The Thing is a rare game that manages to effectively blend the survival horror genre with first person shooter action. Players have a huge task in front of them: managing a squad, solving tough puzzles, staying alive during some serious gunfights, and keeping a cool head the entire time. The Thing is meant to be played seriously in that there are a lot of things to keep track of and not much room for error. While far from perfect, the game offers a unique and engaging experience for the right kind of player.
Created as a follow-up to John Carpenter's 1982 flick, The Thing brings players back to the infamous research base in search of information. Anyone who has seen the movie will be pleased at how well the game's story and presentation stay true to the cinematic version. The plot, filled with the obligatory twists and surprises, never surpasses the film's story, but still does a good job at rewarding devoted players. But therein lies the problem: this game is long and not many will strive to reach the end.
The Thing has a few problems which, on their own, are nothing more than mild irritants. However, the combination eventually becomes one big annoyance. Team management, while innovative and mostly successful, can be a pain in many parts of the game. Players must give their teammates -- soldier, medic, and engineer -- weapons, ammo, health packs, and instructions. Worst of all, players must cater to their artificially programmed personalities. When it works, it's unobtrusive, intuitive, and adds realism to the experience. When the AI goes awry, when they lose trust in you for reasons beyond your control, it's a very frustrating experience. Sometimes it's bad enough to make you want to leave them to the Things. Too often you'll feel like you're pandering to the squad and dealing with their problems -- and that's just no fun. Other minor problems include the repetitive tasks, bizarrely large game save files (expect to give up over 25 percent of your memory), and the frustrating menus. As successful as the game is at creating a cross-genre experience, it's questionable how enjoyable that experience is.
The game does have great moments that make it worthwhile for some players, however. With its ESRB M-rating, The Thing is profane, gory, and occasionally really scary. Characters do not hold back the expletives and early in the game you'll be thinking, "Did he just say what I think he said?" -- a rather new experience in gaming. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if some of those colorful exclamations jumped out of the player as well during some of the exceptionally creepy looking and sounding environments. Superb audio effects and music put players (and the in-game characters) on edge. Scripted events create some scary moments, such as when a ceiling suddenly cracks and breaks, sparks spit out from a broken computer, or a creature jumps out from the shadows. One of the most brilliant parts of the game is the use of closed circuit video cameras (that can be rotated and zoomed) that give players a crackly black-and-white view of a nearby room where something frightening is usually occurring.
Action sequences are not easy to master at first, thanks to some questionable control design. The precision needed to manage a team while engaging in combat takes some time to develop. Players will encounter only a few versions of "the Thing" -- mostly quick and little jumping mouths (almost a direct rip from Half-Life) and lumbering aliens with oversized arms. You need to destroy the latter first with gunfire and then with fire, a cool idea but guess how annoyed you'll be when you happen to run out of flamethrower ammo? Overall, the enemies and battles are well animated and offer some challenges, but feel pretty uninspired as the game goes on.
Recommending The Thing is a difficult task to those who aren't well versed in action and survival horror games to begin with. Think of it as a Half-Life and Resident Evil sandwich with some new innovations as condiments. But be forewarned: not everyone will enjoy the taste. ~ Jeremy Lee, All Game Guide
The graphics are dark and not very glitzy, but are appropriately detailed and do a great job at recreating the visuals of the movie. ~ Jeremy Lee, All Game Guide
A lot of detail is present in the sound -- various effects like blowing snow and crackling electricity add a significant amount of depth. Music and a lot of good quality voice acting further enhance the aural experience. ~ Jeremy Lee, All Game Guide
The Thing is a serious game that doesn't feel very fun because of the sheer amount of responsibility the player faces. But those who have always wanted to lead a team, a very needy and irritable one at times, into creepy conditions will find some enjoyment. ~ Jeremy Lee, All Game Guide
This game is long and if you make it to the end once, you won't want to do it a second. ~ Jeremy Lee, All Game Guide
The manual is well done but seems a tad short. In-game tutorials really teach you the basics however. ~ Jeremy Lee, All Game Guide