Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Thing Week: The Thing Game Retrospective

Since I have not played The Thing game, I figured that I would let Barry from Zombie Command take the helm on this post. So, I hope you enjoy and thanks Barry for helping me out!

I don't remember when I first watched The Thing; I vaguely recall watching it when I was younger, or at least I have the impression I saw the dog scene before I can remember the full film, but by the time I was in my mid-late teens and getting into movies it was definitely a favourite and one that I have strong memories discussing with my other film critical friends.

Indeed I have fond recollections of many John Carpenter films. With so many clasics it's hard to say which I saw first but I do remember getting a free movie soundtrack CD on the front of some sort of film magazine which had the theme to Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween on it, and listening to them, enraptured with how perfectly they set the tone of the film (and also how very 80's they were). Surprisingly though, Carpenter didn't score The Thing.

In fact, such was the impact of The Thing that one of the first DVDs I bought was the limited edition version back in early 1999 (the first one was Playboy's The Best of Jenny McCarthy, which I owned a full year before I bought a DVD player, and is still one of my favourite comedies). Along with Aliens "That's in the room man", it had one of the most quoted by me lines during my late formative year: "You gotta be fucking kidding".

So, at some point in 2002 - 2003 there I was in Game looking down at The Thing video game on PS2. Promises to continue the story and some decent reviews encouraged me to lay down the £17 required to purchase and take home the game and boy, was it worth it.

The Thing is a survival horror game (how could it be anything else!) in the same vein as the original Resident Evil games, right down to saving the game on a tape recorder (although at least you don't have to find ribbons). Set just hours after the events of the film, players control Blake, a soldier sent to investigate the incident.

The promises of adding to the world of The Thing were quickly fulfilled. Players encounter Childs' mutilated body and are led down to the UFO that Blair was building. After planting some more C4 and destroying the facility utterly Blake is dropped off at another facility to try and find out why Alpha Team aren't responding.

Ultimately the player would uncover that The Thing was still alive, that the government was aware of it and experimenting on the alien lifeform and then has to fight their way through black ops and Things to make a daring escape aided by helicopter pilot... MacReady!

What made The Thing different to other survival horror games of the time (and since) was the trust mechanic. Players had to keep the trust of their team mates, which is difficult since the game made it possible for any one of them to be infected. To gain their trust players could give them a (already scarce) weapon and keep them close at all times. Of course the game forces the player to sometimes be away from the squad mates, resulting in distrust and fear.

Players would also have to measure team mates sanity; exposure to mutilated bodies and alien life forms does not sit well with some people. If a team mate goes off the deep end, they would often run away, start firing at the team (forcing you to kill them) or commit suicide. Of course the Thing plays into that and tries to get the player to keep it near and hand over weapons, meaning that it was often impossible to tell who was infected or not. Killing a human team mate thinking it was a Thing would almost certainly meant that the remaining members would think they were infected.

Graphically The Thing still looks good. I got it for PC and was pleasantly surprised by how well it holds up for an 8 year old game. The characters and locations are still quite sharp and the flame effects are still impressive.

The majority of the game is exploration, combat and puzzles, all of which are executed nicely, and the controls seem better on PC than they did on the PlayStation although were still sometimes a little imprecise.

The Thing plays as you'd hope it would, expounding on the world and as a bonus I believe that it is canon in the Carpenter Thing universe. For fans it's a must play if you can get a hold of it, serving nicely as an end another chapter of the story and with the prequel due out in April 2011 how could you not want more of The Thing.

ZC Barry is an 80's child who on occasion, gets to see the odd film without and zombies in it. To read more of his writing head over to


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