Five Nights At Freddy's used to be pretty damn scary. Granted, I had my first experience with FNAF when I was a kid, but I had my first experience with Hostel when I was a kid too and that still holds up. Over reliance on jump scares aside, the early Five Nights at Freddy games hold up too, but the horror feels lacking in the latest edition, Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach. These days, the only thing scary about the game is creator Scott Cawthon's political views. Zing! Who said TheGamer couldn't do satire, eh?
There have been a few changes for Security Breach. For one, it allows you space to free roam, and is set in a mall rather than the classic pizzeria. It also consists of just one night as opposed to the usual five. I'm all for games taking risks with their direction, but all three of these elements reduce the fear in Five Nights At Freddy's - or should I say One Night At A Place That Isn't Even Freddy's. FNAF at its best leaves you feeling claustrophobic, like you're trapped in a room at the Capitol Building while armed assailants threaten to tear down US democracy. Zing again! Two in a row! Seriously though, Cawthon is just terrible.
The free-roam feels like it missed the boat on 'all games should be open world', but also actively takes away from one of the game's strongest elements. The fact that it's not in Freddy's also feels wrong - a mall can work for horror, with many horror flicks using the mall as a staging ground and Netflix's century spanning trilogy Fear Street never scarier than when it was in the food court, but combined with the new free roam, it just doesn't feel like Freddy's. The change from five nights to one night doesn't help, stretching the tension out rather than making everything feel shorter and more immediate, but that's probably the smallest factor here.
In fact, while these are all the changes the game is making, none of them are the biggest problems with Five Nights At Freddy's. It's a wonder the series pumped out as many games as it did without changing it up in some sort of similar way, in truth. The problem is the same one that comes for all horror franchises in the end - Five Nights At Freddy's has no idea what it wants to be. This would be hard enough without the series becoming a meme, but with that to keep in mind as well, Five Nights At Freddy's is stuck.
It could keep pursuing the harder horror elements of its early days, but it's hard to keep that fresh when the series is already a little bit tongue-in-cheek and camp. Either you lose that fun and dive into more extreme horror, the way the once delightfully over the top American Horror Story has done with the darkest scenes in Cult, Red Tide, and Death Valley, you repeat yourself over and over again as FNAF was already doing, or you try to lean into the more popular, sillier elements and become a parody of yourself in the way Resident Evil has. Security Breach is the Resident Evil of Five Nights At Freddy's.
While the creatures remain monstrous, macabre animatronics, there's more than a little furry in them these days. The jump scares used to be expertly timed and energetic enough to deliver a scare, even if it could get a little cheap. Now, they just feel silly. Part of the problem is that the first game was new, and this one has to be different to something that already exists, while my own experience with horror games might also be leading to a lukewarm reaction this time around, but if you change this many things about your game and the main takeaway is you made one of your monsters sexy, that's probably a you problem.
Five Nights At Freddy's isn't sure what it is anymore, and in some ways, it's sad that a series that launched with such energy seems doomed to run out of steam. But also Scott Cawthon sucks.
No matter what games women play, we get told to play something else