthon surprised many popular YouTubers such as Markiplier, CoryxKenshin, and JackSepticEye with a demo on July 23rd, dropping the full release on Steam for anxious fans mere hours later.
So as we celebrate an early Happy Halloween in the gaming community, it’s time to examine The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of Five Nights At Freddy’s 4.
Fans from the series’ start will be excited to see that Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 takes things back to the basics. The original game required that you constantly watch three different locations for four different animatronics: the left hallway for Bonnie, the right hallway for Chica and Freddy, and Pirate’s Cove for Foxy. It was at times stressful, but it was doable. Three months later, Five Nights At Freddy’s 2 debuted multiple locations to watch at once and a dizzying eleven animatronics. All of the new elements were maddening to most players, and many fans reported the fun of the game was being taken away due to how many tasks they had to maintain at one time. Another three months later saw Five Nights At Freddy’s 3, which took us down to one downright grotesque animatronic dubbed “SpringTrap” to observe from multiple locations. For the first time, the “luck” aspect of the series was also removed for one that more heavily favoured skill, which made the game easier to complete but took away some of the luck-based pizzazz found in its two predecessors.
Luckily, playing Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 feels like you’ve returned to the original game. You have to watch for two doors, a closet, and a bed while Freddy and his three lackeys try to ruin your life for five straight nights (or eight, if you count the unlockable levels). The randomness of the animatronics also returns, meaning that no matter how well you master the game’s mechanics, you could still easily lose at any time depending on how the animatronics choose to spawn during your gameplay. While this may sound like a negative thing, it is exactly what fans of the series were calling for following the third game’s skill-based release.
For the first time ever you are not stationed in an old restaurant, this time playing as a small child trapped in his bedroom than as a wary security guard. There is something about playing as a small child with the potential to be murdered by nightmarish robotic animals that tickles my horror sensors to no end.
Also gone is the “training mode” like features of the first few nights. Whereas the other three games give the player time to become accustomed to the game’s mechanics, providing the player with little-to-no risk of death during the first night–and possibly the second–Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 dives right into the madness and eliminates the feel of a wasted night for most gamers. While it is possible to come out of things unscathed, even many “pro” gamers met a messy end during Night 1 of Five Nights At Freddy’s 4.
As with the second and third game, the Atari-like mini-games are back. This time, the mini-games start up automatically prior to each Night, and they function as more of interactive cutscenes than the complex puzzles featured in Five Nights At Freddy’s 3. These mini-games not only give the player insight into why this child is so terrified of the animatronics, but also to fill in some of the lore’s plotholes left unexplained from the first three installments of the series.
Playing the game well also allows the presence of a cute Freddy plushie and a cute Foxy plushie to be frequently spotted. Who doesn’t love cute plushies?!
As previously mentioned, the game’s mechanics are amped up from the start, compared to the more relaxed beginning of the previous three games in the series. A tutorial is essentially built into the start of the game, with text appearing over doorframes and areas of the room to educate players on how to play; unfortunately, the animatronics are actively haunting you as soon as the game begins, leaving players with little time to make sense of what to do before finding something creepy at their door. Unless the player has already taken the time to watch someone else play, it’s almost expected that they will die once or twice before successfully completing the first night.
While this avoids having a throw-away night in the game, it is still nice to have a grace period to learn the controls, especially in fast-paced games like that of the Five Nights At Freddy’s series. Once a player gets the controls down pat, Night 4 and Night 5 introduces a new, more-deadly character known as Nightmare Fredbear, who operates somewhat differently from the other animatronics, similar to how Freddy Fazbear did in the original game. While many deaths should be expected on the amped-up difficulties of the later nights, some will now be incorporated by the changing mechanics. It keeps things interesting, but it is also confusing.
Following Night 1, there is also a mini-game called “Fun With PlushTrap”, featuring a cute plushie version of the nightmarish SpringTrap from the third game. Successful completion of this mini-game grants you two hours off the following night, meaning you only have to survive four hours of torture rather than six. However, if you choose to close your game at this point to pick back up on the following Night later on, you forfeit this prize; failing the next level also causes you to forfeit this prize. On levels like Night 2’s introduction of Foxy, Night 4’s introduction of Fredbear, and Night 5’s crazy switch-up of the animatronics mid-night, it is almost a given that your prize will go to waste. It would be nice to see the prize carry over for more than just one attempt, just to allow players get more use out of it.
Probably the biggest issue with this game is its breathing mechanic.
One of the game’s main components is as follows: Run up to the door. If you hear breathing, close your door until whatever is there runs away; if you do not hear breathing, flash your light down the hall to scare away anything that may be lurking nearby. If you flash your light at something breathing in your face, you will die. If you close your door when an animatronic is lurking down the hall, they will hide behind your door and kill you when you open it again.
Since most of the game depends on listening for breathing to make sure that you keep breathing, it would seem like the breathing noises in the game would be routine and quite loud, right?
You couldn’t be more wrong.
The breathing is often very faint and hard to hear, meaning that players without decent headsets or stereo speakers are screwed from the get-go. On the flip side, the jumpscares are very, very loud, meaning that players naturally want to keep their volume turned low as in previous installments. However, in order to properly hear the breathing, players must now keep their volume high while concentrating and then suffer busted eardrums after dying in game, leading to some hilarious flailing. While it is hilarious to watch–YouTuber “BlastphemousHD Gaming” has one of the best reactions I’ve seen to date during Night 1–it is not nearly as entertaining when you’re on the receiving end of Death-By-Headphones.
The sounds of the breathing also vary greatly. Sometimes, it sounds like a growl, sometimes like static, sometimes like a radio, and sometimes like a moan. None of these are synonymous with breathing, Scott Cawthon. Players who manage not to die while trying to read the tutorial instructions during Night 1 will meet their maker while trying to figure out what breathing sounds like instead. I’m not kidding. Every Night 1 video I’ve seen for Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 features a panicked YouTuber screaming/crying, “Is that breathing?! OMG, is that breathing?! I don’t know if that was breathing?!!?!?!” before getting punched in the face by a rabid robot. This can sometimes continue into Night 2 and Night 3.
Even worse, the breathing is not always immediate. You have to wait by your door for between one-to-five seconds to determine is something is going to breathe in your face or not. The changing sounds and volume of the breathing, combined with the fact that you are sitting there in silence while knowing full well that something could be trying to slip in via the adjacent door, will raise your blood pressure like no other.
I wonder if Reddit has a group for people who forgot how to breathe while listening for breathing yet? If not, I am sure it is coming.
Overall Rating: 8.5
After an overly complicated second game and an overly simplified third game, Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 is a welcomed breath of fresh air for fans of Scott Cawthon’s series. If you have a few hours to kill, most players can easily finish Nights 1-5 in one sitting. As with its predecessors, there is also an unlockable Night 6, 20/20/20/20 mode (Night 7), and Nightmare mode (Night 8) to keep you busy while waiting for the upcoming DLC to finally put a nail in Freddy’s coffin.
Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 requires just the right amount of multi-tasking to keep the game fun and challenging without seeming impossible to complete. It also comes packaged with the most detailed graphics of any game in the series. When you consider that all four games were released in less than one full year, it’s amazing how quickly Scott’s skills have developed. If you like games with a large sense of “community”, this is definitely one for you; nearly every social media outlet out there features some sort of Five Nights At Freddy’s fan-grouping.
Cawthon has announced that he is working on a new game to premiere following the official and proper end to his beloved Five Nights At Freddy’s series, and while everyone is waiting eagerly to see what this twisted mastermind has next up his sleeve, we can still sit back and wait for the fourth game’s DLC ending. The DLC–believed to tie up any remaining loose ends from the series–is currently slated for a Halloween release.
Or Labour Day. Or tomorrow.
We’ll have to hang onto our hats and see!
Bottom Line: I’d definitely cough up the $7.99 to give Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 a whirl. It’s a fun game, definitely worth the money, and even if you’re new to the series, it won’t take you long to catch up on the adventures of Freddy, Foxy, Bonnie, and Chica. Fair warning: you might need to sleep with the lights on after playing.