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October 18, 2002
The Thing - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
3/10/2002VivendiComputer Artworks1MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Flares are used to light rooms.
When you run a web site such as Future Gamez you only have time to complete a certain number of previews and reviews every month. You try to cover the big titles, the great looking ones, and the ones that interest you. I never did a preview of The Thing because it's not a big title, it never really interested me, it was developed by a new game development company, and lacked a lot of buzz. Now I get to the part I love about running a web site. Receiving a game that I have no expectations for, but finding out it absolutely rocks. I mean this game has had me hooked for days - and deservedly so.

Universal Interactive first announced development of The Thing way back in January 2001. Based on the cult horror film made in 1982 by the legendary John Carpenter, it's not a movie you would expect a large publisher to pick up to develop a game for, but they have, and its turned out better then almost any other movie license in history. The game takes place immediately after the conclusion of the movie. The storyline is nothing too exciting, but necessary nonetheless.

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The game is full of blood.
After the enigmatic deaths of an American scientific expedition in the uncharted and frozen wastelands of the Antarctic, a military rescue team is sent to investigate their deaths. Within these inhospitable surroundings the team encounters a strange shape-shifting alien life-form that assumes the appearance of people that it kills. You must discover what has happened at the base and get the hell out before its too late. As stated on the developers web site The Thing brings fear and suspense to unimaginable levels, with a compelling plot and unique gameplay elements based upon action, evasion, trust and fear. Forget everything you ever learned about obliterating alien species simply with a barrage of violent ammunition - this monster is difficult to see, hard to kill, and seemingly impossible to evade.

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The team is bound to throw up here.
The Thing plays very much like Capcom's Resident Evil games, right down to the third person perspective, although this game includes roaming rather then fixed cameras, and a much better control system - although the squad management menus take a little getting used to. When the game starts you must try to make it inside buildings as soon as possible. By staying outside in Antarctic winds too long your warmth levels will begin to rapidly deplete, when they run out your health starts to decrease. This adds an element of urgency to the game while outside, something which happens quite often as you travel from building to building. Fortunately, most areas outside have small light guide poles to ensure you are heading in the right direction.

There is one major difference between this game, The Thing and Capcom's Resident Evil games. That difference is the inclusion of computer controlled squad members who will assist you in the exploration of the base. Many of these team mates are people you rescue from aliens around the Antartic bases. Interestingly the team mates operate on a trust/fear factor as well. At first many of them won't trust you believing you are actually one of the aliens, or may simply be too scared to follow you. You must earn their trust by killing other aliens within their view, or by providing them with weapons and ammunition from your stocks, although you can't give them items such as medipacks or grenades, which is a shame.

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Is that a mutated dog?
As you progress through the levels you will encounter many mutated people and aliens which the other squad members will begin shooting to help you dispose of them. Unfortunately, if they see too many gory scenes, such as dismembered bodies, your team may start to freak out rendering them virtually useless. Commands can be issued to squad members by pressing the triangle button. Through this menu you can ensure that team mates have weapons and ammunition, see who is injured, see who trusts you, or tell them to follow you or stay behind. You must be careful with who you trust in the game because, as in the movie, anyone may suddenly mutate to become an alien. There are three types of people that can join your team. Soldiers are obviously good fighters with weapons, the medic will heal you and your team mates if injured while the engineer will fix electrical problems to unlock new areas within the levels.

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Better turn around quick.
As the first game developed by Computer Artworks this is a stunning title, but it's not without some minor faults. Most of these are created by the squad based AI. The biggest fault is that during a battle with aliens your teammates will often hit you instead of the alien if you're standing between them. Another annoyance is that while medics will heal yourself and other teammates, they won't heal themselves forcing you to use valuable medikits on them. Also somewhat annoying is that almost every person you meet turns into an alien at some stage. You never manage to create a close bond with any other team members. Finally, the game is a little on the short side with about 8-10 hours game time depending on your skill level.

Computer Artworks have done an amazing job with this title graphically. From the first cut scenes to the very end boss everything looks wonderful. Obviously the outside looks a little bland, but what do you expect in sub-zero temperatures and surrounded by ice and snow. The different areas of the complex all contain hidden rooms and areas to discover, many of which you will require the assistance of an engineer in your team. If you don't have one, you will just miss those areas, often containing ammunition and weapons. My only niggle with the graphics are the actual aliens. There is some variety but generally they all look quite similar and their animation at times could have been improved slightly.

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Outside with squad members.
Sound is yet another area where the game impresses. The game has little music which creates and eerie atmosphere while exploring the base. The sound effects are also impressive with the smaller aliens squealing in a similar manner to those in the Alien movies. By far, however, the most impressive aspect of the sound in this game is the voice acting. Not afraid to use the odd swear word the game seems all the more realistic for it. Impressively other members of your team will talk to each other indicating their feelings at that moment.

After expecting little from this title initially I can honestly say that I have been blown away with what Computer Artworks have created. Sure the squad based AI is a little questionable at times, but the game brings so many fresh ideas to the stale Resident Evil genre that it is a worthwhile purchase. I only hope they develop a sequel sooner rather then later as this is one game I want to see taken to the next level. Well done Computer Artworks and Vivendi Universal.

GRAPHICSTremendous cut-scenes, nice in-game graphics and plenty of blood.
SOUNDThe voice acting, swearing included, is terrific, the aliens scary.
GAMEPLAYThe squad based action adds a new spin to the genre, cool weapons.
VALUEIt's over a little to quickly, but worthy of a second play at least.
OVERALLThis is one of those games that came as a complete surprise. The innovations over other survival horror games including Resident Evil, and especially with the squad based action, are impressive. The Thing is a must have game for action fans, as long as you don't object to blood, violence or swearing. But really, who does?

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