Lost Games of Evil Computers and Alien Shapeshifters
Trust No One
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a phenomenal ’80s horror film with some incredible creature effects, the gist of which is this: there’s an alien life form loose in an Antarctic research facility, and it can perfectly imitate any other life form. In order to do that, it has to digest and absorb that life form. A small group of American researchers and other staff at the facility find themselves trying to figure out who among them are actually aliens in disguise.
It’s one of my favorite movies, based on the short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell (you can read it here). None of the characters is able to trust the others, and between awesome gooey monster attacks and their own paranoia, the humans are at a severe disadvantage against the monsters.
The game version of The Thing picks up after the events of the film, when a U.S. Army rescue team shows up to find the facility burned out and destroyed. Soldiers are separated, and weird Thing monsters start with their attacks. Suddenly, the mission is thrown into chaos, and you make a shocking revelation — some of the soldiers are actually monsters, and if you piss them off, they’ll try to kill you.
Before long, players will find a number of other soldiers to join up with them. You can lead squads through The Thing, with each character representing a different class with different uses and abilities. You’ll need those guys to get through the game — but some of them are monsters, and you’ll want to watch them closely. Eventually, they’ll turn on you, or your teammates; the entire game is a struggle between humans and hidden monsters.
The Thing has a whole game system built around trust. Just as you’re suspicious of your teammates and whether they’re aliens, they’re likewise suspicious of you. Make too many bad calls and they’ll stop following orders; do stupid things like draw a gun on them or shoot a teammate accidentally, and they’ll trust you even less. They may even try to take you out. You can earn their trust back, though, by doing human-seeming stuff like killing aliens.
Though the game has its faults, the complexity of the trust system is pretty impressive. You’ll find yourself fighting huge monsters in the third-person shooter that is The Thing, sure — but it’s when your friends and trusted teammates turn on you that the game gets really scary. You need those friends to survive, but you can never truly trust them. That’s something few games have ever even attempted, much less achieved.
Your best bet to find The Thing for a reasonable price is on eBay (try this link). Be warned, I had trouble with the PC version’s audio and had to track down the Xbox copy (but it is backward-compatible with the Xbox 360).
Both I Have No Mouth and The Thing are impressive titles, though they may be difficult for the common player to find and access. Still, if you’re willing to give a few older games a shot, these are two that are notable on the horror landscape, and definitely worth the extra effort to obtain them.