There are probably a lot of games series that I have missed out on over the years, but one that I had never played, but has seemed to have seeped into the gaming consciousness, is that of the Five Nights at Freddy’s games. I am aware of the franchise as it seems to be absolutely everywhere, from action figures and Funko Pops to novels; all over YouTube as well. Well, I am no longer a stranger to these games now, as thanks to Microsoft’s fantastic Game Pass service the first four games are playable on the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. So, come with me to a deserted pizzeria, and, er, leave the light on, will you?
Five Nights at Freddy’s is pretty simple. You work for Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, that is apparently modelled on successful American chains like Chuck E Cheese and so on. The big selling point for the Pizzeria is Freddy Fazbear and his band – a group of jolly animatronics who entertain the kids during the day. But at night, it’s an altogether different story…
We are employed as a night watchman to keep an eye on the restaurant between the hours of 12 midnight and 6am. As we begin our first shift, somebody rings us to let us know what is going on. This person (known only as Phone Guy), tells us that in order to prevent the animatronics servos from freezing up, when the restaurant is closed, they are put into some kind of free roam mode. He suggests that, if the animatronics manage to find us, they assume that we are some kind of exoskeleton that needs putting into a suit; as you can imagine, a squishy human being shoved into an animatronic suit, full of wires and sharp edges, doesn’t end well. So, it would be in our interests not to let any of the animatronics reach us. The question that follows centres on whether or not we can survive the following week at work.
At this point it’s worth getting to know our adversaries. There’s the titular Freddy Fazbear, who is the leader of the band, so to speak, and then both Chica the Chicken along with Bonnie the Bunny come to play. These three are the main attraction for the children, as they make sweet music together. There is a fourth animatronic, Foxy the Pirate Fox, who is sequestered behind a curtain in Pirate Cove, as he’s apparently out of order. Whether he stays that way is an entirely different matter, of course.
The only tools we have at our disposal are a shonky old CCTV system, that allows us to see what’s happening around the place, a pair of lights and a set of doors that can be shut. However, we also only have limited power to get through to the morning due to the building being, er, run on batteries or something? Anyway, every action you take drains power, whether that being checking the cameras to see who’s moving, turning on the lights on the left and right of the room to check if we are about to have visitors, or slamming shut the doors to keep the cuddly mascots out. Now, this may not sound too taxing, except for the fact that the atmosphere that Five Nights at Freddy’s creates is genuinely terrifying. I have never been so on edge in a game as with this one – you can forget your Resident Evils and Silent Hills, true terror is a darkened pizzeria, with some animatronics that may or may not be sentient and homicidal, and a dwindling supply of power to keep tabs on them with.
Foxy is a particular horror, as if you keep an eye on his Pirate Cove, he doesn’t come out to play, but if you don’t look at the camera often enough he can escape. It’s not helped that he is the fastest moving animatronic of them all, sprinting down the corridor to get at you. To suddenly lower the camera monitor and see a baddy looking at you, before leaping and scaring the life out of you is genuinely frightening. Switching to a camera to see Bonnie looking straight out from it caused a few palpitations as well, I can tell you. If you run out of power (and it’s easy to do, trust me) then Freddy himself will come to deliver the coup de grace, appearing through the darkness with glowing eyes, playing a jolly tune before finishing you off. I cannot overestimate how on edge Five Nights makes you feel; playing in the dark, with headphones on, is probably the creepiest gaming experience I’ve ever played, bar none.
In conclusion then, Five Nights at Freddy’s on Xbox One is a very creepy game, but one that achieves big results with limited resources. Using nothing more than some creepy singing and things that go bump in the night to deliver jump scares if the creatures reach you, Freddy will have a profound effect on you. It’s scary, it’s atmospheric, and it will make you jump. If you are looking for a genuinely frightening game, then look no further.