The third game in the super creepy Five Nights at Freddy’s series does come with a few differences to the previous two games. The series’ creator – a gentleman by the name of Scott Cawthorn – decided when he initially released this way back in 2015 on PC to make things a little different. So, now the game has finally arrived on Xbox One, I strapped on my big boy pants and dived back into a world of creepy creatures and more jump scares than you can shake a Freddy Fazbear action figure at.
The story is obviously very important, and not just a vehicle for jump scares and bloody homicides. FNAF 3 is set 30 years after the events of the first game (although confusingly, the second game is considered a prequel to the first, and chronologically this game is the fifth), and as such it is not set in a pizzeria. No, it takes place in a horror-themed attraction called Fazbear’s Frights, where props and equipment from the aforementioned pizzerias has been collected in order to scare people with the still unsolved mysteries of the pizzerias. Of course, as is expected now, there is an advert placed for a night watchman to come and keep an eye on the place during the hours of darkness. What could possibly go wrong?
Now, one of the departures this time around is the animatronics that we’ve all come to know and dread. The bad news is that the familiar faces – Bonnie, Chica, Freddy, and even Foxy the pirate – do not feature as models this time around. Instead, after the first night, the day staff find an older-rabbit type animatronic, quite degraded and deteriorated, and they call it “Springtrap”. Guess who we have to avoid for the rest of the week?
Now, the setup for keeping him far away is a bit more complex than before, with multiple systems to keep an eye on all at the same time. We have to look at the camera system, which not only covers the rooms in the complex, but the air vents as well. Audio systems can be used to play sounds that attract Springtrap towards them, and obviously while he’s worrying about noises he’s not biting your face off, so that’s a win in my book. Finally, the ventilation system needs to be maintained, as if the air goes bad you start to have hallucinations.
The hallucinations can also jump scare you, believe it or not, and they are of the original gang of animatronics. As you flick through the cameras, trying to spy Springtrap, if you see Freddy or Chica, for instance, staring back at you, quickly flick the camera away to the next one before they can “attack”. Their jumpscares can’t physically hurt you this time, but they can and do cause issues in the three systems you have to monitor, leading you to have to reset them. Now obviously, while the cameras are down you can’t see Springtrap, and if the audio systems fail then he’s going to be on his way to visit…
There isn’t much in the way of defences this time around, however. The doors can’t be closed, the air vent into the office can’t be closed, and so your only hope is keeping him away; as far away as possible. There are shutters in the vent system that can be shut, and with a combination of those and the audio system distracting him, maybe you can make it to morning. If Springtrap manages to make it to the office, it’s game over man, game over!
In yet another departure for the series, FNAF 3 has two endings to achieve. The first is awarded for just making it through the shifts, and completing the mini-games between shifts. These games are like the ones from Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, and seem to show the story of how Springtrap came about. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but it’s pretty good. The second ending involves playing certain mini-games at specific times, and they must be completed in slightly different ways. For instance, one of the games sees you collecting balloons, but if instead of going through the exit you jump through a wall, you can find a cake and deliver it to a sad child, which changes the ending. There’s more to it than that, and luckily there are no end of guides on a popular video sharing website. Suffice it to say, the way to get the good ending is flippin’ convoluted!
Graphically and aurally it’s pretty much business as usual with FNAF 3, with grainy CCTV having you squinting at the screen, trying to see if there’s movement, and the usual payoff of a jump scare, an elevated heart rate and a need for clean pants if Springtrap makes it through. The gameplay is a lot tighter this time around as well, and feels more professional – more polished. However, I can’t help but feel that with Freddy et al reduced to phantoms, a large part of the soul has been taken away from the game. The earlier two games provided compelling experiences almost because of the slightly shonky way they were programmed; they felt more menacing when there was more than one thing to keep an eye on, if I’m honest.
That’s not to say that Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Xbox is a bad game, far from it, but it is like a faded photocopy compared to the original; you can see that you should be scared, and the effects are more polished to make you feel that way, and yet the whole is less than the sum of its parts. I have enjoyed my time with FNAF 3 – if ‘enjoy’ is the correct term – and maybe that’s the difference: the other two made playing an uncomfortable experience, where this feels more like a game, and therefore less scary.