Five Nights at Freddy's (PC) review
"Horrific resource management and jump scares galore."
Horror and I have always had a rather difficult time. I have a hard time with it, since I'm so susceptible to immediately taking the piss out of games that are try-hard scary and they typically have a hard time getting to me. I've been rather cauterized to horror; I blame binge playing Quake 2 on the N64 when I was six. In fact, the only horror game to consistently get to me is Silent Hill 2, and that's because of one thing: atmosphere. Dread is a much more powerful emotion than fear. Fear just incites a reaction; dread stifles reactions. Five Nights at Freddy's does dread fantastically.
Five Nights at Freddy's core gameplay is essentially a resource management game in which you keep an eye on four murderous mechanical mother-humpers so that they don't kill you. Beyond this, you've got controls for the blind spot outside your two (!) doors and a button to close said doors. Having just one door would make it easy. Having two makes it absolutely terrifying, since looking at one camera leaves the other unsupervised. One of the things that Freddy's does differently from other horror games is that the game is essentially unscripted. Rather than predictable pop-scares that happen in games like Amnesia that are great for the first or second time through until you memorize where all the spooky stuff happens, Freddy's works through an essentially unpredictable -if simplistic- AI. This helps keep the aforementioned dread at peak levels. Will you have an easy night where everyone pretty much stays to themselves, or will they be at your throat for the entire six hours? You can't know until you're through.
Going back to the controls, the incredibly restrictive nature of them is really what sets this game over the top. The structure of the building is such that the security office is flanked by two narrow hallways, giving credence to the fact that you're stuck there. In other horror games, you always have the option to turn tail and run. Here? You can't, in both gameplay and story. All of these factors make a horror game that truly is timeless. It's a game that remains scary even after playing through it once, due to its inherent unpredictability.
What doesn’t help is the fact that this game does not have resolution scaling which is inherently harmful to the game experience. What I usually end up doing is Alt+Enter-ing once the game loads and then maximizing once more so that there aren't any hideous stretching of images. Apart from that, this game really is quite good from a visual perspective. The art style is superb for the style of game this is, there's loads of small touches (like handprints on Freddy's face; don't believe me? Look on the wiki.), and it does the great thing of being realistic enough to not look a Lego construction, but still obscure enough in detail to let your mind conjure up the rest. That's why high-fidelity horror games don't work as well as some of the lower-fidelity ones: there's no space for your mind to work against you and add in all the details you really don't want to see.
Unlike in a lot of genres, a masterful audio design is absolutely imperative to the horror game experience. This game has a masterful audio design. The ambiance, the sound effects, the hallucinations... it's all fantastic. A game that absolutely must be played with headphones. I don't have much else to talk about here, but just know that this game's audio direction is one of the best I've ever seen in a horror game (and that's stacking up against Amnesia, Slender, Fatal Frame 1-3; in fact, the only thing comparable in sound direction is Silent Hill, and that's just for the Yamaoka headed ones).
I can sincerely see this game being one of my top five games of the year, and for five dollars, you really can't go wrong if you're a fan of horror but not so much a fan of just jumpscares. This game isn't about jump scares. It's about the aforementioned sense of dread; something that most horror titles just don't get.
Community review by TechieRefugee (October 25, 2016)
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