The general rule of thumb with a movie/game tie in is – they are terrible! The ‘Thing’ game is no exception in this case, but, it is in some of these shortcomings that make it the weirdly enjoyable classic that it has become.
Released in 2002 by VU games, The Thing is a third person shooter/puzzle/strategy/survival horror set just after the events in John Carpenter’s The Thing movie. You are Blake, Leader of an Army Special Forces Unit sent in to check for survivors at Outpost 31; where Macready and co had a run in with the Thing.
In terms of atmosphere, this game has it in spades and the tumbledown shell of Outpost 31 is set against impenetrable blizzards and near visibilty. You even discover the body of Child’s and Blaine’s attempt at a trash can flying saucer.
However, atmosphere alone isn’t going to carry this game which after all is a shooter and that is where the main problem is.
Your main opponent is ‘heads on legs’, as a low level enemy they scuttle around and are generally annoying. In the movie, this happened once when the Thing was under flame attack, in this game, there are hundreds of them.
The next level of opponent is the soldiers – themselves, the ones who are infected and become the Thing, these guys and anything bigger including big bosses, need drilled and then toasted with a flame thrower to kill them.
The issue with all this is that you are encountering an army of Thing’s left, right and centre and whilst it makes for a fun shooting game, it lends itself more to Half Life than anything from the John Carpenter movie, which relied on the suspense and fleeting appearances of the Thing.
Your squad ‘react’ to the environment around them, if they see a dead Thing they puke and piss themselves, they may even blow their own heads off if it gets too much. You can counter this by giving them adrenaline shots to calm them down but I found it easier to just let them pop one in their own skulls, as they quickly get annoying.
The soldiers are split into groups :
Shooters – who can’t shoot for shit.
First Aiders – who heal people
And Engineers – who fix ‘advanced’ fuseboxes, more on them later.
Your soldier pals betray a fundamental flaw in the game, namely some change at fixed points into the Thing and attack you, everytime.
This is despite blood tests which you can use on yourself and the soldiers to prove who is and who isn’t infected. If you reach one of these fixed points, even if the soldiers test has been negative – just prior, they will still turn into the Thing.
This defeats some of the point of the Thing game in that it was the fear of the unknown and of who maybe was and wasn’t infected which made the movie so memorable.
I always found it far easier to leave the squad behind, preferably in a room full of Thing gore where they would get depressed and kill themselves. Better this than having to waste a flurry of bullets and flame thrower fuel on them later, which is in some short supply throughout the game.
The game also boasts a ‘trust engine’ which means if your soldiers believe you are the Thing they may turn their cannons on you. You can combat this by a number of methods including :
Giving them a gun.
Not shooting them.
Giving First Aid.
Or taking a blood test in front of them to prove you aren’t the Thing.
Your character can’t ever become the Thing – you just die, which is a pity as it would be grossly cool for you to be assimilated.
The next challenge, aside from the hopeless AI of your squad is – ti progress you have to fix fuse boxes. Your character can fix certain basic boxes but you really need to keep an engineer alive to fix the advanced fuseboxes. The rest of the squad you can pretty much dispense with.
So in terms of levels the first level is the remains of Outpost 31 and the second level is the Norwegian base. After that, the game pretty much goes off on a tangent with a story about the your superior, Colonel Whitely and the US Government trying to contain and study the Thing.
So about halfway through, the game pretty much dispenses with Thing opponents and you end up fighting US Special Forces who are dumber than dumb, lining up to be shot.
The end villian is a bit disappointing and the reappearance of a familiar Thing character from the movie will leave you scratching your head.
Controlwise it isn’t bad, I always find keyboard/mouse driven shooters easier to play than the joypad variety. The AI in this game isn’t the greatest either, considering its pushing the ‘Trust Engine’ concept.
But the Thing does have a kind of flawed charm about it for all or its obvious shortcomings. It feels like Doom and Half Life wrapped up in a Thing blanket for sure but it does at times capture a little essence of the movie, especially in the first 2 levels.
It was a decent enough effort for 2002 and with the new Thing prequel on its way out, its bound to remind people of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new Xbox 360 or PS3 game is winging its way out, either way if its a direct movie tie in, remember the rule…….
Hawking Bot – Thing Prequel Movie Review Video – Here.
Check out my other Thing Prequel review – here.
The Thing game nice cleaned up HD look – courtesy of Kakoroto