Trilogies are a dangerous thing to make these days. The expectations to finish something strong is very difficult to pull off. A lot of people liked the first Matrix movie, but hated the next two in the series. The majority of people love Godfather 1 and 2, but thought 3 almost ruined the series. For me, Spiderman 3 sucked so much, but Spiderman 2 is one of the best superhero movies.
But what happens when there’s a trilogy of video games? It’s just as complex to execute it correctly. So much so, that there are franchises, like Half-Life, that don’t even attempt it. Hell, I still demand a Startropics 3. Get on that Nintendo.
But what happens when one of the biggest independent horror video game phenomena of recent memory comes out and popularizes the genre of scary games? Then a sequel comes out months later and becomes an even bigger phenomenon to behold. Well, that means that the expectations of the third game better be the best game it can be. That’s a lot of pressure for a video game company to hold. Especially when that company consists of one person.
Five Nights at Freddy’s has been a game that’s turned a lot of heads when it comes to a well written lore, unique and simple gameplay, memorable characters, eerie settings and lots of explorable easter eggs. The game came out in August of 2014 with no real advertising outside of word of mouth. Popular Let’s Players on YouTube showed off the game and thousands flocked to try the game themselves. I remember when it came out, because a good friend of mine told me I need to see this game, and when I did, I was very curious. In fact, it’s the first time I watched a Markiplier video and subscribed. And even me, a guy who doesn’t play a lot of horror games and who hated jump scares, and I loved the ambiance, the challenge and the freakouts. I still stand by this game as being amazing. And I loved the sequel even more, with even tougher challenges and more chaos to behold.
What I also loved about Five Nights At Freddy’s is that it’s the game that helped me get back into video game reviewing, because after I played it, I really wanted to write about it and share it with my readers. I was in a slump for a long time, and didn’t have much to say about a lot of topics, and this game helped me articulate my thoughts after playing. I thank Scott Cawthon for this. And if I had a computer that can run Bandicam without it slowing my computer to near a grinding halt, I’d be right there, streaming with the Let’s Players and showing off my skills with them.
But with the third game coming out unceremoniously in the first week of March, does this final chapter give us the same frights, scares and challenges that made the first two games great? Will this third installment make this stand out like the Star Wars trilogy, or make this suck and want us to forget, like the prequel Star Wars trilogy? Let’s dive back into the security room. New building, new threats, same damn fan.
Our story takes place 30 years after the events of the first game. It says so in the description on Steam, so there’s no shock that it’s a prequel like the second game did. It looks like someone found the old abandoned restaurant and wanted to make a haunted house out of it at an amusement park. And of course, we play the silent protagonist hired to be the security guard at this event. And with only a week until the event opens up, they are still setting up the location, with drawings and creepy relics from the rumored story of evil and terror. Then they find the jackpot, a fully mechanical robot, and you are now the guinea pig to test it out to make sure it can still kill. Terrific. I’m trapped in a haunted house with a moving bunny costume. This could easily be a Scooby Doo episode if they opened up the mask to reveal it’s Old Man Winters.
So let’s meet the robot. It looks like a bunny at first, but looking closer, it’s almost like a hybrid of all the robots from the past games. The eyes look like Balloon boy, the skin is like Freddy, a smile like Chica and the murderous appetite like Foxy. It’s really quite a terrifying thing to look at. And the story, spoken again through exposition by the same phone guy, is that it’s a hybrid of a wearable costume and a mechanical robot. Apparently turning a crank retracts the mechanical parts and allows people to wear it. In my opinion, that’s the most inventive idea in the whole game. It gives the mystery of wondering if there’s anyone inside, causing havoc, or if it’s another machine out to kill like in the first two games.
The biggest issue I have with the game so far is the robot’s name. Meet Springtrap. It’s not a horrible name by any stretch, but it loses the factor that it was designed to be entertaining to children. “Hey kids, who wants to hug Springtrap?” Somehow I doubt there will be the sound of cheering children after that quote. I’ve been calling him Brandon. Why not? He’s related to Bonnie, so it needed a name that starts with B. Plus the name “Brandon” poses as much of a threat to me as “Springtrap”. Plus, it’s a creature that meanders around lost, and never asks for directions. It must be a dude.
I’d like you to meet the other robots, but the thing is there is no more. You only have 1 robot to deal with this game. Really. The first game had 4 robots to worry about (excluding Golden Freddy), and the second game had 11 robots to worry about. Here, they’ve simplified the game by having to worry about one threat. And the objective this time is to prevent the robot from getting to you, because you no longer have a flashlight, doors, or a Freddy mask to protect yourself. You are pretty much defenseless. So to reflect, the first game was more of a survival horror, the second game was more like a tower defense game, and this one is ostensibly a hybrid of red light/green light, red rover, and capture the flag. Only this time, the flag is that meat poncho you call skin.
You have your standard issue camera to look at, and the multiple camera angles you can see all the action. The biggest difference with this camera is that there’s a lot of static to interfere with your vision. It makes finding what you’re looking for the more difficult. Also, instead of instantaneous flicking to the next screen, there’s an added delay whenever you switch camera angles. This adds a lot more depth and planning to your actions, and I really love the idea. Also, you can switch to the overhead ventilation system, and see if the creature is crawling around it. They’ve added doors above that you can double click to close, preventing the monster from advancing. There is a delay in closing the door, so if your reflexes are slow, you’re doomed. Best part of this camera system is that the screen doesn’t take up all of your screen, so you can see threats walk on by. It’s the little things that count.
The camera also provides with a button that shouts Balloon Boy sound effects in the location you are looking for. And this new mechanic drastically changes the game from all the others. You use sound to misdirect the salvaged beast. Pressing the audio button will lure Springtrap to that location, but only if he’s within earshot of the sound played. And it’s not a 100% system, as several times, he went his own direction.
One other thing that I need to mention about the camera is the fact that the layout is a little different than the last two games. Five Nights had a huge array of locations that connected to each other like a giant banquet hall, followed by two narrow paths that leads to your precious head on a stick. The second game had an even bigger area with a large hallway in front and two ventilation shafts between you. Here’s it’s a lot smaller and a lot more narrow. It’s almost S shaped, and has a few rooms that the killer bunny can deviate to. This allows you to have a better idea where he’s going, and where it could be. I like this simply because it helps estimate better where he could possibly be and where he can go, making the planning and preventative measures a lot simpler, and makes you feel good knowing you stopped it before he got to you.
To the left of your cameras is the menu system. There are three systems that can go offline at certain points in the night, and restarting them is essential. Of course restarting the system takes several seconds to do, and leaves you vulnerable to Brandon’s antics. You can restart one, or all three, which takes longer. There’s the video system, which keeps the camera up. There’s the audio system, which allows you to play the sounds. And there’s a ventilation system, which affects your psyche. If you leave this system offline for too long, you’ll start losing visibility, like you’re blacking out, and that will allow the abomination to get closer to you undetected. Ventilation errors can occur at random, or when a hallucination occurs.
Oh yeah, did I mention the hallucinations yet? Well, guess what? All your friends from the past are back. There’s a balloon boy, there’s Freddy, there’s Chica, there’s the marionette, there’s Foxy and Mangled. And there’s … Wait, no Bonnie? Damn, I miss her. So these hallucinations occur when you trigger a random event. And those events are usually when you are staring at the camera for too long. All the old robots randomly show up on specific screens, and if you stare at that screen for too long, a jumpscare happens and the ventilation system shuts down. I have mixed feelings over this at first. I mentioned this at first, but I really hate jumpscares. I find them to be cheap and lazy ways to scare an audience. But I praised the first two games’s uses of jumpscares, because they were more of a consequence to your overall failure, thereby encouraging you not to fail at your duties. In this game, it’s used as a distraction, forcing you to be away from the action, and lose your target much easier. Now to be fair, you can avoid a lot of them by moving away from the camera angle as quick as you can, but some are unavoidable. I’m looking at you Foxy, wherever the hell you went.
With all those hallucinations of past robot masters coming back to freaking you out, it makes you realize that the new terror, the only one that can kill you, is actually the least scary thing the game has to offer. Springtrap, by design is pretty terrifying to look at, but the animations and jumpscare shots aren’t really that intimidating. Losing feels more like an irritation more than a scary ordeal. There are spots on the map that are pretty much represent thresholds. Once he crosses that line, and you can see him walk across before he gets to you, there’s no winning unless you can stall until 6AM. He doesn’t even open his mouth to try to eat you, it just stares at you with that evil grin, and then it’s game over.
One of the biggest gripes I have with the game is that it’s much, much easier than the first game. The mechanics are a lot more involved, and figuring them out at first is challenging and fun to discover. But once you have a system in place, the game get’s so much straightforward. I eventually worked it so that I pinned the monster on camera 5 the entire time, while closing down vent 13 as a precaution. It worked, and I ended up finishing the game, including nightmare mode in about two hours. Compare that to the four hours it took me to beat Night 4 of Five Nights 2. And there is no Night 7 “20-20-20-20” mode to challenge with, and there is no threat in Night 1, so it’s more like a tutorial. So the game is also much shorter than before.
So if that’s the case, then what does the game offer to the fans of the series? I would argue that it offers the one thing that final chapters of trilogies need to make the fan base leave happier.
The subtle lore of the game series is what makes the fans come back for more, and all the secrets in the games lead to a lot of speculation and theories as to what happened outside of the game. And Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 offers the one thing that the fans wanted. Sweet, merciless justice.
*** This next section has spoilers. If you don’t want to know the ending, skip to the next set of asterisks **
See, based on the newspaper clippings and easter eggs in the first two games, it’s led to believe that a series of murders occurred in the restaurant by someone known only as “purple guy”. And those killings involved children. Each time you beat a night in this game, you get an Amiga-style playable cut scene that depicts each robot from the first game being led to be slaughtered by this “purple guy”. And the final scene shows the purple guy gets chased by a crying ghost child. He then runs into the Springtrap suit and gets killed, because having a whole bunch of gears and cogs that can activate by accident doesn’t seem like a good idea. And then you are greeted with the phrase “Bad ending”. Yup. For the first time in this series, this game has multiple endings. And that’s not including the end of nightmare level that talks about the haunted house being burned down. (By the way, I think the Surfer phone guy is in the Springtrap suit. Think about it, you never hear from him again after the second night, Purple Guy’s flesh would have been rotted away from 30 years of room temperature exposure, plus he seems so stupid that he sees the suit and wants to try it on himself. That’s just a theory.)
The good ending occurs when you find all the appropriate easter eggs in the form of mini games. You play several mini games in the same Amiga style, as some of the main robots, and most of these games have simple objectives and end locations. But your objective is to find the appropriate glitch to find the lost child in the game, either by going through a broken wall, or to go outside of the preferred barriers. This feels like such a metaphor that it’s touching. Once you solve them all, and finish the game again, you get a touching end screen with beautiful piano music, signifying that you have saved the lost souls of those children. It’s pretty beautiful and a wonderful way of ending the series.
*** Spoiler section ended ***
With the fact that Scott Cawthon’s website now has a lone Freddy hat as the splash page, it’s safe to say that the Freddy Fazbear phenomenon has come to a close. And I for one couldn’t be any happier. I love this series, faults and all, but when it’s run its course, a creator should know exactly when to hang it all up. And I respect Scott for stopping when he did. Granted, if he does make a Five Nights At Freddy’s 4, I really hope for a lot of success of him. You know, so long as it doesn’t involve Chica going to Russia to box, or Bonnie going back in time to bring back whales or something stupid.
All in all, this game is flawed, and even I can admit that Five Nights at Freddy’s 3, overall, is not the best in the series. It’s gameplay is much simpler, and the challenge just wasn’t there. But the story and the atmosphere are better than ever, and I still had lots of fun with all three games. The Freddy’s series was never meant for everyone, but those who loved the series have nothing to be disappointed about with this final installment. If you played the first two, and enjoyed them, you owe it to yourself to finish the trilogy off right.
Now that that’s done and over with, I’m going to grab a beer and watch some televi-aaaahhhhhhh! Damn it Foxy, you can’t do that to me. Gave me a heart attack you jerk. You’re lucky you’re my favourite, or I’d clock you.