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Twenty years later, the video game sequel to “The Thing” is still a masterclass in smart, scary horror gaming that deserves a revisit.

Have you ever found yourself wondering what happened after the events of John Carpenter’s seminal 1982 sci-fi horror film The Thing? Was the world doomed? Did anybody ever find out what happened to the ill-fated crew?

Well, look no further, my friends. Back in the early 2000s, we got the answers in the form of a thrilling video game. That’s right, we got a sequel. So, if you’re a video game enthusiast or someone who obsessively loves The Thing as much as I do, this retro gaming spotlight is for you!

In 2002, Black Label Games and Konami released The Thing for consoles. And, boy oh boy, was it awesome — every horror fan’s dream. I was 16 when this game came out. I was already a huge fan of the movie and loved video games.

Of course, we all know the ending of the film where…

(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the film, for the love of God, stop reading now and go watch it immediately! Then, come back here to pick up this discussion.)

… Macready and Childs sit freezing to death, sharing a bottle of whisky.

The game picks up a short time after the events that doomed U.S. Outpost 31. You play as Captain Blake, a member of the Bravo Team. He and his crew investigate the U.S. camp, where they find Childs’ body and evidence from the onslaught that occurred in the movie.

Where is MacReady, you ask? Well, you may have to play the game.

The Bravo Team is ordered to destroy the camp and meet up with the Alpha Team at the Norwegian Camp. This is where the fun begins.

Twenty years after its release, it’s clear this game was way ahead of its time.

The Thing

I believe it paved the way for AI Co-Op type video games that we enjoy today.

As well as looking after yourself, you also discover team members along the way who are scared and paranoid, just like in the movie. To gain their trust, you simply give them a weapon, heal them, and then command them. You have engineers, medics, and soldiers who will help with tasks and puzzles.

But, echoing the terrifying world we know from the film, the camaraderie doesn’t last long before we find out at least one of them is infected, maybe all of them.

If you’ve seen the movie, you no doubt remember the iconic lifeform/creature that takes the form of Norris’ head, detaching itself from his burning body, sprouting legs, and running amok.

In this game, there are thousands of these little creatures running around, and that’s just the first of many different types of horrifying encounters you will have.

As you might expect, the game developers will ease you into the mayhem by giving you tiny monsters at first. But soon, you can expect more humanoid nightmares, and the creatures become bigger and tougher to fight. You’ll face harrowing boss battles and ruthless mercenaries. And of course, you encounter a group of idiots who want to weaponize the virus.

To top it all off, you’re in the Antarctic, and the weather can be a tad cold. So, if you are outside in the snow too long, you will freeze to death.

It’s unsurprising to know that the gameplay and graphics are a bit dated now, but that does nothing to detract from the compelling gameplay. 

Primarily, the game is a third-person shoot ’em up. But for more precise shots, you can flick between third and first person, which is great for taking down some enemies.

It’s far from perfect, especially by today’s advanced tech standards. The controls are a little clunky, and the game can be a bit glitchy, too. The dialogue can get really repetitive when your team starts shouting, “We got company!” every time you encounter something. The puzzles can be a little tedious, but I’d argue that almost all puzzles in these types of games are somewhat frustrating. The story is a bit over-the-top, but it’s entertaining — and it’s still pretty stellar for a video game.

On the whole, however, the action is intense. You’re given a lot of firepower. And because the things will only die by fire, you have a trusty flamethrower that makes dispensing of the threats a blast.

For an added bonus, you get to hear the great John Carpenter himself doing the voice of a character.

That’s all I’m going to give you for fear of ruining too much of the experience should you choose to seek this retro gem out for yourself.

What would be amazing would be a remaster of this game like we are getting with the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. A horror fan can hope.

I urge you to go out and buy this retro game if you are a massive fan of The Thing and want to see how much this phenomenal game influenced the console games we enjoy today.

If you have a PC,  you can download the game for Windows or run a PS2 emulator. It’s not available to stream on PlayStation Plus, unfortunately, which means you can’t play it on newer systems. But, if you’re so inclined,  you could pick up an old console on eBay very inexpensively and fully experience the magic of retro gaming.

Written by Dane Gray

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