Legendary director John Carpenter is pretty much synonymous with the horror movie genre. While not the first slasher film ever created, Carpenter's Halloween went on to become the most influential movie in the genre, setting up tropes that would become commonplace, as well as spawning several imitators. In 1982, the famed movie maker went in a different direction within the horror genre with The Thing. Years later, that very movie would spawn a video game sequel.
Released in 2002 and titled The Thing like its film inspiration, the game would deliver a proper homage to the movie, and it told a good story of its own, all the while offering up impressive gameplay. Today on GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween, we fittingly take a look at a work that's associated with the horror legend himself, even if he didn't necessarily have anything to do it with it from a creative standpoint. If you missed our previous entry, check it out and see what makes the eerie Limbo another great option for this darkest of seasons.
Why it stands out
It's hard to find a game based on a movie that's actually good. Sure, they're out there, but they're pretty scarce in quantity. The Thing isn't one of those abysmal abominations of a game based on a previously licensed product — it's actually really, really good. That means fans of the movie are bound to have a great time with it, and they won't have to worry about being let down by the issues that plague so many soulless cash-ins.
Rather than being an exact remake of the movie, The Thing takes place months after the events of its big screen predecessor. You play as the head of a rescue team sent to Antarctica to figure out what the hell went on with the previous group that was sent there. The writing in The Thing is good, as is the delivery. It probably isn't award-worthy, but that doesn't take away the fact that the game is successful in both capturing the spirit of the movie and dishing out its own enjoyable, competent plot.
Aside from its narrative, the gameplay is pretty damn rad, too. The Thing fits in quite nicely with other survival horror games, tasking you with solving puzzles and giving you plenty of action sequences. All of these mechanics work well, but it's the squad management that's really interesting, and back in 2002, it was quite unique for this type of game. You give out orders to soldiers, medics, and engineers. Each of these classes has its own strengths, so a medic can heal an injured teammate while an engineer opens up a new path for you. It's simple, but it's novel, and most importantly, it works.
Is it scary?
The Thing has its share of tense moments, scary situations, and grotesque imagery. What really stands out here, though, is how you manage fear. Because the threat you're trying to take down can shape shift and mimic people, there's always the possibility that it may be right next to you. As a result, your team members don't always trust you. If you notice that they're being particularly skeptical of your behavior, you'll have to complete miniscule tasks to once again be in their good graces. This includes giving them some weapons or supplying them with ammo when they're running low.
When taking your squad into account, you're not just dealing with a lack of trust on their part. Several situations make them freak out, and if you notice that their mental stability is shaky, you're going to have to help them out. Encountering a corpse or hideously disfigured body is enough to send your crew mates over the edge, so when you notice that they're not doing well, it's best to perform different actions. Taking out enemies and giving the disturbed characters a shot of adrenaline help, but depending on the severity of their mental state, you'll have to do different things to help them regain their composure.
It's great that fear is such a big part of this experience. Where games like Resident Evil 6 make their protagonists horribly confident and stupidly “badass,” The Thing reminds us that characters in a horror game need to be scared, too. Even if your character does have a good hold of himself, it's great that he needs to worry about the people around him, because it makes you as the player worry, too.
Why play it on Halloween?
The movie The Thing went on to become quite the cult classic, and it comes from one of horror's greatest minds. It should be obvious, then, that the game is a great choice for Halloween. It's not only a fun survival horror game, but it also boasts some entertaining teammate mechanics not often associated with the genre.
On Amazon, the Xbox version is a bit on the pricey side, but it's also widely considered the best version of the game. Of course, you can also go with the PlayStation 2 and PC editions, which are far cheaper. Either way, this is a game to play on Halloween if you're a fan of The Thing and want to see the story unfold further. It's a proper sequel in video game form, and it's no shoddy cash-in, which is unbelievably refreshing.
Watch the movie, then play the game. You're bound to enjoy the experience, all the while celebrating both the greatness of John Carpenter and the awesomeness of Halloween.
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