Why did I come back here???
PC Release: March 2, 2015
By Ian Coppock
If it hasn’t become obvious to you by now, I’ve been a bit desensitized by horror games. I’m desensitized enough that I’ve been playing them consistently for almost half a decade. I’m desensitized enough to play Five Nights at Freddy’s and enjoy it. Finally, I’m desensitized enough to play Five Nights at Freddy’s 3, right after Fnaf 2 scared me so badly that I got a cramp in my lower leg. I was reluctant to review two installments of a series so close together, but this will prove an opportunity to see if the flaws I found in Fnaf 2 were remedied. It’s also a chance to live life at the height of adrenaline junkie-ness, so let’s play Five Nights at Freddy’s 3.
Fnaf, as Five Nights at Freddy’s is known in shorthand, is a point-and-click horror game where you get attacked by evil animatronics. They put on quite the musical show for the kids during the day, but at night, they wander the halls of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza looking to disembowel any humans they see. Unable to leave the confines of the security office, players have to manage cameras, doors, and the dryness of their trousers in an effort to keep these garish things from popping up in front of you.
The game was acclaimed for its novel approach to horror, and this was only strengthened in the sequel, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2.Despite an overall more impressive showing than the first game, Fnaf 2’s primary issues were a steep rise in difficulty and the presence of so many animatronics that they would work against each other as well as you. I’m flattered that nearly a dozen robots duked it out for the right to murder me, but the game swapping out one animatronic that was 10 feet away for another that was 30 feet away was not an impressive feat of design. Five Nights at Freddy’s 3, released just six months after the second game, seeks once again to switch things up and keep the formula from exhausting itself too quickly.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 takes place thirty years after the events of the first game. Just like before, you play a newly hired security guard who’s brought on to keep an eye on things during the night shift. Your place of employment, Fazbear’s Fright, is a gaudy theme park and haunted house-style remake of the original restaurant. A more callous and depressing memorial there is not, but there is a profit to be made.
Anyhoo, I settled into my role at this newest hellhole and was delighted to see that my old enemies, including Freddy Fazbear himself, had been scrapped into tiny pieces and scattered all over the park. Surely, thought I, peace can be had if these creatures are reduced to nuts and bolts? So it seemed. Until my character’s employers brought in a new animatronic. One they’d found in a boarded-up room. A room, and an animatronic, that no one was supposed to know about.
In Fnaf 3, you’re given back a few tools from earlier in the series as well as some new toys. Security cameras, more of a novelty in the first two games, are essential as hell in the third installment. Though you only have to combat one animatronic, you have absolutely no way to defend yourself if he reaches your office. No doors, no masks, nothing. So keeping an eye on your adversary is more than just a way to startle yourself.
In addition to the cameras, the park is fitted with a few other systems that you have to maintain. Audio devices normally used to filter creepy sounds through to park guests are repurposed to lure the animatronic to other rooms. Like I said, you have no doors or masks to help you if this guy makes it your way, so playing little noises in other rooms is basically your only solution for survival. The ability can only be used once every ten seconds or so, so it demands some strategy. Again, these games are the bastard offspring of chess and a slasher movie, with maybe Chuck E. Cheese thrown in for the world’s most cringe-worthy manage trois.
In Fnaf 3 you have no battery limits of any kind on your equipment, but you have to keep it in running shape throughout the five nights ahead of you. Be it bad engineering or sabotage from the animatronic, your suite of instruments has a tendency to go offline, requiring a reboot. Otherwise you’re looking at dead cameras and no audio clips. A death sentence, in other words.
There’s something far worse to fear than broken equipment, though. Hallucinogenic gas is filtered throughout the theme park to put its visitors on edge, and if too much of the stuff clouds your vision, you’ll start seeing phantom animatronics running around the park and messing with you. They’ll even jumpscare you, given the chance, and though their attacks are nonlethal, they can damage your equipment and give the real animatronic an opening to enter your office and finish you off. And, of course, you’ll have shat a hole through the bottom of your computer chair.
Just like the last game, each of the five nights is pierced with interludes cast in an 8-bit, Atari-style minigame. Players assume the roles of the animatronics themselves, and bear witness to some creepy shit that I don’t want to spoil or repeat. There’s a very good reason this particular animatronic was boarded up and forgotten. There’s a reason it seems much older than the ones we’ve dealt with until now. And, there’s the ever-so-slight possibility that it is directly responsible for much of the horror we’ve witnessed thus far in the series. Who can say? I won’t. I’m not giving you that info for free. NOT AFTER WHAT I WENT THROUGH.
So yeah, just like before, series creator Scott Cawthon keeps the lore very vague but provides enough crumbs to allow for a glimpse of what happened. All of this is presented in the rather narrative-free actual game, as something to play in the back of your head as you try to stay alive. Such a storytelling method seems to be Cawthon’s weapon of choice for damaging our brains and our adrenaline glands. Hooray.
So, did Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 prove a breakthrough for the series, and does it remedy the problems I encountered last time? I wouldn’t call it a breakthrough, and it remedies the problems I had too hard. Let me explain.
Fnaf 3 draws an enormous contrast with Fnaf 2 in terms of enemy numbers. You’re now dealing with one animatronic instead of nearly a dozen. I appreciated the radical change in approach, but though that one animatronic is a beast, dealing with a single enemy is inevitably easier than dealing with several. The phantoms are less true enemies and more distractions, anyway. It becomes more dangerous as the nights go on, sure. But it’s still just one monster. And one monster is simpler to manage than 12.
Perhaps this factored into my next problem with the game, and that’s how surprisingly easy it was. I only died on the third night; all of the other nights, including the infamous fifth night, only took me one try. You can play audio clips very rapidly to keep the animatronic away, which also gives you time to repair any downed systems and return for additional vigilance. Maybe I’m just a badass, but I was able to keep the animatronic on the opposite side of the park from me on even the most difficult night. Or maybe my reflexes were still sharp from Fnaf 2. Either way, the game is a piece of cake.
The most that Fnaf 3 will get from me, unfortunately, is a halfhearted recommendation. Its hints at lore and new setting will satisfy hardcore fans, but horror everymen looking for something fresh and exciting will not find what they’re looking for. Between Fnaf 3‘s lack of difficulty and its innovative though unchallenging phantom animatronics, I came away from the game sixty minutes after purchasing it with a “meh” sort of feeling in my tummy. It’s dressed up with a few new features, but it doesn’t move the series’s design forward like Fnaf 2 did.
Hopefully, Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 managed to end the series on a high note, but we’ll have to leave that judgment for a time beyond Short Horror Week IV.
You can buy Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.