The Thing
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, Xbox
Publisher
Universal Interactive
Developer
Black Label Games
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Great use of team strategy
• Lots of action
• Huge spoken parts are well done
• Good difficulty

The Bad

• Occasional bugs
• Poorly implemented save system
• Graphics can look blocky at times

 
Grade
B+

The Thing is not so much a game based on a movie as it is a game based on the sequel that was never made. The story picks up some months after the end of the first film as Captain Blake is part of a team dropped in the Antarctic to investigate what has happened. After searching through the wreckage of the American base, Blake decides to meet up with the other squad, as communications with them have been lost. When he finally meets up with them, he discovers what the researchers before discovered - a legion of alien life forms that can mimic people to hide themselves and attack when they feel the time is right. This leads to situations where neither Blake nor the men he's with trust each other.

To write this off as a survival horror would be a mistake. While there are the basic elements - combat with monsters, finding notes and keys and solving puzzles to open doors - The Thing has a larger focus on utilizing your fellow team members. As Blake, you command up to four people, each of which will fall under one of three categories - medic, soldier and engineer. It's in your best interest to keep these guys in good health and favor. The medic will heal your people when there is no combat (great for saving health packs). The engineer is useful for repairing and opening doors. While Blake can do some of those repairs himself, the engineer is often needed for bigger jobs. Even though the others can use weapons, the soldiers are great to have around in a firefight. From the team menu (press the Triangle Button) you can tell certain members to stay or come with you, give them weapons and ammo or even check their level of fear and health.

Your allies gain fear seeing the carnage that is left, often around the various distorted bodies. They'll become agitated and you either need to move them out, tell them to stay somewhere else or give them an adrenaline shot to temporarily make them feel better. If not, they may puke or even worse, freak out and huddle up in a corner. Keeping your allies fear in check is just as important as making sure they are healthy. Luckily, they give you clues, like saying how they're going to freak out, their heads will move about sharply in the team menu and they even acquire icons over their head to inform you of the degree of fear they're getting to.

While fear is an issue in keeping your allies well, trust plays an even bigger part. Since everyone thinks everyone else might be a Thing, you'll have to gain the trust of some of your allies by either completing a task (killing off some Things) or giving them weapons and ammo. But, be careful not to do something to lose their trust, like taking weapons away or not helping in a firefight. Some allies may even require you to take a blood test to prove you're human.

All of these elements are successfully put together and used well to get the player through the game. And, don't be afraid that it may all be too confusing. Changes in your allies can be noted through either verbal keys (they love to chatter) or even icons that pop up over their head telling you they need health, ammo, are losing sanity or trust or even that they see an enemy. If you're thinking that all this squad maintenance means the game is going to be slow, have no fear - there is LOTS of gunplay. In fact, you'll be amazed at some of the intense gunfights you get into. The gunfights can be simple shoot-outs with the smaller Things, or more intense with the larger beasts that require to be worn down and then burned with a flame-thrower, or even fighting your allies when they turn on you.

Visually, the game sports nice large sections and a wide variety of textures and effects. For the most part, the game looks good. Areas are well detailed and filled with various furniture a debris. There are some areas where the game has rough, jaggy edges and for the most part, everything looks a little blocky, as if they need a higher polygon count to smooth out the edges. This is also the same for the character models, who tend to look good, but come across a little blocky and stiff. Fortunately, though, the texture maps used to decorate both are often well-detailed enough to cover up and make everything look sharp and grim. From the ambient lights of the rooms to the flares and flashlight your character can use, the real-time lighting effects are nicely done. While I was left wanting a larger variety of Things, the variety of looks your allies have are more than enough to help distinguish them. My only real complaint about the graphics is that during cutscenes, the characters tend to look like puppets mouthing lines.

The audio portion of the game is top notch and really adds to the game. The sound effects are dead on and you'll think the monster screeches are ripped straight out of the movie. The music is reminiscent of the film and the voice acting is pretty good. You'll be impressed with the large amount of speech in the game. All of the NPCs have lines, even if it is just to tell you their condition. What's even more surprising is the amount of foul language, so much so that sometimes it may even seem excessive.

But with all that's good with The Thing, there are some issues that crop up, whether they be by design or lack of testing. First and foremost, I don't care for how the save system is done. It requires around 2-3MBs of space and it's set up like Resident Evil. Unfortunately, though, the game is broken up into different stages and you can't just run back to a previous save point like you could in RE. And, there will be stages where it will take you some time and effort to even find the first save point, so don't be surprised to die and restart the same section a couple times. Besides the save system is a few minor graphic issues, like a few instances of polygon "flickering" (gone one second and back the next) and a few times there was some slowdown. Nothing major, but noticeable. Also noticeable is some clipping issues where characters can pass through each other, doors and even when they get too close to walls.

While the A.I. is smart enough to do some things on their own, they seem unable to do other simple tasks, like following you from one roof to another or up a plank. I assume this may be the reason why there's no jump button in the game, as programming the AI to follow you when you jump would have been to taxing. And, some of the aspects of the game seem, well, off. At one point, you'll need to open a door where Blake states he smells gas. If you light a flare and throw it at the back of the building, it will magically roll into (yes, into) the building and explode the fuel, opening the door. Fortunately, these kind of events don't happen often, and most of the rest of the objectives seem smartly developed.

Even with the assorted minor bugs and glitches, The Thing is a solid action title with some really nice strategy aspects to it. Be warned though, The Thing is harder than most games I've played in recent years. Not by the fact that it's cheap, but by the fact that your characters are human and can die by "real" reasons (stepping into the fire, blowing up gas containers). It's a great sequel to the horror movie, and a solid game on it's own. There's more than enough action to keep you going throughout the length of the game.

- - Kinderfeld

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