After a long wait, one of the scariest games out there reaches Oculus Quest. How does it hold up? Find out in our Five Nights At Freddy’s VR review!
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is one of the most highly-anticipated VR games of the year for Oculus Quest users and it turns out that excitement is warranted.
If you’re somehow unaware, Five Nights at Freddy’s VR is a game in which you take on the role of a late-night caretaker for a chain of pizza restaurants themed after animatronic stuffed characters — just like Chuck E. Cheese. However, once the lights go out these robotic characters like to move around the restaurants, creating chaos, and doing their best to get to you before sunrise. Your goal is to survive, you guessed it, five nights.
Using security cameras, door control switches, and other gadgets at your disposal you’ve got to keep them at bay without leaving your desk. The catch is that each playthrough is different since they’ll never take the same paths twice and you’re working with limited power usually, so it’s all about resource management. What ensues is a mixture of sheer terror, constantly building suspense, and a twisted game of hide-and-seek mixed with Red Light, Green Light.
The first time you flip the cameras between rooms and notice that one of the twisted furry faces has moved but you can’t tell where it went will send chills straight down your spine. And because of how expertly crafted it all is, just as you start to think maybe you’ll make it through the night and survive — BAM! — you’re dead.
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR is a great example of how, if done well, knowing a jump scare is coming can make it 100x more terrifying. Your hands lock up, your arms freeze in place, and maybe you even close your eyes while holding your breath, waiting for the sense of dread to pass. Then just as you start to feel safe again is when it hits. It’s like Freddy and his cohorts are actually watching you, in real life, and know to strike just as you start to breathe again.
Every. Single. Time.
A major contributing factor to what makes Five Nights at Freddy’s VR so successful here is the pacing and overall format of how the scares are delivered. Each passing moment you aren’t doing something means an increase in the likelihood something bad is going to happen. The more tense the atmosphere gets, the more paralyzed with fear you become, and the more powerful the scares feel when they happen. It’s this perfect storm of anxiety and tension that amplify one another with each passing second for a vicious self-feeding cycle of horror.
At its core, then, Five Nights at Freddy’s VR is founded on a super simple gimmick, but adding the immersive layer of VR makes all the difference. Clicking buttons on a screen is one thing, but having to physically reach across a control panel, turn your head to watch doors and cameras, all while reaching to the side to press a button at just the right moment, and taking full advantage of 3D space, is exactly what makes Five Nights at Freddy’s VR work so well.
I know these games have been around for a long time and the original creator likely never intended for them to be playable in VR, but this really does feel like a definitive version of the experience. VR makes these scenarios so much more immersive and so much more stressful.
I’d be lying if I said Five Nights at Freddy’s VR doesn’t get repetitive. It absolutely does. And while there are dozens of levels here to play through offering a few solid hours of playtime, if not dozens if you struggle to get through some of them and meet your demise often, you are generally doing the same few simple things over and over again. But this isn’t a VR horror game you’ll binge in one or two sittings, in all likelihood.
Reviewing a game like this was tough because I literally had to take breaks to calm my nerves. Whereas other horror games, like Resident Evil 7 VR or The Exorcist VR, have intricate narratives to ponder and detailed environments to explore, Five Nights at Freddy’s VR is more like the world’s most highly-concentrated anxiety simulator. And it’s exhausting.
That being said, I feel like that was the goal here and it absolutely succeeds.
When I first played Five Nights at Freddy’s VR at a PSVR preview event over a year ago, I could immediately tell it was going to be a hit. The indie horror franchise is one of the most-successful and recognized series out there, with a litany of merchandise deals and a multitude of sequels, so it already had the brand recognition going for it.
Then you add in the best ingredient to immediately make any horror game scarier — VR support — and it’s a certain recipe for success. Thankfully the team at Steel Wool Studios didn’t just adapt levels for head-tracking and call it a day, but instead fully ported over and improved existing content with excellently realized environments, perfect motion controller tracking, and even a bit of new content to equal a package that serves as a greatest hits of the series while still offering it from a new and much more terrifying perspective.
And while it’s far from the focus, there is some background context and lore here. Most levels are preceded by well-written and comical voicemail messages that establish the tone really, really well. I’d have loved the chance to actually explore the environments more. A follow-up that involves being a janitor tasked with cleaning up the restaurants while the creatures are out and about could be an amazing new direction for the series.
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR Review Final Verdict
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is the kind of VR game you take a deep breath to steel yourself before playing. This is a masterclass in suspense that offers the most tense and powerful scares you can find in a VR headset. I’d even argue the Quest version is now the definitive edition of what was already an excellent collection of terrifying frights and suspenseful jump-scares thanks to the portability and near parity on all fronts.
While it may be difficult to play for very long before your heart rate spikes, it delivers the most consistent and unnerving jumps of any VR horror game out there, held back only by its repetition and lack of variety — both of which are still worth overlooking.
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is available starting today for Oculus Quest and is cross-buy with the Oculus Rift version. The game is already available on Steam for PC VR headsets and on the PSN Store for PSVR. All versions of the game are $29.99.
This review is primarily based on the Oculus Quest version. For more on how we arrived at this score, check out our review guidelines.