The Thing (Xbox)

The Thing (Xbox)

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 10/19/2002 for Xbox  

I’m going to violate rule number one of being a man right now, this game scared me and it scared me good. I literally played this game like a little wuss, hunched up on the back of my seat, always bracing myself for the next big thrill. Black Label Games’ The Thing delivers perhaps the most genuine thrills of any game to appear on the market this year, and that’s no easy task.

The story takes place after the events of the John Carpenter film so it could actually be looked at as a sequel of some sorts. Featuring an entirely unique story, scientists discover a strange liquid at an alien crash site. After coming in contact with the liquid, a superior officer becomes strangely ill. That’s when you come in. Assuming the role of Captain Blake, you and your squad are dropped into the site to investigate the occurrences. You’ll have three days until the plane returns for evacuation, just enough time to fit in the entirely storyline and a cavalcade of spine-tingling chills.

Thing is actually a beautifully done game. All of the visual elements are just amazing, from the characters to the NPCs to those freakish aliens, everything just oozes of quality. If you have a choice I suggest you pick up the Xbox version of the game, the textures are much richer and the blood looks much better. Though they are at the core, the exact same game, the Xbox is just a better visual package.

The audio portions are also well done, the voice acting is surprisingly good and breaks the clichéd started by Resident Evil. As you progress you’ll start to hear more and more noises, further heightening your fear. In terms of using sound as an atmospheric device, The Thing does a damn fine job of it. You’ll even have Dolby Digital Support so you’ll hear 5.1 channels of heart thumping effects. Again, due to the Dolby support, the Xbox wins in this platform race.
Relying heavily on the psychological aspect of fear, your life and well being depends on how well you manage your mates’ fears and perhaps more important, your own fear. Utilizing a very unique trust/fear interface, your survival is heavily dependant on your interactions with your squadmates. Hit one of them with an errant shot? You can expect them to remember the pain for a long time. Hook one of them up with some munitions? They’ll be grateful for your generosity. The entire system revolves around trying to discern exactly who has been infected by “the thing” and who hasn’t. How you act around your squadmates and NPCs will dictates the squadmates’ trust level. Icons are used to tell the whole story so that you’ll receive instant feedback from your squadmates.

It works brilliantly because it capitalizes on the foundation that the film built. It’s almost like mind-chess in where the protagonists were playing mental mind games in hopes of revealing the infected. It works exactly the same way here, acting out of the ordinary will arouse suspicions amongst your comrades. Usually there will be visual cues as to how you can gain trust, healing injured squadmates is usually a great way to do so. Fear is also present in the NPCs and they’ll do interesting things to show it, like wet their pants on the spot. It’s funny in some ways but in a lot of ways, it conveys a realistic reaction to the situation at hand. This game is great at building up a sense of fear because it doesn’t rely too heavily on cheap thrills a la Resident Evil, but rather builds it up in the mind of the gamer. You never know when one of your squadmates just might spontaneously combust into an alien. After the first time it happens, you’ll find yourself being paranoid from that point on, I guarantee it. I was so scared shitless that I found myself worrying about it every ten seconds, I would tell my friends about it when they came over and of course, it never happened in their presence. Of course it happens as soon as they leave, was it really happening or was it in my head? I have no idea, all I know is that I almost wet my pants the first few times it happened.

The Thing is nice but there are a few problems that proved to be quite bothersome. This game is painfully short and perhaps even worse, the storyline is absolutely linear. So that means that there isn’t much replay value, unless you like playing the same game over and over again. The trust/fear interface also has a few problems. Often times the AI squadmates have a tendency to run into your range of fire. Well let’s say you’re blasting away at an alien and your buddy decides to wander into your path, you’re going to hit him right? Well guess what happens when you do? He gets pissed and starts firing at you. Even though it was entirely his fault, he’ll still get upset at you.

The Thing is proof that an excellent film to game adaptation is indeed possible. It’s not exactly the best game to come out of the survival horror mold (Eternal Darkness holds that distinction) it’s still a damn fine game. Make sure to keep the lights on or you’ll be in for one hell of a scare. I never want to play this game again and I mean that in the best way possible.
Black Label games shows us that a movie to video game adaptation can in fact yield above average results. An interesting game that helps further define the survival horror genre.

Rating: 8.4 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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