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John Carpenter’s The Thing has been hailed as one of the greatest work of modern horror for its multiple layers of fear along with blending the elements of science fiction.
The movie focuses on a research team in Antarctica being terrorized by parasitic extraterrestrial that assimilates other organisms. After a series of confirmations against the creature and moments of paranoia among the team; the film concludes with R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) left as either the only survivors or infected.
Unfortunately the movie ends leaving audiences wondering what happen. Than in 2001 it was announced that a video game adaptation of The Thing was in the works with a release date set for 2002. The game would finally answer that long awaited question of what happened to MacReady and Childs.
Set three months after the events of the movie; a military unit has been deployed to investigate the radio silence at Outpost 31. Players take on the role of J.F. Blake (captain of Alpha team) who is investigating the remains of the outpost. However when contact is lost with Bravo Team at the Norwegian Outpost; Blake is deployed to find them only to encounter the creature. The situation goes from bad to worse when it’s discovered that a bio-engineering company has set up a secret lab in hopes of weaponizing the creature.
Oh and (SPOILER ALERT) MacReady survives but Childs froze to death.
Upon its release; The Thing was highly praised by game critics. Based on data gathered by Game Ranking.com; the PlayStation 2 version received a score of 80% while the PC version received 78% and the Xbox version earned a score of 77%.
To be fair; critics and gamers had very little expectations for The Thing back in 2002. This was still an era when movie-games were seen as guaranteed failures with the only successful one being 007 GoldenEye.
Looking back at its creative gameplay; one has to appreciate the focus on combat along with the need to control paranoia and fear. No other horror survival game at the time had made the need to control fear a factor into the challenge. This element would be reused to a greater capacity in other horror survival games.
Subduing paranoia is the key element to the game as you don’t know who is human and neither do your teammates. With the fear system, the squad reacts to the situation or environment of an area. Failure to control a teammate’s fear may result in the individual to breakdown and attack the squad or commit suicide. It should be noted that The Thing is one of the few games to feature onscreen suicide; something also rarely featured in cinema.
Fighting the Thing is also a major challenge. To defeat the creature; the player needs to shoot it multiple times just to weaken it and than burn it with a flamethrower. A productive strategy would be to lend a flamethrower to one of your teammates.
The game setting features many references to the film such as Blair’s UFO, MacReady’s recordings and a large chunk of ice that was dug by the Norwegian team. Besides memorable moments from the film, gamers will encounter references to other works of John Carpenter such as Prince of Darkness and Assault on Precinct 13.
For how little faith critics had; The Thing has lived up to the expectations of the original film, hopefully the 2011 film could do the same. However; horror fans should be excited about John Carpenter comeback to horror as 2011 saw the release of The Ward (his first theatrical film in a decade) along with his collaboration with Steve Niles on developing F.3.A.R.