The Thing (2002) – Throwback 20

No, you’re not misremembering, we did already do a throwback to The Thing this year, and yes, the film is much older than twenty years old. This time we’re covering the sequel video game that came out as part of the film’s 20th anniversary, and is now celebrating its own 20th anniversary. It really doesn’t help that so many things in this franchise all have the same name.

In 2000, American video game publisher Universal Interactive were given the task of looking through the back-catalogue of films that Universal Pictures had the rights to, to try and find something that could be made into a video game. Whilst they had a plethora of properties to choose from (and it starts to boggle the mind to think of some of the games that could have come out of that!) the one that had them the most excited was John Carpenter‘s The Thing.

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Before production on the game could even begin, Universal and Konami announced it to the public, stating that it would be a sequel to the film, rather than an adaptation. They also revealed that it would be for ‘next gen’ consoles, such as the Xbox, and Playstation 2, as well as getting a handheld port. Sadly, when the game released the handheld versions never surfaced, with only the console and PC editions of the games ever reaching players.

© 2002 Vivendi Universal Games.

The Thing was developed to be a third-person action horror game, where players take control over a US Special Forces soldier who’s sent in to investigate the remains of Arctic Outpost 31. The player is joined by three other computer controlled characters who make up the rest of your four man squad. These characters can be soldiers, who are better at combat; engineers, who are able to make repairs; and medics, who have an infinte supply of health kits. However, this isn’t just a simple squad based shooter, as it is possible that any member of your team, or even the entire team, could become infected, changing into an alien entity.

The game utilised a new feature called the ‘fear/trust system’ to try and bring some of the paranoia of the film to the game. The NPCs would follow your orders as long as they trusted you, and each of them has their own level of trust that you have to build up by providing them with weapons and ammunition, medical kits, and by proving that you’re not infected yourself. If the level of trust your team has for you decreases they can refuse to follow your orders, and if it gets low enough they could attack you, believing that you may be a creature in disguise. There is also the chance that your teammates could become infected, and you’d have to keep a close eye on them at all times. Whilst the system was pretty unique, and worked well enough, there were enough kinks in it that the cracks do show through, and there are times it doesn’t work as intended. Despite that, it remains a pretty unique feature that sets the game apart.

© 2002 Vivendi Universal Games.

The game’s story picks up some time after the film, with the player character being sent to the ruins of Outpost 31 to try and find out what happened. There you explore what’s left of the base, as well as getting to find small things from the film, such as Blair’s UFO, MacReady’s recordings, and the frozen body of Childs. This area of the game acts as an introduction to the main mechanics and game-play, and it’s something of a training level that’s made to feel like part of the main story.

From here, the game takes you to the remains of the Norwegian outpost seen briefly in the film, where you have to fight your way through a variety of Thing creatures. The game uses small enemies called Scuttlers, which are made from severed limbs, and larger creatures called Walkers, which are hulking, human sized monsters. The game also includes a number of boss creatures that are much bigger and tougher too. At the remains of the Norwegian outpost you begin to uncover a larger conspiracy hidden beneath the snow and ice, and discover a plot that would put the entire world at risk unless you’re able to stop it.

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Despite the fear/trust sequence not being quite perfect, and some criticism that the graphics weren’t as good as they could have been, the game received some pretty positive reviews upon release. The game ended up being praised for its story and the action set-pieces it gave players, as well as for expanding the series in a new direction. The story was liked enough that John Carpenter approved of it, and even voiced one of the characters in the game, alongside veteran X-Files actor William B. Davis, who played yet another shady character involved in conspiracies and alien shenanigans. There were initial plans to continue the story on, thanks to the game’s popularity, but this was unfortunately shelved when the studio went into receivership the year after the game was released.

If you’re a fan of The Thing and want to see an interesting scenario for a sequel, or if you’re a fan of horror games who wants something a bit more fast paced and action oriented than your average survival horror, or you’re just down to try our a game that you might have missed when it first came out, The Thing is a pretty solid and enjoyable experience that’s fun to play even two decades on.

The Thing was released in the UK on 20 September 2002.

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