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The Thing: What could have been


The Thing is a third-person survival horror video game developed by Computer Artworks and it could have been something that when talked about now, is remembered fondly. It could have been a really enjoyable game, that did something different and paved the way for similar innovations and evolution's. I was excited about this game, I wanted it so bad and I really thought it would be something special.

The final result we received, was a lackluster third person action shooter that didn't really exude any horror elements and those that it loosely grappled to, it executed in a fairly dull and predictable manner. The main ingredient to this games uniqueness and potential success was the party paranoia and how your playable character could effect it for better or worse. Paying no attention to the escalating fears of your ice pit comrades and not making any conscious efforts to comfort them was suppose to result in them either turning against you and everyone else, as their delusional suspicions of who was infected hit a point of no return or for some reason they themselves turning into a Thing and attempting to kill you. Emphasis was placed on this aspect, be mindful of your party's stay of mind and prolong their sanity and usefulness.

That was what sold the game for me, nothing else. Maybe the barren white wilderness was another plus as I hadn't played any game in that setting, but the psychological aspect was a paramount piece of enticement for me. And it was all a lie.

When a game offers an element of choice and does not deliver, then we judge it on harsher terms. Most games will promise good game play, decent graphics, perhaps an innovation of play and if you're lucky a compelling story. These are basic set principles that we commonly associate with games and if they falter in any sector, they're critiqued thus.

But when a game promotes the gamers decisions as having an effect on the game play and in some cases the world in which it is set and completely lacks any noticeable difference, we're on another level of deceit and disappointment.

The Thing suffered from a time travelling Peter Molyneux effect. 

The Peter Molyneux effect (which I've only heard myself coin but it's not hard to guess) is when a game promises you a world wind, story enriched adventure where your choices have consequences. This means that certain actions you have 'chosen' should be reflected in immediate or future scenes. The Thing promoted itself as letting you have that perk power. But your actions have no consequence at all.

To ensure your party longevity you can help put them at ease by say, giving them some ammo or giving them a better weapon than what they have. So your random dude is freaking out, his insanity meter is about to pop or is even just a little bit above average on the 'heading to crazyville' range. Calm him down and gain his trust by giving him a gun. It's simple yes and if it had of been elaborated on a bit more, such as dialogue options or executing certain actions before them that depending on your choice of actions would ease them or escalate their fears, then the game would have been a lot more interesting and certainly more gripping. What we can do is repetitive and unvaried and it makes not one lick of difference.

No matter what you do every event is set in scripted stone. Near the end of the game I had a 2 party members with me. One was mentally sound and had not really given me any trust related grief, the other started freaking out. So I gave him a pretty decent gun and because I had plenty spare I gave a weapon and ammo to the other, consistently calm partner. Both turned on me either by legging it or having the utter cheek to turn in to a Thing. This happened less than a minute after my party transaction, we took a couple of steps in a snow tunnel and they both just hit a point in the game that commanded them to run out their script. So I reloaded and this time didn't give any extra ammunition to either, walked a few feet toward and you guessed it, both turncoats did it again! It was predestined, it was scripted, it was bullshit.

The survival horror genre is one that has a lot of copycat games floating about, after a while even those that do the job well can seem a bit boring in repeat succession, especially to those that are keenly interested in horror games. The Thing could have been something different, it didn't have to be immensely deep, it just had to add a few little tricks and actually let us play what we thought we were playing. If it had of executed the paranoia meter and what exactly contributed to it with some finesse and applied the same thought to how the player would try to handle the situation, the game would have stood out for the right reasons. The foundations were there, the ideas were on the table and yet somehow along the way, it's as if the developers simply stopped or forgot and decided to just shovel out something that was void of all the unique elements that would have made it worth playing from a horror perspective.

The Thing on it's own, in my opinion, isn't that awful a shooter in its own right, but there's a bunch of them out there and while I'm giving it that bit of praise that bit of praise isn't exactly teeming. Maybe you disagree or maybe you don't know it, but the Thing was a game that slipped under the radar pretty much and it could have been a must have for many people, if the simple promises that were made, were actually stuck to and I believe they could have.

Also Peter Molyneux ruins every precious thing he touches!!
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About Glowbearone of us since 2:18 PM on 10.18.2011

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