Republished on Monday, 31st October 2016: We're bringing this article back from the archives to celebrate Hallowe'en today. The original text follows.
Originally published on Thursday, 30th October 2014: Why do I love horror games? Well, I can tell you right now that the love didn't start with games – it started with films. More specifically, it started with John Carpenter's masterpiece (I will fight you to the death that this is better than Halloween), The Thing. The flick has some of the best effects to ever grace a projector – as I learned when I first watched it...at the age of six.
Suffice to say my younger self was absolutely petrified, and I may or may not have been able to sleep that night. However, I found something about being scared exhilarating, and so I wanted to find other movies and games that made me feel the same way. Fast-forward 16 or so years and I haven't been able to hit those same highs – but I have come close.
And, incredibly, it's the video game sequel to John Carpenter's film that hit me the hardest. Named simply The Thing, it released in 2002 on the PlayStation 2 – when I was just 10-years-old. By that time, I was able to handle horror a little better, but it still took me nearly a year to finish the game's first level – not because it was hard, but because I was scared.
At the tender age of 11, I plucked up the courage to give it another go, and discovered that the game was, well, great. Sure, its shooting mechanics were merely okay at best, but its atmosphere and environments set it apart. It also had some clever ideas, such as a fear system for your squadmates, which is something that I've never really seen explored since.
This essentially saw your comrades get more or less suspicious of you depending on your actions, to the point where they would attempt to kill you if they lost trust in your humanity. Incredibly, there are even blood hypos (like the amazing blood test scene in the film) that you can use in front of them in order to gain their trust back. It's a really neat idea, and it worked wonderfully.
The plot also slots perfectly in directly after the film. It takes away from some of the mystery of the original's ending, but unlike a lot of tie-ins, it doesn't hurt the fiction at all. It even introduces the whole 'evil corporation wants to make a bioweapon' cliché, but rather than make the narrative feel tired, it uses this as an opportunity to introduce some of the game's more interesting environments.
Looking back at the title today, it creates a film-inspired setting that's comparable to more contemporary games like Alien: Isolation, which is saying something. Sure, now that I think about it, the game probably wasn't as scary as it seemed through my pre-teen eyes, but it still created a horrifying atmosphere, which was accentuated by the constant fear of being surrounded by 'the things', up to (and including) your squaddies.
Yes, it's looking dated, but I'll be damned if this isn't my number one game for Sony to bring to its cloud streaming PlayStation Now service. Ultimately, one of my favourite films of all time spawned one of my favourite games of all time – and that's a sentence that you don't get to say very often.
Are there any other horror movie tie-ins that you think hold up like The Thing? Cower behind the couch in the comments section below.