The Thing – PlayStation 2
Platform: Sony PlayStation 2
Developer: Computer Artworks, Black Label Games
Publisher: Universal Interactive, Konami
Release Date (NA): September 10, 2002
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
In honor of Nerd Bacon‘s month-long celebration of all things horror, gore, zombies, witches, ghouls, ghosts, demons, and whatnot, I’ll be reviewing The Thing, a 2002 game that presents itself as the sequel to the 1982 classic of the same name. Oddly enough, this game was released 9 years before the 2011 movie that is the prequel to the 1982 movie. Essentially the stories are near identical, but it was a unique way to remake the original while still calling it a sequel. This game’s release was quite a surprise considering it is based off of a 20 year old movie, but The Thing packs some serious punch and is on my list as one of the most under-appreciated PS2 games in its 2,000+ game library!
On the exterior, The Thing looks like your run-of-the-mill survival action game, but almost immediately you will notice the intricacies within the gameplay’s unique “trust and fear” interface that allows you to monitor your comrades in an effort to see who trusts you and who thinks you might be… The Thing! While they may not have pioneered or reinvented this mechanic, its use here provides an entirely new dynamic which is integral in providing that necessary unsettled feeling. In short, it’s part of the driving force in this mostly forgotten gem of a game.
The game begins some time after the events of the 1982 film, at Outpost 31 in Antarctica. The story follows Capt. J.F. Blake as he leads Beta team through the US camp while the Alpha team investigates the Norwegian camp. Soon after arriving on the continent, Beta team discovers the spacecraft created by the Blair Monster from the movie as well as a recording describing some details about the Thing, its capabilities, and the issues with the crew trusting one another. This is the set-up for the game’s story, and it continues to grow as the game progresses. You pick up bits of information here and there as you move from one building to the next, reading files on computers and talking to your scattered crew members. There are even some nice moments that give a nod to the original movie, keeping that feeling of a “sequel” alive. Although the story and its major action sequences are entirely scripted, it has a nice flow and pace.
Armed with only a flare, the beginning of your expedition is confusing and challenging. Plenty of time is granted for you to familiarize yourself with the complicated control scheme all while you attempt to learn the game’s details and how to mesh with your environment. Throughout the first half of the game, pop-up text-based tutorials are presented which give you insight into how to advance, how to communicate with your teammates, how to interact with your environment, and much more. These little tutorials are paramount for your success in The Thing, and I can’t stress enough how happy I am that I didn’t have to pause the game to read the instruction manual over and over. For those who enjoy a semi-masochist type of experience, the tutorials can be turned off, you maniac you.
One of the cool and intuitive features in The Thing is the way in which you interact with your teammates. By pressing triangle, you will bring up a screen that monitors all of your closest confidantes. This screen allows you to interact with each mate individually by doing things such as giving them weapons, ammunition, adrenaline shots, and more. Why would you give them stuff? Well it increases their trust in you, something not easily earned when you know the enemy can take the shape and form of any human it touches. There is a “trust/fear” meter that allows you to see where you stand with your men. If you have their trust, they will follow you, fight for you, heal you, assist you in repairing damaged junction boxes and more. If they are a little wary, then they’ll keep their distance. But if they flat out don’t trust you at all, they WILL kill you. It is imperative that you earn their trust, even if that means giving away your only gun to an engineer so that he can fix electrical boxes that you cannot.
The controls might feel a bit clunky at first, especially if your muscle memory has fully adapted to the current style of dual analog sticks used to maneuver a character in a third-person point of view. Despite its weaknesses, it is a serviceable system that can be learned in a moderately short amount of time, unlike trying to go back and play older 3D games like Turok or Goldeneye 007 for Nintendo 64. It’s not all bad, but the button layout is a bit wonky, especially when you have to control a huge inventory system while fighting.
The Thing‘s over-abundant inventory system is the game’s biggest hurdle. It’s the kind of system where you can store up to 9 or 10 small items and up to 9 or 10 weapons, giving you almost 20 different options to toggle between at any given time. Not an easy feat as you’re trying to strafe your way around a tiny cluttered room while Thing-Beasts attack you. I’ve never been great at these kinds of games, so I’m already at a disadvantage. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised with how well I managed my way around the inventory screens after some trying battles. I often used the inventory screen to pause the chaos and compose myself in hectic situations while debating whether or not to use the powerful/slow shotgun or the weak/fast machine gun among other options. So I’ll say this, if I can handle the complicated control scheme, then any seasoned third person shooter, RPG action veteran, or other video game aficionado should have NO trouble figuring out how to successfully beat The Thing.
My success came at the price of time, however. The Thing took me over a month to complete as I painstakingly inched my way through the frozen desolate land, dying 20 times an hour for 2 to 4 hours at a time. I’m not one for patience, so why did I keep coming back for more? To be honest… because I just can’t get enough of how exciting The Thing is! It’s a different experience and feeling, unlike all of the cookie-cutter games in today’s competitive gaming landscape. The story is brilliant, albeit somewhat similar to the original movie (not entirely, but in a way, it is). The way the story progresses as the game progresses, never giving away too much at any one time, plays a strong part in the game’s mystery and intrigue.
Aside from the awesome story, sharply detailed graphics, and the complicated, yet perfectly manageable, control scheme, the best part is the feeling of isolation and fear of mistrust. Most will want to use the creatures as the driving force behind what makes the movie(s) and the game scary, but for me it has always been the fear of not knowing who to trust, the fear of knowing that you are trapped with these folks that you may or may not be able to trust, and knowing that there’s nobody around to help you but yourself. As you and your team traverse the icy arctic tundra, listening to the wind blustering around you, you can’t help but feel cold and isolated in your living room. Everything is dark… and gray… and you have no clue where you are, what’s around the corner, what’s inside that room, or if you’ll ever find more health and ammo. I’m always facing a new challenge, and never do the level’s objectives feel mundane or like a chore. Simply put, the game is fun and the more you play, the more it draws you in.
Overall, The Thing is a creative and refreshing survival horror game with just the perfect blend of third person action. The inclusion of the “trust” system makes the game all the more exciting as you balance your own life and your teammates’ lives. The Thing is an easily misidentified and overlooked game due to a lack of sex appeal of, say, zombies or spiritual demons. But fans of science fiction and survival horror games need to take themselves back to 2002 and give this game a spin. And I’m not talkin’ about the ol’ college try. I’m talkin’ about giving it some serious effort because you will be rewarded. There are some very challenging moments that will test your patience, but you’ll always want to give it another go as you strive to uncover the mysteries of what happened at these expedition outposts. The Thing could truly benefit from the royal HD remake treatment, maybe finding a way to take advantage of the 8th generation’s superior hardware to intensify the spookiness.
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Share This Post