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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: September 24, 2002
One of my favorite science fiction-horror movies of all time is “The Thing,” both the original 1951 version and John Carpenter’s more famous 1982 incarnation. Like the film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” what makes it so terrifying is the notion that anyone can be infiltrated and taken over by a grotesque enemy. But could this idea be translated into a solid interactive virtual entertainment experience? Computer Artworks, buoyed by the success of Evolva, thought so and developed an action-horror game based on this franchise for the personal computer (as well as Xbox and PS2).
The adventure begins where the movie’s action ends: While investigating a seemingly desolate and lifeless Antarctic research station, with which contact has been lost, a military search-and-rescue squad comes across the decimated remains of the science officers who worked there. As leader of the team, you quickly realize that the hideous creature that caused all the carnage is still around. In the frigid cold you must unravel what actually happened and directly confront its terrifying source. From the action, to the characters, to the scenery, virtually everything you see is directly reminiscent of the movie, and you even hear the familiar chopper blades at the start. This is definitely one of those titles where your enjoyment would be substantially enhanced if you had seen the film beforehand.
As with the movie, the Antarctica setting is perfect to enhance your utter sense of dread, as it’s totally devoid of creature comforts. You constantly have to worry as much about dying from freezing to death (which makes any outdoor exploration severely time-pressured) as you do about being killed by the creature or your transformed comrades. Many of your tasks, such as finding switches or keys, or entering computer codes, require that you leave your current source of warmth and go hunting in the cold. It’s important to keep vigilant at all times about your body temperature, scrutinizing the onscreen freeze gauge and running for cover when it gets too low. The ominous physical environment is a critical life-threatening element downplayed by most similar horror games, such as Aliens versus Predators 2.
There is a clear team spirit required to succeed. Your squad initially is composed of a soldier who fights aliens, a medic who heals people, and an engineer who fixes machines; and you must selectively utilize these skills when confronting different predicaments. Later you meet stranded people, so you can expand or change the composition of your team from time to time. You very much depend on your comrades, and if you have to kill them because they have been infected, your ability to accomplish certain tasks or have sufficient firepower in battle may be severely hindered. Indeed, if you go it alone, you’re toast. Because your team members are quite talkative, you’re almost always aware of their emotional state. In directing your team, developing trust and relying on them to overcome obstacles, it’s clear that just shooting everything in sight is not at all the focus of this offering.
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