I’m going to do something unusual for this review. I’m going to discuss the sequel without mentioning the previous games in the series. Why? Because I want it to stand alone as its own thing. It’s very easy to criticize Scott Cawthorn for releasing Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 when people were still reeling from the first two, but I think it’s an unfair judgement and I want to be as unbiased as I can. Plus ,I haven’t played the first two, but I assure you that’s unrelated.
I truly believe that fear is one of the most evocative emotions in gaming right now. You could probably name five well made horror titles off the top of your head that were not only highly praised, but brought about a plague of the dreaded fright poops by all who played. Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 is a continuation of horror developer’s desires to empty our bowels at inconvenient times and its creepy animatronic antagonists are set to remind us that childhood fears never really go away.
Thirty years after the incident at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza restaurant, a horror-themed amusement park opens to encapsulate the terrifying events that went on three decades ago. Hired as a night security watchman, you are placed in the motionless position of the world’s most stiff security guard; glued to the spot with nothing but a monitor to keep you amused.
As the night progresses, strange figures appear on the screen and an unsettling feeling of not being alone suddenly dawns on you. Who is this creature that stalks the stillness of the halls and disturbs your otherwise uneventful shift? Can’t a guard enjoy a solemn and dignified six hours of looking slowly left and right in peace?!
As the game progresses, you learn of a character called Springtrap; an animatronic suit that used to be worn by humans. Something went wrong, though. Murder, most likely. Between each night, you take brief control of a low-res pixelated game that depicts the previous animatronics succumbing to horrific acts by an unknown assailant. Is this the mysterious visitor haunting your vision?
At this stage, many gamers are already aware of the construct of Five Nights At Freddy’s. While some may criticize its rushed development, it’s worth noting that for a short and simple horror title, there is a unique genius to its gameplay mechanics.
It seemingly poses the question that many of us would fear if placed in the same situation: what if you couldn’t run away? This may not have been Cawthorn’s intentions, but the vulnerability of being a stand-still guard watching as living animatronics creep steadily towards your position is a concept that makes spines shiver like a can-can show.
As you keep a watchful eye on the static-laden screens, your only source of defence is a speaker system which emits a child-like sound that entices the animatronic to its location (as is my understanding – much of this was trial and error).
In between checking the cameras and blocking vents to keep yourself protected, you also need to be aware of any faults in the system. When warnings blink that the camera or sound or ventilation has become faulty, you are given seconds to restart the system before mayhem occurs (quite how you restart a ventilation system is left to the imagination).
But with the animated creature honing in on your position, your shift takes an ugly turn throughout the night as the once-beloved animatronics from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza make an appearance, knocking you back and causing a brief period of panic.
It is these moments which seem to serve as the crux of the game’s most terrifying moments. Unfortunately, by night three, the surprises quickly become nothing more than mild inconveniences, serving up a little something to keep you on your toes while Springtrap makes his or her move. Truth be known, the jumpscares stop being scary rather abruptly.
What I found most intriguing about FNAF3 is the tension that derives not so much from the horrors that lurk around the corner, but from the clock that ticks away the hours until your shift ends at 6 A.M. As time moves more slowly the further into the game you get, I found myself in full-on edge-of-seat mode as 4 A.M. rolled on by.
I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how long it took me to finish the official final night (night five), but suffice it to say that Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 does something to gamers that is missing in a lot of indie titles: it keeps them coming back.
After a while it doesn’t matter about the horrors. The panic of seeing Springtrap appear around the door frame (there are no doors and/or locks) is juxtaposed by the player’s desire to keep on going. A sheer will of determination completely overthrows feelings of fear. By the closing hours of a shift, I found myself cursing at the jumpscares rather than recoiling from them in terror, as though I was pissed off that they would dare interrupt me when I’m trying to work.
By that account, the horror goes. Poof. Vanished like a cat in a rainstorm. You forget you’re playing a franchise that is considered one of the most terrifying in the indie community. But that may not be the game’s fault.
Visually, there isn’t much to say about it. Pre-rendered graphics serve as a backdrop, much of which is shrouded in darkness anyway and obscured by irritating static on the camera system. The minimalist animations of the creatures do breathe a bit more life into the game though, as you see movement in the corner of your eyes and wonder what it was. .
As with most horror games, sound is probably one of the key elements to really kick up the tension. Thankfully, FNAF3 delivers a decent amount of ambience, with environmental clues, jumpscare screams and an unnerving soundtrack all setting the atmosphere.
Ultimately, Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 still has its merits, and it presents a brief yet challenging endeavour, which is all you can ask for in a game that costs £5 (about $7.50 US). You’ll find yourself annoyed each time you die close to the end, but you’ll also keep coming back for more like the sadist you are. Honestly, it’s a job done well done, as far as I’m concerned.
This review is based on the PC version of the game.
Scott Cawthorn returns with Five Nights At Freddy's 3, and while the horror continues once more, it doesn't last very long.