The Thing


Review by Cheese Hasselberger



Graphics: 8

Sound: 8.5

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8.5

20 years after the film by John Carpenter, Universal Interactive creates a sequel to the horror classic, and is one of the few film to game transitions that works in almost every way.

Officially endorsed by Director John Carpenter, The Thing picks up right where the movie left off.  You play as special ops officer, Captain Blake. You and your team have been sent in to investigate an incident at an isolated research post in the Antarctic.  When you arrive you find the station decimated and some very strange clues leading you on the trail of a shape shifting alien virus that can take the shape of any living thing it comes in contact with, often taking over the shapes of your comrades.  Itıs up to you to search for survivors and clues to solve the mystery of what happened to the facility.

The gameplay is fast paced and often absolutely frightening.  You really get the feeling that youıre alone and lost facing ridiculous odds with limited assistance and supplies.  It  moves from level to level giving you just enough help to get you through it alive and on the tips of your toes.  Along the way you come across various survivors who will either help you get to new areas, heal you and other characters of your squad or perform various tasks you, for whatever reason, cannot do yourself.  You can share your supplies and weapons with them, but hereıs the tricky part; these guys are so scared theyıre about to piss their pants. (I actually got one to!) Itıs part of your job to keep the men under your command calm enough to function, if you donıt theyıll freak out and attack you.  So you calm them down by arming them, or medicating them, or running human/monster tests in front of them.  Then the only worry you have is if the virus infects them, because if it does, theyıll suddenly transform into vicious creatures and attack you too.  I have to admit the squads tension dynamics were one of my favorite parts of the game.  Balancing fear and trust in all of my men was more tricky then I expected, and a great addition to the rather bland robot like drones you get in most squad based games.   These guys all had their own paranoia and tolerance to stress levels.

The enemy monsters in The Thing are varied and deadly. There are five types that you come across often and a couple of really off the wall bosses.  The common types range from small spiderlike annoyances to speedy humanlike hunters to bullish powerhouses that can gouge your team to shreds in no time at all.  Luckily youıre equipped to handle them.  Pistols, machine-guns, grenade launchers and everyoneıs favorite, flame-throwers are at your disposal.  Smaller creatures will go down with a few well-placed shots, but the larger hunters require both bullets and flame attacks to put them down for good.

The learning curve is pretty lax and the folks at Black Label Studios have got a great slow ramp up into the heavy action.  Not to say the game is easy, there a couple of levels that are downright infuriating, but that just adds to the satisfaction.  The game has a great mix of rather simple puzzle solving, and outright maddening combat.

I really liked the look of The Thing.  The enemies are good and creepy, misshapen and dangerous.  An audible, "Oh Jebus!"  could be heard late at night in my apartment when encountering a new boss or variety of baddie. The bosses are really fun.  They let the designers go nuts and really recapture the feel of the original movie.  The levels are spooky, dark and have a good variety.  The human characters leave a little to be desired, itıs no Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid, but the graphics get the job done with no real complaints.

The voice acting is really meaty and dead on to the characters.  Iım really glad that this seems to be a trend in games.  Long gone are the days of another survivor horror series embarrassing roots.  The voices here are scared and fit the characters and situation perfectly.  On top of that, hooray for cursing!  When surrounded by my friends, who keep exploding into vicious sharp clawed beasts, I donıt yell, "POOP!"  No, I yell, ""SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!" just like the characters in The Thing.

Thereıs very little I can say I didnıt like in The Thing.  There were some elements of the story that didnıt make the most sense, timed events that couldnıt be avoided (a squad member will pass the human/monster test, then take 4 steps and turns into a creature, frustrating), and some control issues.  Your character was pretty limited in the movements he could make and pretty stiff when he would do the ones he could.  The camera was also a little too bland and didnıt allow for any options in the game view and made it sometimes hard to look around on the fly.  Also commanding your troops sometimes was frustrating because of a lack of options, but thereıs enough to get you through the game fine.  The biggest pet peeve I had was the load times.  Why is it that some games keep the level in memory and when you die it just resets the level instead of forcing you to return to the main menu to load in a save point?  It takes upwards of 90 seconds to two minutes to watch the dying cinematic, the load time for the menus and then the reloading.  Itıll have you screaming at the tube like you were stuck behind my great aunt Mildy on the freeway.  It also has limited replay value.  Iım guessing there are gonna be a lot of these in the resale rack in a few months.  So if you wanna save a few bucks, give it a month or two and these will be all over the place.

Overall, I found The Thing to be a total blast that delivered everything it promises and maybe a little extra.  Itıs 11 long levels of intense action and sometimes-simplified puzzles.  Itıs rated Mature from the ESRB and rightfully so as itıs jam-packed with gore, violence and cussinı.   If youıre a fan of the movie, or a survival horror fan, this one is a must buy.


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Last updated: Sunday, April 22, 2007 09:05 PM