I’ve always found a certain comfort in the institution known as the yearly horror franchise. Sure it’s easy to let out a groan as the trailer to the 47th Saw movie is released, but when it’s all said and done there is a pang of regret that comes when that popular franchise has its first year without an installment.
If we are to believe that Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 is indeed the final chapter (which traditionally hasn’t been the case for horror franchises bearing that tag), I’m going to be sad to see it go. Its popularity among YouTubers and the internet in general, has made each release the kind of communal experience that horror films used to inspire in their heyday.
If you’ve never had the chance to experience these games yourself, allow me to summarize the series. You play an overnight security guard at Freddy’s, a children-centric pizza place that features animatronic creatures as entertainment, that is in no way a play on the heavily copyrighted Chuck E. Cheese’s. On your first night, you are warned that the animatronics have a nasty habit of coming to life and committing murder if not properly watched. Your job is to keep an eye on the camera feeds so the right security systems can be triggered at the right time to prevent your grizzly death.
Got all that? Good. Now forget it.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 shakes up the game’s formula in some pretty key areas. The biggest being that the game no longer takes place at Freddy’s pizza joint, and rather the home of a small boy who replaces the security guard character of the previous games. Seemingly surrounded by the robotic, demonic nightmares of the previous games, you must somehow yet again survive through five nights.
Your methods of doing so are slightly different from the previous games. Rather than having multiple cameras and a full security system at your disposal, you are limited viewing one room or area at a time, and have only a flashlight available to keep away the monsters. As you may imagine this flashlight’s battery life is fairly limited, meaning you must learn the habits and movement patterns of the monsters to ensure you have enough juice to use it at just the right moments.
Considering that the security systems in these games have been getting increasingly more elaborate with each installment, downgrading your defensive methods to one item could have been a huge step back for the series. What saves it is the developer’s decision to emphasize sound over visuals in garnering your clues to the creature’s whereabouts. You will have to listen closely for every movement and noise, which leads to an environment of unbelievable tension. It also helps to preserve the sanctity of the jump scare moments, as you see the creatures much less outside of the instances where they pounce on you.
However, even with all of these changes, the game still does revolve around those jump scares, which remains its most divisive element. To some these jump scares are the defining aspect of this series. There is a thrill that comes with finding the game’s big jump moments, and an even greater pleasure to be found when you share your memories of them with fellow players. To others they are a cheap way of inducing fear that may have been somewhat novel in the first installment, and have long since worn out their welcome.
I find myself somewhere in the middle on that issue. Yes the game is scary in the same way that ice cream is good, but this series has absolutely nailed the art of manufacturing a tense environment in order to maximize the effectiveness of those jump scares, and the removal of many of your defensive options as well as the increased focus on sound to enhance the environment only add to that.
Sadly the Android version of the game does take away from environmental aspects slightly, though the use of some rather large screen prompts that help you switch between rooms and activate your flashlight. They take up a good bit of screen real estate and it feels like there must have been a better way to convey this information without their presence. It also does bear mentioning that these games are historically short. Your first playthrough might take you a few hours, and after that you will likely not pick it up again, except perhaps to show a friend.
Finding out if Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 is for you is a pretty simple matter. If you’ve never played the series before, I’d recommend starting with the first one. If you’ve tired of the series, or if you were never a fan in the first place, this may not have enough in the tank to change your mind.
Who this game is meant for, then, are the fans of the series who are ready to go once more into the breach. That may sound like a small market, but they are the group that will appreciate the formula this series has found, and that it was able to make enough tweaks to it without throwing the appeal out with the bathwater. Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 is far from a revolution, but it is a fun and memorable experience that will still scare the hell out of you if you give it the chance.
But is it Hardcore?
Though mostly the same old game, Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 makes enough changes to the franchise to be worthy of being considered its best ever