Review by Old
"Who Goes There?"
One of the classic novellas of science-fiction literature was penned
in 1938 by John Campbell, Jr. The fairly innocuous-sounding title,
Who Goes There, led stunned readers into one of the most
horrifying and original scares they had ever experienced. Set in
the Antarctic, the original tale centers on the ability of the awakened
alien "Thing" to change form, shape-shift, and assume
new identities. The tension, then, revolves as much around wondering
who can be trusted as it does directly encountering and trying to
destroy the "monster."
In 1950, the premise of Who Goes There was brought to the
screen, in chilling black and white, as The Thing from Another
Planet. Although departing from the original story as regards
the "alien chameleon" nature of the Thing, the film still
made a great impact on this writer during my freshman year in high
school, likely beginning my hair loss.
Then, in 1982, the master director John Carpenter created an instant
classicsimply entitled The Thing. Returning to Campbell's
original concept of trust versus suspicion, Carpenter wove a gripping
story of survival, desperation, paranoia, freezing cold, and sheer
terror! Prior to playing the wonderful game, you are "required"
to rent or buy, then view, this memorable video. Let me share some
salient quotes from the film that help set the tone for the gamea
game that, by the way, follows up the 1982 film's narrative and
theme very closely and is set four months after the film concludes:
- "We're a thousand miles from nowhere, man, and it's gonna
get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better!"
- "I don't know what's in there [with the dogs], but it's
weird and pissed off!"
- "It's an organism that imitates life forms, and imitates
- "How long were you alone with that dog?"
- "I don't know who to trust; watch Clark, watch him close."
- "Are you gonna listen to Gary? He could be one of those
Things, and it doesn't want to show itself."
- "How do we know who's human?"
- "Nobody trusts anybody now, and we're all very tired."
- "It just wants to go to sleep in the cold till a rescue
team finds and reawakens it."
- "We'll just wait here for a little while and see what happens."
Where the Movie Ends, Your Mission Begins
Three years ago, Computer Artworks created one of my favorite non-bestselling
games, Evolva. Using gorgeous graphics and a very inventive,
even a bit weird, storyline, the developer introduced a team of
four Genohunters who were designed to "genetically adapt to
deal with whatever they were confronted with." Instantly absorbing
genetic materials from its foe, the Genohunter can mutate its abilities
and be sent into combat situations too hazardous for humans. Sound
like a familiar theme? Indeed, likely without overtly realizing
it, Computer Artworks was almost creating a set of four "Things"
as heroes! What better studio, then, to accept the challenge and
responsibility of developing a video game sequel to Carpenter's
"The Base Is Gone, Colonel!" Blake
To the whoosh of helicopter blades fading into the black Antarctic
night, you (Blake) and your team of three are deposited just outside
the station, which has been strangely quiet for the past four months.
The weather is deteriorating, and it's unlikely you can count on
support, let alone rescue, for the next few days. Of course, with
your teammate specialists including an ace soldier, a sophisticated
engineer, and an invaluable medic, you feel quite confident to deal
with whatever "arises," so to speak!
From the fine paper manual to the interface and in-game field manual,
The Thing smoothly introduces you to one of the most tension-producing
games I have ever experienceda most worthy followup to the
film. The first few of the 19 levels include helpful tutorial pop-ups.
What initially appears to be rather daunting as regards team management
quickly becomes integrated into your gameplay.
While initially glancing about after landing and before entering
a facility, you soon notice a blue health bar moving downward due
to the 40-below conditions. This circumstance continues until entering
the relative warmth of housing and is an overall factor pervading
the entire game. You may temporarily evade the monsters, perform
a task, or find an item by going outside, but you can't stay out
The Thing is primarily a third-person action/shooter/adventure
game, with terrific and unique twists! You'll have short-term and
overall mission statements throughout the levels; inventory items,
weapons and other materials to find; doors to open; computers to
access; blood testing; and a ton of shooting, grenade-hurling, and
flame-throwing to do! On the face of it, the game seems like a Resident
Evil clone. Far from it! Let's take a look at what separates
The Thing from the rest of the pack.
"How Do We Know Who's Human?"
Recall that line from the film? This anxiety-producing theme has
been beautifully carried over to the game, and it has to do with
your squad mates and others you encounter in your perusal of the
The particular specialties of your squad are required at various
points throughout the game. Although you, as Blake, are a "jack
of all trades," there will be times you'll need the Engineer
to open an advanced junction box, the Medic to back the team up
in a nasty firefight, the Soldier to use his expert marksmanship
in unusual situations. Although you only play as Blake, the leader,
simple "follow, stay, go to" orders can be given to the
team members as individuals or as a group, and you do have the responsibility
of disbursing found weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, etc.
to appropriate members. Which brings us to paranoia.
You may recall that our alien monster, both in whole and little
parts, is uniquely adept at taking human form as a disguise. If
a team member, or another, has been left alone, you can't be sure
whether or not he has been "occupied." Indeed, sometimes
your team isn't especially sure of you! Therefore, interface icons
include an element completely unique to any gameTrust and
Fear factors. Although there are some rough edges, this component
of the game adds to the overall tension and anxiety. From direct
comments to actual icon indications, your squad mates indicate degrees
of trust and fear that range from mild concern to outright losing
itincluding vomiting! As leader, you need to keep them together
(remember, you need that Engineer to open certain locks, etc.) and
also keep them from turning against you. You'll be wasted going
it aloneI know, I tried! Sometimes giving a wary mate, who's
looking about anxiously, extra ammunition, a weapon, or a healing
potion will bring him around; while on other occasions you may need
to perform a blood test on him, or yourself, to prove "humanity."
Be careful, though! If the teammate is inhabited, giving a weapon
may lead to it being turned on you, and giving a blood test can
lead to all Hell breaking loose!
The Thing is beautifully rendered, both in terms of graphics
and sound. It works on a fairly wide range of systems; I found flawless
performance on my PC. From the blinding snow conditions outside
to the shadowy building interiors, environments were convincingly
portrayed. The sense of desolation is very real. Human models are
not clones, and they show a good deal of individualization. The
monster, in its various forms, is hideously realistic.
Sound and music are among the best I've experienced for this kind
of game. Voice acting is outstanding. Conversations and expressions
of fear are realistic and of movie quality. Weapon effects vary
and are as expected. Music is reminiscent of the film soundtrack
and perfectly helps set the overall tone of suspense and impending
A Touch of Consolitis
I suppose we have to get used to multiplatform productions and,
relatedly, the limitations imposed on PC gaming equipment. My only
real gripe about The Thing relates to this "disorder."
The save-game system is of the limited, Resident Evil-type
variety, requiring sometimes frequent repeats of sections in order
to reach the save tape recorder. Mouse control is very limited,
allowing free look but not movement while in that mode. Only the
horizontal axis is available for view, although the vertical is
not often needed. However, I must be getting a bit immune to Consolitis,
since this condition did not seriously impact my enjoyment of the
game. It might, though, for others.
WarningExpectoration, Evisceration and Dismemberment!
This is not a game to play with your grandchildren! The Thing
is mature-rated, and appropriately so. From vomiting to severed
heads, to the creature breaking out of or into humans, to the bloody
shooting and flame throwing, to the language, The Thing is
a game for peculiar, strong-stomached, horror-loving adults only.
Man Is the Warmest Place to Hide
The Thing is the finest game sequel to a movie ever created!
On its own, it's a compelling, tension-building, heart-pounding
tale of "haunted science station" exploration. There's
not only a monster to be dealt with and a narrative and mystery
to resolve (with a satisfying conclusion), but also a need to constantly
be aware of the mental state of your associates, on whom you depend.
In relation to the film, the story line continues without a hitch,
and there are subtle references to Carpenter's work scattered throughout.
Indeed, the Director himself has given his blessing to the "faithfulness"
of the game to his masterwork. Both as a work on its own and in
relation to the film, the design and execution of The Thing earns
a Gold Star from this reviewer.
So see the film, take a little break, then turn down the lights,
put on headphones, and prepare yourself for the atmosphere, anticipation,
apprehension, anxiety and action of The Thing. If you're
of my generation, you may want to have an extra set of Depends and
the blood pressure kit nearby!
Games of Which the Thing Reminds Me
- Aliens vs. Predator 1 and 2Although The
Thing is more subtle and rich in story, the premise of an
alien that inhabits humans, as well as the related gory killing,
is very evident.
Eden and EvolvaBoth games involve team speciality
and control; although, unlike The Thing, they do allow
transferring the player to different characters.
- Resident Evil and its successorsRidding a mansion,
spaceship, or Antarctic station of foul monsters is a theme of
many survival/horror games. However, although there are some Consolitis
control components in The Thing, this game is at a wholly
Release Date: August 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
PIII 500 (PIII 700 recommended)
64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
16 MB video card (32 MB recommended)