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Thing, The
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Console: Microsoft Xbox
Year: 2002
RFG ID #: U-075-S-03690-A
Part #: S7143780
UPC: 020626714372
Developer: Computer Artworks
Publisher: Universal Interactive
M (ESRB): Blood and Gore , Violence

Genre: Action/Adventure
Sub-genre: survival/ horror
Players: 1
Controller: Standard Controller
Media Format: DVD
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Collection Stats:

  • 133 of 7581 collectors (1.7%) have this game in their collection
  • 5 of 7581 collectors (0%) have this game in their wishlist.
  • 1 of 7581 collectors (0%) have this game for sale or trade.

Sequels for horror movies rarely match the feel of the original. Sure, some of them are better, but are they as scary? I feel that in a attempt to recapture the feel (and audience) of the original film, most horror sequels are content with following the same basic formula of the original. So how do we get over such a thing? In the scope of this article, the answer is to create a movie sequel in the form of a video game. But does it work? Can the same kind of horror that stalks us on the silver screen translate to a completely different format, one that tends to rely on completely different ways to frighten the participant? The Thing attempts to incorporate the same survival aspects and monster design featured in parts of the film and couple it with squad-based shooter elements and team management into what is hoped to be a winning title. Did Computer Artworks succeed with such a lofty ambition or was this project doomed to failure from the onset? To find out, we'll have to fly south to see what has happened since the original film ended. Bring your coat, as I fear the cold can get overwhelming rather quickly.

The Thing is a third-person, action/survival horror title developed by Computer Artworks and published by Black Label Games on Windows, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in 2002. It was conceived by Universal (the holders of the IP) as a sequel to the John Carpenter cult classic, with an endorsement from Carpenter himself (who also has an in-game cameo ). To those fans of the excellent Dark Horse comic sequels, I am sorry to inform you that those stories and conclusions are ignored in this title. So, to the game. *Ahem*

"Some time later" a special forces unit made up of two teams (Alpha and Bravo) arrives at the remains of U.S. Outpost 31 in Antarctica to investigate. With your investigation team firmly on the ground, you take control of Captain Blake, leader of Alpha Team, who was sent to check out the burned out outpost while Bravo goes to the Norwegian camp. Though it helps to have already seen the 1982 movie in terms of filling out the story and gameplay, and applying logic to some of the situations, it isn't necessary. The basic structure of the game is rather straightforward due to it's shooter-based gameplay and expected weapon load-out.

The twist in this game and what makes it special comes in the the form of squad and survival horror mechanics. The squad mechanics require one to maintain and balance a group of up to three NPCs of which there are three types - soldier, medic, and engineers, each with their own special abilities to aid you in your investigation. Soldiers are main fire support, medics heal team members without using precious health packs, and engineers can fix regular and advanced junction boxes, which allows you to net valuable supplies and keep you free to shoot while he opens the door. Combat-wise it contains many of the elements that are familiar to third-person shooters.

The survival horror mechanic, called the "trust/fear" system, deserves its own paragraph. The name is self explanatory, but how it is implemented is interesting. First of all, you don't actually control your squad members in the traditional sense of the manner, but rather give them orders. Their willingness to accept those orders is based on how much they trust you and how afraid they are. Anything positive they see you do, such as giving them ammunition and/or weapons, healing, shooting at the creatures, or doing blood tests on yourself adds a certain amount of trust. Now the inverse, fear, is increased when your squad sees you doing "negative" things, such as shooting squad members (whether by accident or design), standing back and doing nothing during battles, or giving out too many blood tests (that are not on yourself). When their fear increases, it makes them less willing (or completely unwilling) to follow your orders. Their overall mental health also affects their fear, seeing too many grotesque monsters, too much environmental gore, and too many corpses will lower this percentage, because they are loosing their minds. As a result, they will start to get twitchy and some of them will even urinate or get sick.

If you've seen the original film, then the blood tests probably need no further explanation. In the context of this game, a blood test is used to illicit a reaction when a small sample of blood is treated with a chemical in a syringe. In a normal human, nothing happens, but if the human is infected, it causes a reaction, which alerts you to their.....inhumanity. Outside of the plot, this issue is the main crux of the game: The human versus the inhuman, made slightly more difficult because the aliens can appear as exact replicas of human beings.

The first enemy you encounter in The Thing is the cold. It is important to remember that you are wondering around Antarctica; stay outside for too long and you will die from exposure. Thankfully, unlike real life, there is a blue bar that tells you how much longer Blake can stand the cold. Once you seek covered shelter, the timer resets and you are free to wonder the frozen wastes again.

The rest of your enemies are creatures that come in a variety shapes and sizes, of which there are a variety of ways to kill them. However, there is one constant weapon in the game: Fire. Fire is not only the most useful way to deal with the majority of the enemies, but in case of the larger creatures, it is the only way to permanently destroy them. You can also use fire to block enemies and trap them in rooms. Conversely, fire is also your enemy in this game as you can take damage from it. Fortunately, there are fire extinguishers available for your use.

The bosses in The Thing are interesting and challenging (provided you've mastered the game mechanics), but they are short in number, numbering only four in total, including the final boss. In a further twist of fate, your squad mates can also the be the enemy. Remember all that talk of infection and such? If one of your squad mates becomes infected and you don't notice via the blood tests, they WILL turn on you, mutating and ripping themselves apart in a gruesome fashion before attacking you. Even if you manage to not get attacked by infected teammates (pretty much impossible, for reasons we will discuss later), if they completely flip and no longer trust you, they WILL turn on you and shoot you for one of the infected. This can be particularly heartbreaking in situations where you really need a heal, or when you pass an optional room that your engineer could have gotten you into....too bad you killed him in self-defense two rooms back.

As I alluded to earlier, there is a 100% guarantee that a squad mate will turn infected and try to kill you. "But, Bomba," you say, "if I use the blood test I can suss these monsters out, right?" Technically that is correct, however (and at least some of you knew this was coming) there is at least one scripted sequence where a squad mate WILL turn on you, regardless of your previous actions. And yes, even if you've just performed a blood test and found them to be human, it will happen. This is the greatest complaint leveled at this game; at any time, these characters can and will become infected. It is entirely possible that you will lose characters before they are "scheduled" to die. I certainly did, and this frustration is exacerbated by the limited amount of blood tests available for pickup and the limited time that you have to perform them.

Before I close out this review, I'd like to add something disappointing about this game. I only ask that you keep in mind everything wonderful I've written previously about this game. The Thing fails in the same way as many other games from this particular genre: It hasn't aged very well, and its design is antiquated. Not bad, mind you, just old, and while that is not always the death-knell to an old game, the sad fact is that The Thing doesn't do anything particularly well to make it timeless. As a result, it has been forgotten among the sea of mediocre games released at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, and the successful tidal wave that was Vice City.

Specifics of features that make this game fall short, you ask? Okay. The Thing has an auto-aim mixed with a pseudo iron-sights aiming (improved), it uses scripted triggers to start and end nearly every event in the game (vastly improved), and the dialog includes a lot of cursing that does nothing to improve atmosphere and further the story (sort of improved). Despite these flaws, the game completely nails squad mechanics. You aren't simply taking your team over and moving them around like puppets, but you have to keep them sane and happy so that when the times comes, they will follow your orders and back you up. This mechanic a bit step up from many games that came after it, in my opinion. Finally, I think the survival horror in this game is very unique among its peers, because it is a game that wants you to question the people you are forced to rely on to survive. "Is that medic going to wig out soon? He seemed awfully calm during the last firefight, and you have exactly zero medkits left, so if you loose him that's pretty much it."

Overall I think The Thing is a good game that more than deserves to be remembered for not only its interesting gameplay, but for its gall for taking a cliffhanger ending from a cult hit movie and running with it. It certainly is worthy of being recognized as the sequel to the movie, as it features a lot of gore and touches on the same kind of paranoia, while still managing to add a bit more to the formula so as not to just rehash the plot of the original. Sure, it certainly isn't the top of the pile as far as survival horror games are concerned (in any respects), but along with Siren, it is one of the most unique entries among its peers in this normally predictable genre. I feel that this game deserves a pickup and play through for survival horror fans, and is surprisingly good considering the state of John Carpenter approved sequels. So if you ever wanted to know what happened at the end of the original movie, play through this game and you'll certainly gain the knowledge you seek. Just don't turn your back for too long, as you can never tell just who is......The Thing!

bombatomba's Review


Console Reg. Type Title Publisher Year Genre
Microsoft Xbox Germany S Das Ding aus einer anderen Welt Konami 2002 Action/Adventure
Microsoft Xbox United Kingdom S Thing, The Konami 2002 Action/Adventure
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