Believe it or not, Five Nights at Freddy's will be five(!) years old this summer. The terrifyingly stark horror game by independent developer Scott Cawthon taught us to hate and fear Chuck E Cheese-style animatronics all over again. We thought we'd put the dull, clicking eyes of the Rock-afire Explosion "players" out of our young brains decades ago, but one jumpscare from ol' Freddy Fazbear is enough to remind us those fears never died. They just went to sleep for a little while.
"Psht, the jumpscares in Five Nights at Freddy's don't bother me anymore," you scoff, like the filthy liar you are. Rest assured the latest entry in the series, Five Nights at Freddy's VR: Help Wanted, tests your nerves like no other entry that's come before it. As you might expect, the Five Nights at Freddy's experience becomes a hell of a lot more stress-inducing when you take everything that's frightening about the series and stuff it all directly into your eyes and ears. It was the first game I played at the dawn of PAX East 2019, and quickly discovered the haunted ghost pizza it serves up is a much more effective morning pick-me-up than all the coffee in Columbia.
You can perform multiple activities in Five Nights at Freddy's VR that call back to events in later games, e.g. fixing the animatronics while praying they won't unravel and bite out both your eyes. I chose the good ol' vanilla Five Nights at Freddy's experience, which more or less re-creates the titular five nights of the first game. The rules are still simple: Stay in one spot, keep an eye on your security cameras, and slam the door quick if one of the animatronics gets a little too close for comfort.
In fact, Five Nights at Freddy's VR echoes the first game in many ways; the mysterious Phone Guy, voiced by Scott Cawthon, even delivers his fumbling, "Uhhh, hello? Hello?" at the start of your shift, accompanied by the same instructions from the first game. But then you quickly realize your slow, dumb human body doesn't seem to be interested in helping you stay alive. You're expected to "press" the buttons that keep the lights on and the doors closed, and needless to say, your hands aren't as efficient for button-jabbing as the swift mouse click you mastered five years ago. The animatronics move through their night time routines a bit more slowly to accommodate, but rest assured Five Nights at Freddy's VR makes you understand why heroes in horror movies stumble and flail when a cool head and steady hands would easily free them from the chainsaw-wielding maniac closing in behind them. The human body is a treacherous thing.
Worse, Five Nights at Freddy's VR has a host of creepy new sounds to horrify and confuse you in addition to some old "favorites." When I played, Foxy sang his rum-tum-tum "pirate" song for me, kindly letting me know he was on the move and hungry for blood. But I also heard whispers and laughter, and something that sounded like the near-indecipherable call of a child in distress. Nope. No thanks. I'm good. In any case, I didn't suffer for long. Chica the Chicken jumped directly into my face while I futilely screamed and flailed my arms like a genius. Game Over, man.
The small but noticeable changes to Five Nights at Freddy's VR make me wonder how much new lore the game will inject into the series' canon. There's a surprising amount of backstory going on in the Five Nights at Freddy's games, and sometimes exposition pops up where you least expect it. We'll know more when Five Nights at Freddy's VR: Help Wanted comes to PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Steam, and Oculus this April.
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