Review By: Jared
Label Games (Universal)
whole, the survival horror genre has been extremely stagnant of
late. Dominated by Resident Evil and its clones, little
in the way of actual innovation has been made. Unfortunately The
Thing isn't that different from what we're used to, but at
least it's largely mimicking a different survival horror game
this time: Silent Hill. Silent Hill's approach (more
psychology than "jump horror") has always been the
better way to go in my view, and that holds true here as well.
to say that The Thing is totally devoid of innovation,
because at the core of its gameplay is the unique Trust/Fear
interface. In a nutshell the player's actions and the
environment around him or her determine the spirit of each squad
member. As Blake the player will need to keep them away from
particularly gruesome scenes and continually back them up, and
they'll follow and accept your orders. Constantly exposing them
to danger, failing to give them ammunition, etc. will eventually
lead them to turn on the player or simply freak out and curl
into a fetal position. Being stranded on an abandoned
installation in the middle of a driving storm, no less with
numerous hideous things running around killing everyone, doesn't
exactly lend itself to mental stability. All of this is handled
through an easy to recognize icon system. As gimmicky as all of
this may seem, it really does have a profound effect on
gameplay. It's not often that we see unit management in a
survival horror game, and it's a welcome change here.
squad members, they're divided up into several different types
including medics, engineers, and soldiers. Medics aren't great
with weapons, but prove to be invaluable due to their ability to
heal the other squad members without using Blake's medical kits.
Engineers are OK fighters, but their real value lies in their
ability to open up doors and grant access to other areas in a
level. Soldiers are pure fighters, and will often take the
point. Thus they deflect damage away from Blake, who's obviously
the most important character in the game (if he dies, you die).
There are a
number of different weapons at their disposal, ranging from
simple pistols to flame-throwers. Fire-based weapons are
particularly important, because the only way larger
"things" can be killed is by fire after they've been
weakened. Items are also aplenty, including things like medical
kits, flashlights, and blood test kits (used to determine if a
squad mate is infected with the virus).
scheme is usually a problem in most games like this, but The
Thing conquers this area sufficiently. The left analog stick is
used for moving, with left and right turning Blake and
forward/back moving him. Triangle brings up the squad menu,
square uses the currently equipped item, circle is used to
interact, and X fires the current weapon. L2 & R2 are used
to strafe, while the L1 & R1 buttons are used for the
weapon/item menus and first person view respectively. It can
take a while to get used to all of the different sub-menus used
for controlling the squad and inventory management, but actually
playing the game is a breeze.
Hill the graphics are used to set a mood of fear and
foreboding, and The Thing copies that style very well.
The outdoors is foggy and sight is limited, and indoors is
generally cramped and twisting. Lighting effects are excellent,
with each weapon and light source lighting up the area around it
realistically. Monster design is right out of Silent Hill's
playbook with hideous half-human/half-monster hybrids to go
along with tiny, pesky things.
The sound is
also well done. The music is tense, and ramps up as the player
nears danger. The sound effects are nice, with decent use of
surround sound to help the player determine where danger is
located. Monster sounds are sufficiently scary. Voice acting is
nice, as every character's voice reflects how they look
on-screen and the lines aren't delivered with the cheesiness
found in the RE series. Blake sounds a bit too much like Solid
Snake for my tastes (cheapens the Blake character, and makes him
seem more of a knock-off of other tough heroes to me), but other
than that it's very well done.
One word of
warning for anyone looking to pick this up: the box explains the
Mature rating as being due to Blood & Gore and Violence and
mentions nothing about the cursing. Make no mistake that there's
a lot of it, but it's nothing we haven't already seen in other
Mature titles. To many parents though this may be the difference
between letting their teenagers buy it or not.
graphic style and various far-off sound effects do a good
job of providing an environment of fear and terror.
storyline is good enough to keep the player motivated, and
fans of the movie should get a kick out of it.
- At least
this game borrows from the better (and less copied) standard
in the genre.
Trust/Fear interface adds a layer of strategy to the game,
and helps keep it from being just another standard scare
- Once you
finish it, you're probably finished with it for good.
characters seem to swear just because they can, not because
they have a valid reason to. It's kinda annoying and cheesy in
a "yeah, we already know this is a mature title"
- Other than
the Trust/Fear thing, this game merely follows other
established precedents in the genre.
It may borrow
a lot from Silent Hill, but The Thing also has
enough unique elements to warrant a playthrough from most fans of
the genre and movie.