Cult Horror Film The Thing is Finally Getting an Indie Game Adaptation

Indie developer releases a game demo of its upcoming video game adaptation of John Carpenter’s horror cult classic film The Thing.

Classic horror film The Thing is getting an indie game reboot from Steven Games Studios, which has released a very shiny new demo of the upcoming game. The demo takes you on a five-minute tour of the film’s main location, the abandoned Outpost 31, plus its infamous dog kennels — which fans of the film will immediately recognize as the prelude for one of the most horrifying scenes in the film.

Just a few months short of The Thing film’s 40th anniversary, the upcoming game follows the very same sequence of events that take place near the beginning of the film. You play from a first-person view as The Thing’s protagonist, Macready. The “thing” monster itself is a parasite that latches onto human and animal hosts.

In The Thing demo, you start out in the ill-lit back station of an Arctic research station, the aforementioned Outpost 31. Just like in The Thing film, you’re tending to a kennel full of lovely alsatians. You take a look at the dogs, then decide to check on the generator.

The Thing Video game
The Thing demo from Steven Games Studios takes you on a doomed tour of Outpost 31.

You take a slow walk through the nearly empty research station, Arctic winds howling outside and steely constructs whirring beside you. The tension builds as the lights begin flickering, and you head back to the dogs through a half-lit station. With relief, you see that they are still okay.

Unfortunately, as you head back to the generator, the lights completely phase out, and, as is dictated by survival horror video games everywhere, you only have a torchlight to guide you. The dogs begin barking furiously. Paniced, you rush back with dim light and watch a terrible surprise take hold of the dogs. Namely, the glistening strands of The Thing, which collects all the dogs together in one maddening vaguely dog-shaped abomination.

Fans of the film will be sad to find out there is, much like in The Thing film, no way to save the doomed pooches. You do, however, get a pretty close look at the doggies post-The Thing makeover. The entire demo itself takes about five minutes to play, and from what we’ve seen in the demo, looks set on faithfully recreating The Thing film.

It’s been 20 years since anyone has created a video game based on The Thing. Previous video game adaptations of the classic scare flick include the Universal Interactive tie-in game from 2002. A third-person action shooter that was released on PC, Xbox, and Playstation 2, it was set after the film’s events instead of being a remake of the film’s plot, serving as an unofficial sequel.

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The Thing Video game
Indie game Carrion sees you playing a Thing-esque creature that’s driven to possess and consume.

While it was generally well received, it seemed short of the horror and paranoia elements that fans of The Thing crave. As has been seen in games rooted around eldritch horror, playing a tight squad armed with flamethrowers and gigantic guns does not usually lend itself well to a terse, eerie atmosphere. 

That said, the 2002 video game adaptation of The Thing did use a curious fear and trust system, which primarily affected how NPCs interacted with you. You could gain their favor with health packs and ammo, but lose it just as fast with stray bullets and leaving them alone too long. Neglected too long, NPCs could even be driven to attack you.

However, there have been plenty of games inspired by The Thing. Although the 1982 movie failed commercially compared to its release buddies E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, Tron, and Conan The Barbarian, it has certainly left its writhing, wet imprint on the cultural consciousness.

These include games like Among Us, which follow on from The Thing rooted themes of paranoia and betrayal in isolation, and the wildly successful indie game Carrion, in which you play a vicious lifeform intent on stalking and consuming, much like The Thing itself.

To some extent, even the massive series Resident Evil draws from the aesthetic of The Thing, whether that’s its mutilated mutant dogs or grimy, cold locations. You could argue that The Thing movie is a huge influence on the aesthetic and tone of survival horror as a game genre. And somehow, we have not seen a successful video game survival horror adaptation of The Thing. Yet.

The Thing Video game
The original 2002 video game adaptation of The Thing lent more toward the film’s action aspects over its horror themes.

Developer and game producer of the upcoming The Thing game Stefano Cagnani Of Steven Games Studios is no stranger to the horror genre. He is also working on a game based on the Halloween series, which like The Thing, is also directed by weird and wild auteur John Carpenter. Cagnani’s Previous projects have drawn from The Ring, Wrong Turn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the Scream franchises.

The Thing demo is available on Itch.io to download for free and was created by Stefano Cagnani in the popular indie game development engine Unreal 4. Originally spotted by Game Watcher, the game looks set to be a memorable horror experience, and I’m definitely looking forward to exploring the wastes of Outpost 31.