I first saw ?John Carpenter's The Thing? in the theater. Needless to say, since I was 9 at the time, my mother got some interesting looks from her fellow moviegoers. I don't remember much of it except that it scared the piss out of me. As an adult, I've seen the movie many times. Every time it gets me. Just the idea of a situation like it ? you never know who is the alien ? is enough to send a chill down the spine. Combined with John Carpenter's incredible horror talent, The Thing is a classic. The perfect example of what a horror movie should be.
I had high hopes for the game, and I have been rewarded. The Thing starts as the movie ends. You and a small squad of commandos are sent to see what happened to the Antarctic research station after all comms go silent. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a mystery. The complex is mostly destroyed, and little information is available as to what actually happened to the station's crew. From there it just gets more terrifying....
Simply stunning. If this is what the gaming industry has in store for us in the future, I will be a very happy man. Textures are crisp and clean, models are well articulated, and the monsters are disturbingly realistic. Also of note is the ongoing blizzard featured in most of the game's environments. Using fog effects to their best ability, visibility is cut when winds gust, and light markers are the only way to get from building to building. There was one minor item, though. When choosing the resolution, the choice for 1280x1024 was oddly absent. This was easily made up for by the inclusion of a refresh rate fix built into the Video menu. Running Windows XP, the benefit of this is immediately noticeable.
The effects are some of the most realistic I have ever heard in a game, you'll want to turn this up and play in the dark. Crunching snow, electrical shorts, the sounds of the Things, all of it is well done. The lack of music only adds to the suspense. Everything is quiet except for the constant sound of the blizzard outside. Voiceovers are the only flaw. During cut scenes, many times the voiceover would stop completely. Since you receive some of your objectives this way, it can slow down your actions. It also detracts from the story, causing odd breaks in the game's emersive qualities. At times there is also a decided lack of emotion when you or your squad mates speak. Also, many of the voiceovers are done by the same actor, or actors with very similar voices.
Spooky. Really spooky. About on par with Clive Barker's Undying, this game gives me the creeps. The interface, although not very intuitive, is still fairly easy to learn. Thankfully the more complex inventory management and squad management screens automatically pause the game, allowing for strategic placement of squad mates, and easy passing of inventory from teammate to team mate. The most amazing aspect of the game is the AI. Your squad is quite aware of what is going on, and bouts of panic and mistrust can bring any one them to their knees. Extreme sites can terrify a squad mate, while giving a frightened member a gun can bolster and calm his frazzled nerves. You must constantly be aware of how close to the edge your teammates are. This is monitored by checking the Squad menu. The more agitated a team member's portrait is, the closer to the brink that member is. This fear can be so detrimental that the squad member may actually commit suicide to escape the situation. Also used extensively is trust. As a squad member loses trust in you, or begins to believe you may not be human, the less he will do for you. They can be anything from fiercely loyal, following your every command, to openly hostile and willing to shoot you on sight. Finally, a game AI is also a good shot. Taking cover when they can, your squad mates act like trained veterans, and react well to many stress situations. Get this ? they stay out of your line of fire! Proper use of your team is also essential to the mission, as is making sure everyone makes it through alive. To save your game, you must find an Audio Recorder save point. These are placed fairly evenly throughout the game, so it is rarely an issue, but can be a little frustrating if you miss one. Also, you only have 10 save slots (3 for the PS2 version), so use them wisely. The story is mostly non-linear. Depending on your decisions, you can follow your own path through the complex story line. Although not fully freeform, it adds for some replayability, giving new surprises each time you play. One issue I did have was the uselessness of the blood tests in the game. Due to scripting, you could test a guy, clear him of infection from the alien virus, then hit a cut scene and watch him change into an alien horror. I eventually stopped using them unless required by the story.
There is no Multiplayer feature.
This game is incredible. I will, however, say this: Don't ignore that M stamp on the box, people. This game is gruesome and disturbing. An odd mix of 3rd person shooter and adventure game, it manages to pull both off in one nice and easy package. Grab this game! If you haven't seen the movie, make sure you pick it up first, though. There are many references and movie related Easter eggs that you will miss if you don't. With only minor flaws and an innovative gameplay idea, this title is a must own!