31 Days Of Halloween – Day 3: The Thing
One of my all-time favorite movies turned into a survival horror title. What would possibly go wrong? Let’s find out, as we tackle DAY 3: THE THING!!
THINGS TO COME
Oh, dear. As I’ve alluded to constantly, I help run a horror film festival. We do trivia before screenings, and the most contested question we ask every year is the following – “How many people survived at the end of John Carpenter’s The Thing?” After all the arguments that take place in the crowd year after year, it’s obvious we’re just trolling at this point. I think it speaks to the power of that film’s final third. It’s one hell of a finish, with one of the all-time great last exchanges in any movie, ever. Much to my chagrin, this last-gen game attempts to pick up where the film leaves off under the guise of being an “official sequel”. The first issue is, of course, that the film didn’t need a sequel. The second issue is that, when creative types take away your ability to leave things to your imagination, you’re left with the product of theirs. That never seems to work out. This is no exception.
The Thing takes the film’s carefully metered hopelessness and unanswered questions and proceeds to weave a tale of mad scientists and government conspiracies. It’s the equivalent of someone making a sequel to Pulp Fiction in which the contents of the briefcase are revealed to be a map to Nazi gold. It even goes so far as to re-write the pitch-black ending so that there is no doubt that Macready survives. If this is what was planned for an official filmed sequel, we should all be grateful for small miracles. That rumbling you heard about 3 weeks ago was my head smashing against my living room table every time a “story element” was introduced.
THINGS ALL AROUND YOU
So now that we’ve settled on me hating the game’s storyline, how does it’s gameplay hold up? Short answer: not too shabby. Long answer: it’s complicated.
You won’t find much that isn’t straight out of the survival horror playbook here, minus the emphasis on use of fire and the trust/fear of your squad mates. Seeing as how stingy the game is about ammo, especially in the early rounds, you will come to rely on your blowtorch (and in fact, when taking on boss “Things”, it’s a downright necessity). The aim on this thing is absolutely ghastly, but you have to work with what you have. And you have a blowtorch.
The trust/fear element is far more compelling. In terms of trust, your squad mates (you get three) will constantly judge you by your actions. Fire off a few rounds of friendly fire? Loss of trust. Hoard all the ammo for yourself? You bastard! Trust go bye bye. Refuse to blood test yourself to prove you’re not “turning”? Prepare to be fired upon. Their fear is far more dependent on environmental factors. Blood on the walls, corpses piling up, and spooky happenings will drive your squad batty. Taking care of this is usually no more difficult than just getting the hell out of the room you’re in, or administering an adrenaline shot. Should you lose sight of this, though, your squad is liable to run away from a fight or, worse, turn on your completely and actively view you as a foe. Your team is also susceptible to becoming a “thing” at any time. It’s a terrific system, though it’s not above “cheating” when it’s time for one of your squad mates to “turn”. No amount of blood testing will save them when the story requires you to lose someone.
Oh, and there are no “tank controls”, thank God. Your character moves pretty smoothly. Your teammates are liable to disappear for minutes at a time because they’re stuck behind a door, and enemy A.I. doesn’t stray far from “RUSH THEM AND KILL THEM”, but I didn’t run into too many bugs or glitches. If you’re playing this on a console, expect to spend a lot of time diving through menus to equip weapons and monitor your teammates. I’m not even sure if this thing runs on Windows 7, but if you have the choice I’d grab the PC version. All this management would have probably faired a lot better on the good ole mouse and keyboard.
As a scarefest – well, if that’s what you’re here for, move along. This is an action game through and through. The opening levels may trick you into thinking you’re in for a slow-burn horror experience, but that shit melts away real fast. Monsters. Shoot them. Shoot all of them. With fire. And on those grounds, it’s fine. It’s a brief affair (even by today’s standards), but rest assured your time will be payed back with a decent action experience. Just don’t expect any lingering creeps when it’s all said and done.
THINGS IN THE PAST
Well, that’s all done. If you run into this thing in the bargain bin for 3 bucks, scale your expectations for boxers-shitting terror back and give it a shot. It’s a decent enough action/survival horror game with a few innovative feature crying out to be brought into the current generation.
+ People who demand EXPLANATIONS!!!! from their horror
+ Anyone who really, really thinks everything needs to boil down to a government conspiracy
+ Anyone who needs an answer for “Name one gameplay mechanic from the previous gen that needs to be brought back”?