Monday, October 29, 2018

Video Game Corner: The Thing (2002)

When I look back at my history with both this game and the movie that it's based on, it stands as a prime example of how life is sometimes really funny in how things can play out. Although I haven't yet reviewed it at this point, I've said many times before that John Carpenter's The Thing is my favorite horror film of all time and, for me, this game has been intertwined with it ever since I first got around to seeing it. By the late summer of 2002, I certainly knew of the movie, its reputation for truly horrific and mind-blowing special effects, and some of its crazy scenes (people would always tell me about the infamous scene where Norris' head comes off, sprouts spider-like legs, and starts scuttling around), but it wasn't until I visited Media Play, a now defunct store chain, on the penultimate weekend before school started back that year, that I first picked it up on VHS. Not too long before that, I ended up with some kind of little booklet that talked about upcoming video and PC games and one of them was this, which it said was based "loosely" on the film. It showed a couple of screenshots but, since I hadn't yet seen the movie, I didn't give it much thought... and then, I kid you not, the very day I was at Media Play and bought the movie, I actually saw the trailer for the game on a big television they had playing over to the side. I knew what it was when I saw the arctic setting, heard the line, "What we're dealing with isn't human, but it's taken human form," and grasped the notion of paranoia amongst the characters, with one character hunkering down and frantically begging God not to let him die. Again, it did look interesting, but I still hadn't seen the movie, so I didn't have much of an opinion on the trailer. Fast forward to that December, when I had now watched the movie at least three times, to the point where it was quickly becoming a film that I absolutely loved, and I decided, "Okay, I want to play that game." As I didn't have a PlayStation 2 at the time (I didn't get one until 2006), and I've never had an Xbox, I decided to go for the PC version, which I got for Christmas from my now late aunt. I loaded it up and began playing it later that day and it wasn't long before my initial feelings about it were formed: namely, that it was the scariest game I'd ever played. Truthfully, that's because it was the first horror-survival game I ever had played. Being exclusively a Nintendo kid until I was almost twenty, I never played any of the Resident Evil or Silent Hill games, and it was only when we visited some relatives up in North Carolina when I was twelve that I played a little bit of Half-Life on their PC; the most comparable games I had played at that point where the first two Turok games on the N64, particularly the second, which has a lot of horror elements to it. The Thing, however, was truly the first time I ever got into an intense, bloody, and very suspenseful horror game and so, it really did screw with me.

Given my immense love for the genre, you're probably surprised that I haven't played many horror games and, moreover, that one would freak out, but the reason for that is simple: when you're watching a movie, it's an objective experience, but when you're controlling a video game character and are getting attacked, it feels like you're the one who's in danger. Add to that the notion of what you're getting attacked by is a bunch of horrific, shape-shifting aliens and you've got a recipe for a nerve-wracking playing experience. The dark lighting in the game (my computer's lighting didn't go up too far, so it didn't make much of a difference when I did increase it), the palpable atmosphere, particularly in the early levels, the creepy instances of music, the idea of not knowing if or when one of the people you came across and added to your group was going to transform into a Thing, and the frightening nature of the title monster itself made it a game that I didn't want to play unless it was in the daytime, as it often did get to me. All the while, the game actually helped make me the big fan that I am of the movie, as it felt like I had experienced the type of dark, hopeless atmosphere of it firsthand, and I've never had that happen. This game was so scary to me that I progressed through it very, very slowly, and didn't finish it until early 2011. I am dead serious. Now, I've played through it so many times and know what to expect that I can usually beat it within a couple of weeks, and I also now have it on PlayStation 2, where the controls are easier to manipulate (the awkward nature of playing it with a keyboard before added to the stress whenever I got attacked), but I still have a lot of memories of this game getting under my skin. Playing it now, I still think it's a good enough game, although the flaws are much more apparent. Yeah, nostalgia aside, it's far from perfect, as it has some bugs and glitches, aspects of it have not aged well, there are game mechanics that don't work the way they were advertised at all, and, about halfway through, it kind of loses its identity.

(Incidentally, if you haven't seen the movie, you'd best not read this review, because I end up spoiling aspects of it here. Plus, if you haven't seen the movie, then shame on you. Stop what you're doing and go watch it.)

Acting as a sequel to the movie, the game's story revolves around Captain Blake of the U.S. Special Forces, who leads one of two teams in investigating the area in Antarctica following the loss of communication with Outpost 31, under the orders of Colonel Whitley. Arriving to find the base destroyed, he and his men search for survivors but find none, instead finding the spaceship that the infected Blair built in the ice cave, a hideous corpse in the infirmary, pages of a scientific report concerning the Thing, and the body of Childs (MacReady, the character by Kurt Russell, is nowhere to be found). Completing their sweep, the team is ordered by Whitley to play C-4 charges, which the colonel detonates remotely after they've left to destroy the base. Upon being airlifted out, Blake has the helicopter drop him off at the nearby Norwegian base in order to find the other team, with whom contact has been lost. Investigating, Blake finds that the team has been nearly wiped out by the Things and, at every turn, the people he comes across either turn out to be infected or he gets separated from them. Eventually, he discovers an underground facility where experiments have been performed on various specimens of the Things and learns that a company called Gen-Inc. is behind it all. Moreover, Whitley is working with them, has exposed himself to the Thing in order to show that it can be controlled, and plans to take it out of Antarctica, an insane and apocalyptic plan that Blake must stop at all costs.

For the most part, the gameplay is the same as any third-person shooter: you have to make your way through each level (the paths of which aren't always straightforward), killing any Things that you come across, and completing whatever objectives you have, although they sometimes either don't play out the way you might expect or change at some point in the level. Your controls are also standard: walk, run, shoot, strafe, crouch, fire and reload your weapon, cycle through various weapons and items, and interact with objects in the environment and other characters you come across. You can also switch to a first-person view for more accurate targeting, though while you can move from side to side like this, you can't go forward or back. The control is where the PlayStation 2 controller makes things a whole lot easier; on the PC version, the different commands are spread out all over the keyboard and you have to keep straight which key does what, if anything (the movement controls are different letter keys, rather than simply being the arrow keys, as you'd expect). The onscreen HUD shows your red health bar, as well as a blue "exposure" bar that comes up and slowly depletes whenever you're outside in the cold, meaning you'd best find shelter and quick. It also displays which weapon you're currently using, how much ammo you have left, and also what type of item, if any, that you have in your left hand and how much you have of them. Certain buttons bring up inventory screens, such as your weapons/items screens that show you all of the various ones you have (you can select them directly from there, instead of having to toggle through them) and your documents/keys screen, where you can read any documents you've picked up, refresh yourself on your objectives, and see which keys you currently have. There's also the "Squad Member" Panel, which allows you to see the vitals of the current members of your group, how much health they have, and how frightened they are, as well as allow you to give them different commands. All of these screens act as alternate ways of pausing the game. When you're interacting with the environment and find an item, an icon will come up and show you what it is (aside from the typical roster of items, weapons, and ammo, which I'll go into presently, it can be things like keys, pieces of paper, etc.), and if you can access computer monitors, security camera stations, the notorious fuse boxes, and, in some cases, gun turrets that can be manually operated, the option to do so will come up as well, though in some cases, you have to hold down the button while a meter fills up to get it to work.

Like any good shooter, the game gives you plenty of different types of firepower to play with. Your standard weapon, which you start out with, is the assault rifle, which fires rapidly and is best used in close-quarters. Along with that, you have other types of guns like a pistol, which is the most accurate weapon in the game and works well against the smaller Things (I often end up giving it to a squad member than using it myself); the shotgun, which has great strength and stopping power, but isn't very good at great distances; the sniper rifle, on the other hand, is a whole other story, although it only comes in handy during the latter half of the game and you'll often find yourself using it against enemy soldiers. Though you can kill the smaller Things by with just bullets, when it comes to the larger ones, you have to wear them down with bullets and, once the onscreen, target cross-hairs turn red, you have to blast them with a flamethrower (you can go ahead and blast them right off but they'll take longer to die as a result). However, this can sometimes be problematic, as Things often run off when they're fried and you might have to blast them several times in order to kill them. Also, if you get too close while shooting the flamethrower, you can end up burning yourself and taking damage. You can avoid this by switching to first-person but the weapon's range is limited. There's also a small torch that you can pick up but its range is much shorter than the flamethrower, so it's best to use it only as a last resort. Both of these weapons can be useful for creating lines or arcs of fire to keep Things at bay if you need time to heal yourself. You also come across a taser, which you can use against a team member who's beginning to lose it and is becoming a threat, but I've never found myself using it. Grenades, though, are another story, and they come in four different varieties. You have your basic grenade, which is colored green; high-explosive grenades, which are white with a red stripe and cause more damage; stun grenades, which are blue and cause human enemies to drop their weapons and can confuse Things; and orange-colored flame grenades, which are best used against the big boss Things after they've been worn down. You can find grenade launchers but, again, I've never found myself using them, as you can easily blow yourself up if you use them incorrectly. Ammo for all of these weapons can be found either in separate packs or in large boxes and, with the latter, you can often continue equipping them until you're maxed out.

Among the items that you can find, the most useful are the medical kits, which you use to heal any damage you've taken, as well as any injured members of your group. You can use flares to light up dark areas but, because they burn out after only a few minutes, I prefer to use the common flashlight, which never goes out and which you can manually turn on and off. Fire extinguishers are very necessary, as there are points where you come across fires that you can get around otherwise and there are some instances where a spreading fire will trap you if you don't have one. Adrenaline hypos can be used to satiate a squad member who's completely lost it in terms of fear and make them easier to get back under control. Blood test hypos are used to prove to those you come across that you're not infected, as well as expose those who are, but as much as the game plays up their usefulness and importance, they're actually pretty irrelevant as I'll get into in a bit. Objects in the environment that you can, or, in some cases, have to, use include computer monitors, which sometimes provide you with useful information; closed-circuit television cameras, whose monitors you access in order to safely survey a place by panning the camera and zooming in; sniper CCTVs that, like the actual sniper rifle, you can use to pick off enemies from afar; and the save stations, which are tape recorders. And then, of course, there are the damaged "junction boxes," i.e. fuse boxes, that this game is kind of infamous for having a lot of (if you watched Spoony's old videos, then you already know all about these things). There's only one level that I know of where you don't have to fix one of these things, either by yourself or, if it's an advanced one, through the services of a mechanic, in order to get through doors, get machinery up and running, and turn on lights. They tend to annoy a lot of players and, while I've personally never really minded them, as I've always seen them as just a typical game obstacle, there are so many of them through the game, as well as in a given level, that I can definitely understand how, after a while, people would get sick of dealing with them.

The Things themselves come in four different classes, each of which have their own variants (if you've seen the movie, you can tell what each type of Thing is based off of but I'll comment on them anyway here). The smallest and most common ones are the "Scuttlers," which are based around the moment in the film when Norris' head detaches from his body and grows spider-like legs and eye-stalks. While the base of these creatures does often tend to be a human head, they're also born out of other body parts like legs, feet, and torsos. They tend to attack by charging and jumping at you, although there are types with big sacs on the backs that spit slime which, if it hits you, slows you down and messes up your aim for a few seconds. Though they can be brought down with only a few shots each, their tendency to appear out of nowhere because of their small size (whenever you see an air vent or a dead body, you'd best be careful) and attack in big groups can make them a legitimate threat. You also sometimes come across these big masses of Thing tissue that can spawn Scuttlers, as well as whipping tentacles, should they be on the wall or in an air vent. The larger Things, which have to be killed via a combination of guns and flamethrowers, are called "Walkers" and come in four different variants. The "Brute Walker" is the more humanoid-looking variant, with two legs and can either have two arms or one and two long, claw-like limbs on the other side of its body. These can move very fast and are often very hard to deal with when you're trying to burn them, as they know to evade your flamethrower's blasts and attack with their claws, growing clawed appendages out of their fronts, and spitting slime themselves. And while the bigger Things always spawn Scuttlers once they're dead, the Brutes can spawn them before they die, and they often tend to be the type that spew slime. The "Full Walkers" are the really big, more slender-looking Things with spider-like legs (they kind of resemble the monster that Blair became at the end of the movie, only not as big) and, while they don't have any long range attacks, they're no less deadly the Brutes. In fact, once they take enough damage, they can start using a special attack where they come in and deliver a potent bite that drains you of a quarter of your health bar. When a person whom you've come across and, more often than not, have had join your group, transforms (the warning signs are when the guy lets out an inhuman growl and a targeting cross-hair pops up around him), they lose their face, develop claw-like arms (their designs are clearly based on what Palmer looked like when he transformed in the movie), and immediately go on the attack. However, they're often the easiest big Things to dispense with. The same can't be said for the "Dog Beasts," which are undoubtedly the hardest type of Thing in the game, aside from a couple of the bosses. These big, bulldog-like monsters are very fast, can be really hard to hit with your flamethrower, and when they charge, they can easily take you down, especially if they manage to corner you. With them, it's best to keep moving while wearing their health down with your gun before switching to the flamethrower. And finally, there are the four bosses, which I'll talk about individually during the walkthrough.

In the latter half of the game, you start running into human enemies in the form of U.S. Black Ops troopers under Whitley's command. Most of them use various types of guns but there are some who wear orange-colored uniforms rather than the normal green and actually try to fry you with flamethrowers (in one level, they often tag you from behind). While they can easily be taken down with bullets, especially a well-placed shot to the head, if you're facing a lot of them, they can very easily wipe you out, especially if you don't have any squad members to back you up. It especially sucks when they're using sniper rifles and shooting at you from afar, as is the case in the very last level, because they can take you down with just one shot. Fortunately, when you do kill them, they leave behind plenty of ammo for you to pick up. And finally, there are automated sentry guns that cut you down within seconds once they get a bead on you. When you come across one, it's a matter of either reaching a switch that deactivates or finding a way to destroy it, and both of them can be a pain. Sadly, the game designers got really carried away with the sentry guns in certain levels, as we'll get into later.

An aspect of the gameplay that was considered something of an innovation at the time is the ability to have other human characters that you come across in the game join up with you. You can lead up to three of them at a time and, once they do join you, you can give them basic orders, such as have them follow you, tell them to stay where they are, give you their weapons, and, if they're an engineer, fix an advanced junction box. Speaking of which, they come in three distinct classes: soldiers, engineers, and medics, and they each have their own individual traits, appearances, and skills. Soldiers always wear armor, don't spook as easily, are better shots, and have more health; engineers usually wear dark-blue coveralls and, in some instances, are necessary to keep alive in order to progress; and medics often have first-aid symbols on their uniforms or are dressed in white and can always heal you if you get injured during a battle. You can give each of them any kind of weapon and ammo for it so they can help whenever you get attacked and, if they need ammo, a medical kit, or are asking if you need them to repair something, an icon alluding to the given action will appear above their heads. If it's possible for you to comply with said actions (i.e., if you have medical kits and ammo to spare), a hand will appear on the icon and you can do it by simply pressing the "interact" button, instead of having to scroll through your inventory; if it's not possible, a hand with an "x" across it will pop up. They often alert you to the presence of enemies, as an icon with a figure in cross-hairs will appear above them if one shows up. However, as interesting as it was for the time, the other characters tend to be the source of some of the game's biggest flaws. For one, they do a pathetic job of trying to follow you, as they often try to keep up with you by going in a straight line, meaning they get hung up on doors, corners, and have a hard time getting around obstacles like rows of crates and, if you're on stairs, guardrails. For another, it can sometimes be a pain to entice them to get close enough to where they'll heal you or the option to have them fix something comes up, and as long as they think an enemy is nearby, whether it's been killed or not, you can't get them to comply. They also have an annoying habit of running right in front of you while you're shooting, especially if you're in a confined space. And, as competent as the voice-acting in the game often is, every... single... time a Thing or some other enemy pops up, they yell, "We got company!" and, during a battle, they yell the same phrases like, "Kiss you ass goodbye!", and it gets really tiresome after a while.

Besides the basics, there are two major systems regarding the other characters. One is the "Trust" system, which involves you having to sometimes convince someone that you're not a Thing; otherwise, they won't listen to you. When you bring up the Squad Member panel, you'll see a colored bar below a character's profile image that indicates how much he trusts you: red means he believes you're a Thing and will likely attack you; amber means he's not sure but, regardless, he still won't listen to you; and green means that they trust you and will listen to you. There are also in-game icons that indicate whether somebody is suspecting you of being a Thing or if you're gaining their trust, such as handshake icons with up or down arrows behind them that indicate which way the character's trust is going, the arrows being colored to indicate which exact level they're heading towards (if they hit up/green and 100% comes up, they'll then listen to you no matter what), and white circles that go from a third of them being red to completely red if the person has decided you're infected. You can lose a person's trust by taking his weapon and ammo, point a gun at them longer than you should, or if you accidentally injure or shoot them or someone else. It's gaining trust, however, that's much more rudimentary than was originally advertised. In the early parts of the game, you have to gain someone's trust by performing a blood test in front of them or, in one instances, clearing out some Things that are roaming the area, but after that, it often just comes down to little more than giving them a weapon and ammo or, if they're injured, healing them. If neither of those are options, you can perform a blood test on yourself or use it to expose someone else to gain someone's trust but, from my experience, that rarely comes up. And what's more, there are instances where you'll go into the next level and either have to leave your newly-formed group or find that there's no way to save them from dying, making gaining their trust pointless in the long run.

The other system is the "Fear" system, which involves having to keep your squad members calm in order to get them to cooperate and to keep them from becoming a danger to themselves and everyone else. Each type of squad member reacts differently to the conditions that contribute to fear (for instance, soldiers don't scare as easily as engineers and especially medics, while the latter two will take longer to complete their individual functions if they're afraid) and you can see how each one of them is doing by looking at their images on the Squad Member panel: if they're just glancing around casually, they're fine; if they're looking around warily, they're starting to get scared; and if they're shaking crazily, then they're about to lose it. As with trust, there are in-game icons that show you if they're starting to get scared, this time with a white circle that fills up to completely blue (they also tend to throw up or pee themselves), and if they completely lose it, they may start shooting randomly, hunker down to the floor and refuse to move, commit suicide, or literally die of fright. The instruction manual and the marketing claimed that there are different variables that cause fear, like coming across and being attacked by Things, but I mainly find it's when you enter an area that's banged up, covered in blood, or has dead people and Things lying around and, in order to calm them down, you simply have to lead them away. If they get so scared that they won't listen, you can use adrenaline hypos to pep them back up.

And then, there's the whole infection angle, which involves using the blood test kits on your squad-mates to make sure that they haven't been contaminated. This system was touted as a way of randomizing each playing experience, as you wouldn't know who would end up becoming infected or, for that matter, when or how it would happen, so it made you really keep your guard up and test the other characters every few minutes or so. But, as it turns out, this system is the most flawed of them all, as many of the characters you come across will turn into Things at specific trigger points (provided they don't get killed beforehand). I found that out the way everyone else did: I tested a guy, the test said he was human (which I knew because the blood didn't explode out of the syringe with a squeal), and then, we took a few steps, he hit the trigger point, and transformed. While it didn't completely ruin the game for me, as it did for a lot of other people, it was still a big letdown to learn that it wasn't as wonderfully unpredictable as advertised. In a 2014 interview, programmer Diarmid Campbell admitted that the reason was because implementing all of the necessary variables for the system to work the way they originally intended was too complex, so they had to settle for this rather lackluster compromise. It's too bad, because the idea of not knowing whether or not you could trust the people you meet, just as much as they don't trust you, sounded like a really nice concept for a horror game and, given how far game programming has come since then, I don't think it would be too hard to make a new Thing game where that could work (these was going to be a sequel to this but the company behind it closed down).

That's really what this game boils down to: it's a mixed bag. There are aspects of it that work very well but then, there are others that could have used some finessing. What it definitely excels at is atmosphere. It perfectly captures the feeling of isolation and terror that permeated the movie, especially during its first third, as you find yourself wandering through the frozen Arctic wastelands, with the wind howling and the snowstorm obscuring your vision, forcing you to navigate your way by following the towline of lights that lead from one building to another, desperate to get in so you don't succumb to the cold. Inside the buildings is no less comforting, though, as they're often very dark, especially if you don't have a flashlight and there's no junction box to be found, and you see the aftermath of what was clearly all hell breaking loose, with everything smashed and banged up, dead Things and the bodies of human victims, often ripped to shreds, laying everywhere, and the walls splattered with blood and gore. On top of that, it's often very silent, with the only sounds often being those of your footsteps or Captain Blake and his men making occasional comments, and then, when you least expect it, it's broken by the appearance of Things, sudden hits of creepy music, and quick cutscenes that show you something that you weren't expecting. Speaking of the Things, watching the movie from an objective viewpoint is, as I said earlier, one thing, but when you're walking through these dark corridors, blind corners, and rooms full of damage and death, just waiting for one of these hideous monsters to come peeling at you when you least expect it, it really gets under your skin.

Graphics-wise, the environments are very well-done and have a lot of creepy details to them if you look close enough, like body parts in unexpected places (there's one level where, if you look closely, you can see a severed head in a urinal), different ways in which the dead people you find were killed, weird contraptions, specific bits of damage, and so on. The Things are also well-designed and have bizarre details to them, like the differences in size and shape of their limbs, how some of their appendages are made up of human body parts, and the way they sometimes morph and change very subtly. When it comes to the human characters, though, their designs and animation are very dated, as they look a bit polygonal, the frame rate of their blinking eyes and moving mouths is really primitive, and their fixed facial expressions make them look like they're made of plastic. Speaking of the characters, the most notable ones are the character you play, Captain Blake (voiced by Per Solli), who speaks in a rough, kind of Clint Eastwood-like voice and who has an attitude about him that's very similar to that of MacReady; Colonel Whitley (voiced by William B. Davis), your mission commander who turns out to be the villain of the game and is behind everything, and purposefully infects himself with the Thing, which leads to him planning to infect the world; and Dr. Faraday, whom you come across a little bit before the halfway point and who is modeled on and actually voiced by John Carpenter himself. (On the back of the PC version's box, there's a quote from Carpenter, who really endorsed this game, and he mentions Faraday being a "handsome hero." God, I love that guy!) Oh, yeah, and MacReady himself shows up at the end in a helicopter to help you battle the final boss Thing. I'm not a big fan of that, honestly. Besides the logistics of how he survived out in the cold for so long and where he found the helicopter, as well as it being a spoiler for the ending of the movie, I just feel that having him show up is so typical and predictable. I think it would have been better to keep him out and leave his fate as unknown as it was at the end of the movie (though I don't consider this game to be official canon).

That leads me into something else that's nice about this game, which is that you can tell the people behind it were fans of the movie and put in a number of references to it. Some are very blatant and are a big part of progressing through the game, like the first couple of levels being Outpost 31 and the Norwegian base, finding the spaceship that Blair built, Childs' frozen body, the room with the block of ice that contained the Thing, and being able to look at the spaceship in the ice through a CCTV station, but others are more like Easter eggs. In the first level, you can see the remains of the rec room that was featured in the movie, as well as the bulldozer and what's left of MacReady's helicopter, and you can find the tape recording he made (though, the voice is not Kurt Russell's), as well as the guy at the Norwegian base who killed himself. Also, if you listen closely whenever an alarm goes off, you'll note that it's the same siren as in the movie; when you first have to test yourself, Blake, "Now, I'm gonna show you what I already know," which is what MacReady said before doing so in the movie; someone calls a Norwegian a Swede, as MacReady was doing early in the film; and the level loading screen features the animated assimilation process that Blair came up with.

You don't have a fixed set of lives, so every time you die (or, in some cases, fail an important objective), you have the option to try again, but the way the PS2 version presents the option to do so has its own pros and cons. While there are many save stations throughout, if you die, you're given the option of either quitting the game or restarting the level from the beginning. If you choose to quit the game, it'll take you back to the main menu and you can then go into the "Load Game" option and select your save file. That may sound like a crappy deal and, sometimes, it can get annoying, especially if it's a long level, but there are instances where starting it over is not a bad option, as it could give you an opportunity to correct a mistake you made previously, such as not grabbing a certain weapon or saving a squad member who ended up dying. It would have been a lot nicer to have the option to either restart the whole level or try again from the last save point right there on the failure screen, or at least have that option by itself, like in the PC version, instead of having to quit and go to the main menu, load up the file, and wait for it to boot up every time.

The game is kind of notorious for having some weird glitches, the most infamous of which is when the other human characters will start flailing around in place, as if they're dancing. Spoony made a big gag about this in the video he did way back when (the screenshots here, as well as the one up above, are from that video) but I came across it myself long before YouTube was even a possibility. During a recent playthrough, I found another one where this character could not be still but he wasn't flailing around; instead, he was just kind of gyrating his body, be it while he was walking or standing, again as if he were dancing. I also got hung up on a corner at one point and could not get around it, no matter what I did, which was downright irritating, and there are other moments where getting over certain steps and humps in the floor is harder than you'd think. An even more annoying glitch, though, happens when you fight the first boss. When you go through the door, the screen cuts to black, you see a cutscene showing the boss up close, it cuts to black again, and then, right before the picture comes back, you get hit. This is another glitch that I found long before I ever watched Spoony and it's very counter-intuitive to how you expect games to normally work, especially since, if you're low on health when you walk into that room, you could easily die and not know why. Speaking of this particular boss, the sound cuts out during that cutscene, and it's an example of several such glitches that were prevalent in the PC version, where the sound effects and dialogue would suddenly go mute and be replaced by a loud, beating heart. These issues aren't in the PS2 version and it's a good thing, because that happened originally when you were being told what you were supposed to do in the upcoming part of the level. There was another glitch that the PC version pulled on me at the very end of the game, which I'll talk about when we get there. In short, yeah, they should have taken some more time to iron some out of these programming errors.

Besides the aforementioned sometimes annoying AI of the other characters, there are other aspects of the game that can be a little trying. The switches from one level to the next are very abrupt and happen when you least expect but, while they're sometimes triggered by something as simple as going through a doorway, there are other times where you have to hit a specific spot outside or walk in a certain direction in order to advance the next level and the game doesn't always make it very clear. Back when I wasn't all that familiar with the game, there were levels where I wandered around aimlessly, not knowing where I was supposed to go, until I just happened upon the correct spot. In addition, there are instances where you can't avoid taking damage and it comes off as rather unfair and tends to really mess me up when it happens late in the game. Also, going back to the AI of the other characters, their tendency to walk in front of you while you're shooting can make it difficult to decide whether to make them stay where they are or follow you if a big battle breaks out in a confined space (as it does in an early level). And toggling through the weapons and items while you're under attack can be very difficult and nerve-wracking, as you can easily forget which order they're placed in. For instance, after wearing down a big Thing's health and then needing to switch to the flamethrower, you could end up taking the longer way to get back around to the flamethrower from where your current weapon is in the inventory, which leaves you open to attack. The same thing could also happen if you're injured, need to select a medical kit, and take the longer route to it from the item you're currently holding, if any. That last one is more of an issue that the player themselves generate rather than a fault of a game, granted, but it is still one of a few issues that I've run into that have added to the game's difficulty.

However, if I were to pick what I find to be the most disappointing aspect of the game, I would have to say is how the plot and story start out so strong and then, about a third of the way in, it gets derailed and goes into a completely different and more cliched direction. The first six or so levels really capture the dreaded atmosphere of the movie, as you find yourself trapped in Antarctica and you're trying to find a way to escape while having to deal with this frightening life-form that's constantly on your heels, hiding in the dark, banged up wreckage of every building you come across, and has made it to where you have to be on guard about everyone you come across. There are flaws here and there but the game is still going in a direction where, like the characters in the movie, you're just trying to survive, and then, you get into the plot of Colonel Whitley working with an organization that's performing experiments on the Thing and he's now infected and you have to stop him from spreading it across the planet. So, after that first third where it truly was a survival-horror game and a great continuation of the film, you're now into what feels more like a Half-Life clone crossed with Perfect Dark and a sprinkling of The X-Files (I'm not just saying that because Whitley is voiced by the actor who played the Cigarette Smoking Man). The rest of the game is spent trying to escape the large facility where the experiments were taking place and trying to stop Whitley's plan, all while killing Black Ops troopers under his command, along with the continuous onslaught of Things, and while it's still challenging and fun to play, it's kind of like, "This is not what I signed up for."

When it's not glitching up, the game's sound design is quite good, especially the environmental sounds like your footsteps, be it on the snow or on the wooden floors of some the buildings, and the sound of the howling wind, which really help to create the game's palpable atmosphere. The sounds of the Things are just unsettling and utterly alien as they were in the movie, as they let out a series of memorable growls, howls, roars, and, in some instances, bizarre, insect-like noises, all of which sound like a warped combination of normal animal sounds. You can also hear the sounds of the Scuttlers' spindly legs rapidly tapping across the floor, as well as loud, stomping sounds made by the various types of Walkers, and there are moments where you can hear them moaning and growling in a nearby room, which adds to the uncomfortable atmosphere, especially since there's often no music to be heard. Speaking of the music, while it is played during the cutscenes, it's used very sparingly during the actual gameplay, coming up either to make a place feel foreboding or to add to a sudden shock moment that occurs. As such, it is very effective, adding even more to the game's already dark and eerie vibes, with unearthly, electronic-toned sounds and pieces, and during the cutscenes, it's usually very subtle, coming off as murky underscoring more than anything else. Occasionally, you can hear what sounds like a subtle variation of Ennio Morricone's theme from the movie, but otherwise, it's all original material and it does its job very well. The most memorable part of the game's music, though, is the song, After Me, by Saliva, which plays over the credits. Not being a music person, and judging from the band's name, I was expecting this song to like one of the heavy metal, headbanging types of songs that I hate with every fire of my being, but what I got instead was actually a catchy, nice-sounding rock song that really fits the game. With lyrics about being all alone, running from and looking for something that you can't see, the sheer hopelessness of it all and the struggle to survive, and the line, "The world is after me," you really couldn't have picked a better piece to accompany the game, as it also fits with the theme of the movie and the "franchise," if you want to call it that, as a whole.

Outpost 31: When you start a new game, you get a couple of cutscenes, the first of which shows a Norwegian guy searching for his buddy in a type of dark facility, finding him lying in the corner of what looks like a kitchen, all while someone watches through a security camera. After they exchange words in Norwegian, they're suddenly attacked by a big Thing, which brushes off the one guy's gunshots and, despite his attempts to fight it off, ends up getting slaughtered. The Thing then turns its attention on the guy in the corner and closes in for the kill, the camera cutting to static just as it's about to get him, followed by the sound of someone laughing maniacally. Following that is another cutscene, this one showing the helicopter carrying Blake's team arriving at what's left of Outpost 31 from the movie, as he reports to Colonel Whitley, telling him of the damage. Whitley tells him to find any clues as to what might have happened, telling him that the weather report for the area is not very good. As the helicopter lands and the men disembark, Whitley says he'll check up on Alpha Team and also reminds Blake that it's 40 below outside, meaning you have to get your men to shelter as soon as possible. (Unless you've deactivated them on the Options menu, pop-up tutorials will appear, teaching you the basics of the game as they come up, and if you've never played it before, they can be handy. The first one tells you about the tutorials themselves, the second that pops up tells you about the blue exposure meter, which will appear and slowly deplete while you're outside, and a third will inform you about mission objectives, how green ones are still active, orange ones have been completed, and how you can check back on objectives that have come up on the Documents menu.) Once you have control of your character, the first order of business is to get inside the base, though there are some items to be found in the snow behind the starting point. Upon walking in, you'll find that the corridor in front of you is blocked and there's a door on the left that you can enter. Once you enter the room, which is the communications room, the three members of your squad will introduce themselves and tell you what they can do for you (the soldier says, "I'm locked, loaded, and ready to make shit dead!", though he never gets the opportunity to do so). After some pop-up tutorials telling you about how your squad members are divided up and how to work with their trust, you'll see another door on the other side of the room, with the first of the many junction boxes to its left. Following a tutorial about the junction boxes that pops up when you approach it, you'll find that you can fix this first one yourself, and once you do, it'll open the door, which leads into a small room with a computer monitor sitting on a table. When you walk in, though, it'll blow up in your face and you'll take damage (this is one of those instances where it's unavoidable), prompting a tutorial about the squad medics. Once that's done, you can take a pistol, ammo, and some assault rifle rounds before having him heal you.

Walk back into the hallway outside the room (there's nothing else to be found in there), a small couple of explosions will clear the wreckage that was blocking it earlier. You can now make your way through the ruins of the base, past the destroyed rec room and such, pieces of which continue falling, and find the door to the infirmary on the other side. It's locked, however, and you have to go find the key, which can be found in a large crater in the ground that you'll eventually come across if you follow the towline of lights leading away from the base. You have to search a bit to find the path necessary to get down there without injuring yourself but, once you do, if you search one of the tunnels in the wall with a wooden floor, you'll come upon the chamber that houses the spaceship that Blair built in the movie (which should have been destroyed, since they threw some dynamite directly under it). After a cutscene where Blake and his men examine it, you'll find the key to the infirmary on a table next to it. If you search the entire crater before leaving, you'll also find ammo and items in the center of it and in another tunnel, and though it's not necessary, you can also find a small, torn open shack which houses the tape recorder that MacReady spoke into at one point. When you play the message, you see a montage of the destroyed base, as well as see the remains of a half-assimilated body somewhere. Once that's done, it's time to head back up to the surface and get inside the infirmary. Inside, you have another junction box that needs to be repaired and this one requires your mechanic to fix it (you get a tutorial about advanced junction boxes when you approach it). After it's been fixed, the lights come on and, if you go into the back corner, you'll find the corpse that was shown in that montage during MacReady's recording. A cutscene will have the medic react in fear upon seeing it and, when you come back to the game, you'll get a tutorial about how fear works amongst your squad. The medic will now be scared and your best bet is to lead him away from the corpse. Once that's taken care of, you have to search the room for pieces of paper strewn throughout it that make up a report about the Thing and how it works. Following that, you'll need an access code on the locked door at the front of the room, which can be found by activating the computer in the back. Whenever you find a code like this, Blake remembers it and enters it himself, so you don't need to write it down and remember it.

The door leads into a small space where you can get some medical kits out of a station in the wall and another door that you need to fix via a junction box. Upon being repaired, it opens up to Data Room 1, which has the first save point. After you save your game, you go out the other door, which leads back outside, and if you follow the towline, it'll lead you to the spot where you find Childs' frozen body. A cutscene follows where Blake contacts Whitley and tells him what he and his team have found. Whitley then tells him to pick up some C4 charges in a supply crate that was dropped earlier and to rig the remaining buildings so he can remote detonate them from where he is. Once you have control of Blake again, you have to go to the supply crate, which is right next to a downed helicopter that's near the door that leads back into the infirmary. Once you have them, you have to rig them in the infirmary and the radio room, which is easy to do, as there are transparent outlines in both rooms that show where you're supposed to place them. Upon doing that, you have to head back to where you picked the charges up and walk into the center of a square of flares to finish the level. It ends with a cutscene where, as they wait for the helicopter to come pick them up, Blake tells Whitley about partial transmissions he's been getting from Alpha Team (you hear one when you first head down into the crater) and says that he's going to have the helicopter drop him off at the team's rendezvous at the Norwegian base, saying that if there are any survivors, he's the only who speaks the language.

Norwegian Outpost: South: After a cutscene where Blake is dropped off at the Norwegian base and hears from Whitley that Pierce, the leader of Alpha Team, has found something, you start outside the place. There's an open spot that you can't get through because there are electrical surges sparking through the fence, meaning you have to find a way to shut the power down. If you follow the path off to the right of the base, you'll come across a door with a dead body outside of it that has some ammo on the ground (you also get a shot of a small Thing watching you from a ledge). The door leads into the ice block room but you can't get through it because it's barricaded. Back at the front of the place, you find an open doorway with a fresh flare just beyond it, and if you follow the hallway, you'll find a door to the right that you can't open just yet. Keep following the hallway and you'll find a junction box that you need to repair in order to make it through another door at the end of it. Once you open the door and head towards it, you'll get a quick shot of another thing back in the hallway you just walked through. Going into the room, which is this base's radio room, you'll get a cutscene where Blake finds Carter, Alpha team's engineer, in a corner of it, as well as the slaughtered remains of most of the squad. Carter talks about being attacked and then, he immediately becomes suspicious of you, asking where you came from. In order to get him on your side, you have to heal him with a medical kit and then give him a weapon. Once he's back on his feet, you can get him to fix another junction box that activates a computer monitor, a CCTV station, and a save station behind it. Also, if you blow up the fuel drums he was kneeling behind, it'll blow open the wall to reveal a room that has some ammo and extra weapons inside it (I didn't find this until after many years of playing the game). And if you want to jump out of your skin, get close to the body of the radioman who committed suicide and you'll get a sudden close-up of his face with scary music playing. To get through to the ice block room, you need an access code, which you can find if you use the CCTV camera and zoom in on a bulletin board beyond the door (don't ask me why that would be written there). Getting through the door, you get another look at some Things waiting for you on a pipe in the ceiling back in the hallway, and once you walk into the room, there's a cutscene where Blake talks with a medic, Cruz, whom he finds in there. Learning about what happened to the team and that Pierce is somewhere in the north part of the base, Blake tells him to come with him so they can find Pierce. If you poke around the room before leaving, you'll find a corpse that has a key to the locked door you passed by in that first hallway and a nook with the junction box that controls the power grid; when you have Carter repair it, you'll see a clip of that spot outside deactivating.

Once you've done all that, you'd best arm Cruz with any weapon you have, because once you head back through the hallway, you'll get attacked by several waves of Scuttlers, made up of about three or four Things each. They're not difficult at all, and you can easily kill them without suffering injury, but they tend to pop up when you least expect them to and you can take enemy fire in this cramped corridor, so you have to stay on your guard. Beyond that door that was locked before, you can find some more medical kits and pistol ammo, and once you've stocked up, you can head back outside, though you'll have to use a fire extinguisher on some flames that are now blocking the doorway, and crawl through the spot that was once electrified to move on to the next level.

Norwegian Outpost: North: This level starts with a pop-up tutorial about how to kill the various types of Things you come across and, once you have control, you have to follow the towline of lights until it leads you to a shack with a radio antenna next to it. Inside is a save station and a fire extinguisher, but when you first walk in, a the camera angle suddenly shifts for a moment and Scuttler bursts out of a wooden crate. One of your men will probably kill it before you get a chance to do but more Scuttlers will attack outside, so you'd best help your other man, who usually ends up stuck out there, in killing them. Once they're dead, you can go in there and save your game if you wish (trust me, it's best to take advantage of every save station you come across) before continuing on. If you follow the towline that leads straight ahead from the door, you come across another shack with a junction box that needs to be repaired before you can get in. You also get attacked by Scuttlers that charge from the side of the shed when you approach it, so you have to dispense with them before getting inside to find a flamethrower (you have to extinguish a fire in order to reach some ammo for it). Going back out, and killing some more Scuttlers, if you go to the right of the radio shack and follow the towline there, you'll come upon a much larger building, but, again, you need to fix a junction box, this one hidden behind a stack of crates to the right of the door, in order to get in. You can just shoot the crates away and you need to have Carter fix the box before you go in. When you go into this building, there's a cutscene where Pierce, the man you're looking for, confronts Blake, as he believes that he's infected. He tells Blake to go to the kennel to get a blood test kit to prove that he's human. When you're in control again, you have to grab a key off of a nearby table in order to open the kennel's door (I've sometimes forgotten that key and had to come back for it) and, before you head out, it's a good idea to make use of the save station in the room, as well as grab some flamethrower ammo behind Pierce.

The kennel can be found by following the towline that, when you come out of this building, is to the right of the radio shack. There are a number of torn up and intact shacks to be found here and they're full of items like medical kits and ammo, but whenever you approach one, you're likely to get attacked by some Scuttlers, as well as when you walk back out; there's also a fire right behind the door of one that's intact, so you have to be ready with the fire extinguisher and another has to be opened by having Carter fix a junction box. The building you want is one with the roof sheared off which you initially approach from the rear and have to go around in order to get to the door. The kit is in the back (you get a pop-up on it when you open the chest containing it) and after you grab it, you get jumped by more Scuttlers. When you wheel around to shoot them, you'd best be careful not to hit the fuel drum in the corner next to the door or you could potentially kill yourself. Now, you have to make your way back to the building that Pierce is in and when you do, you get another cutscene where Blake prepares to test himself in front of Pierce. When you go back to the game, Blake automatically tests himself and, of course, there's no reaction. Within a second afterward, he'll automatically test Cruz as well and, this time, the blood will burst out of the syringe, revealing him to be infected. He then transforms, followed by Carter, and you and Pierce have to quickly wear down their energy and then burn them. Once they're dead, heal whatever damage you took, gather up the weapons they dropped, save your game again, and then head outside with Pierce to get to the next level.

Norwegian Research Station: This begins with a cutscene revealing that Blake and Pierce got separated from each other in the snowstorm. A guy up on a nearby tower starts throwing grenades at him and, after dodging them, Blake yells at the man, a mechanic named Page, getting him to stop. Heading up there and meeting with him, Blake learns that Page and another man, Williams, were tracking a weird animal and ran into a Norwegian who started shouting at them and attacking them. He adds that he chased after the Norwegian but lost him in the storm and got separated from Williams as well. Once you're in control, you'd best gather up all the ammo and items in there and then, head back down the tower and follow the towline to the base. You to repair a junction box to the left of the door in order to get in and, as you fix it, you get attacked by some Scuttlers, though Page will be able to take care of them. Once that's done and you head in, you find a smashed, blood-splattered rec room with a locked room with a radio inside it to the right. You get charged by more Scuttlers when you first walk and another group shows up when you head to the corridor at the end of the room. Grabbing some flame grenades from atop a fuel drum there, you may get attacked again by some Scuttlers emerging from a corpse in the rec room. If you go around the corner to the left here, you find a part that's barricaded by metal crates but you can get some ammo here, and if you look out the window, you'll see your first Walker wander past it. (That scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it, as I was not expecting it.) Going back to where the grenades are, you have to have Page fix a junction box to get through a door to the right of it, which leads into the cafeteria. Inside the door, you can access a computer monitor to the left for some more story, blast some crates to get some pistol ammo, and when you had to the back of the room, you'll get a cutscene where Blake and Page come across a paranoid Williams. He points a flamethrower at them and refuses to help because, like Pierce before him, thinks they're infected. Blake tells him that he needs his help to get into the comm room to call for help but Williams says he's not going anywhere until you all the Things wandering the place (specifically, three Walkers). Before you go to face them, though, you can find another flamethrower if you don't already have one, along with some ammo, a blood test kit, and a save station, though you have to clear out some Scuttlers hiding around some crates behind an overturned table.

Once that's done, when you approach the door that led you into the cafeteria, you'll get a clip of a Walker smashing its way through a previously locked door near the fuel drums in the hall. You don't have to go looking for it, because it'll find its way to the cafeteria and attack. You just have to wear it down and burn it to kill it, though you'd best be careful not to hit Page. Once it and the Scuttlers that spawn from it are dead, you have to go through the big hole in the wall from where it came through, which leads into an area with cots. Some Scuttlers come around the corner ahead and, beyond that, another Walker breaks down the door. When you go to shoot and burn it, you have to be careful not to hurt yourself or Page, because this is a really tight space you're fighting in. After that one's dead, head on through the hole in the wall it left behind, kill some more Scuttlers that come at you, and head around a loop that you come upon to trigger the third Walker smashing through the wall. Once that's one down, if you check the room it burst out of, you can find a crate containing a shotgun and another with some boxes of shells for it. With that done, you can go back to the cafeteria to see a cutscene where Blake tells Williams that the area is secure and now, he'll help you get into the comm room. He'll head to it automatically when you go back to the game and, after he's opened it up, you can go inside to get some more ammo, as well as learn that the radio's been trashed. There's a save station in there as well, but you have to get Page to repair a junction box in order to use it. When you try to use the radio, a couple of Walkers and some Scuttlers will appear in the rec room and, if you don't get out there to face them, they'll come into the comm room. Trust me, you don't want to have to fight them in such a cramped space, so you'd best attack them before they can come in. After they're dead, you have to go out the door in the back of the cafeteria to advance to the next level.

Norwegian Medical Center: If you don't know what you're doing, this level can be a real frustrating meat-grinder. When you start out, you'll see three doors: one directly in front of you and two on either side of the room. The one in front is full of ammo, which you'll need for what's in store, while the room on the left has a smaller room containing a junction box needed to open the other room on the right. However, it's full of a couple of Scuttler-producing pods on the floor (one of them is behind the door) and Thing tentacles that emerge from the walls and ceiling. Once you've destroyed all of these obstacles and fix the junction box, the room across from this one will automatically open. In there, you can save your game if you wish to and, after you've picked up all the ammo there is to be found, you'd better make sure that Page and Williams are properly equipped, because once you approach the corner of the room, a swarm of Scuttlers will charge across the snow and start jumping into the room through the broken window. If you stand in the doorway, you can pick them off as they jump in, but you'd best be careful your men don't shoot you and, what's more, there are lapses between the groups that jump in, so don't think it's over until you're sure. But, that's the only the beginning, because another wave will start attacking the ammo room, followed by another wave jumping into the room to the left of it, and once those the waves have been taken care of, all three will get attacked at once! You're best bet is to close the doors of the other two rooms, take care of the Scuttlers that come into the one, and once that's taken care off, kill off the waves that fill up the others one-by-one. If you don't, you'll get overwhelmed and more than likely die, as I did many, many times when I didn't figure out the strategy, or at least lose one of your men (Williams is a medic, so you want to keep him in play as soon as possible). Given the confined space, it's best not to use flame weapons until as a very last resort, and you also have to be choosy about either having your men follow you around or stay in one spot, because you can easily get shot or accidentally shoot one of them through either decision. Once all the Scuttlers are dead, it's still not over, as two Brute Walkers burst through the wall and you have to take care of them. After they're dead, you can head outside, where you'll see a clip of the Norwegian you're tailing running off along a towline. Before you can finish, though, another Walker, this one a human-turned-Thing, will burst out of a trailer to your right outside. Kill him, grab what you can find in the trailer, and move away from the buildings until the game cuts to the next level.

Weather Station: This level begins with a brief clip of the Norwegian you're tailing ducking into a warehouse. As you might expect, you can't just follow him into the warehouse, as the door's locked. No, you have to make your way through the weather station next to it, get to the roof, and use it to reach the inside of the warehouse. However, the door to the weather station is locked as well, so you have to find the key. After grabbing some ammo that be found in several spots here, you have to head to a small building with a winding staircase leading up to the door (there's another door down below but it doesn't open). Beyond the door are a few Scuttlers that charge at you and you get jumped by some more when you walk into the hallway connecting to it. Also, if Williams is still with you, he'll change into a Thing when he gets a little bit into the hallway and you and Page then have to kill him. Beyond the hallway is a vertical room with a staircase that you have to climb up, killing Scuttlers as you come across them; Page doesn't follow you up the stairs but he rejoins you outside later. The stairs lead up to the roof and if you walk across it, you find a bit of grating that you can shoot through (a Scuttler pops out at you when you do, however). You drop down through the grating into a really tight crawlspace, where you have to kill a couple of more Scuttlers, and you have to pick one of two more sections of grating to drop down through. However, before you drop down, you have to clear out a couple of Brute Walkers down below. The way I always do it is to drop a flame grenade down there and hope that it'll take care of them. It doesn't always kill them, because you can't predict what part of the room they're in and it's hard to get a good vantage point to see them, but with all the fuel drums down there, you can at least weaken them enough to where, when you do drop down, you can finish them off with a blast of the flamethrower. Once the coast is clear, you can head down there, find the key to the weather station, pick up Pace outside, and head to that building (when you do, you see a clip of another man running into the dome atop it).

Inside, you have to deal with some Scuttlers and when you do, you can check the lockers there for ammo and items. In the next room, there's a save station, but when you try to use it, some more Scuttlers jump you from behind. After you kill them and save your game, you follow the corridor around the corner to a room with a winding staircase leading up and another room behind it. Some more Scuttlers come at you from behind a turned over table and, when Page walks into this room, he'll transform, forcing you to kill him (this was the moment when I first learned that the infection angle wasn't all it was cracked up to be). Once he's dealt with, you have to head into the room beyond this one, which is a kitchen, before you go up the stairs. When you walk in and start rummaging around, something (I don't have a clue what) will suddenly burst into flames behind you and if you don't whip out your fire extinguisher and use it, you have to go into the corner by the refrigerator and wait until the sprinkler system kicks on. Incidentally, that corner is where you can find a key that you'll need. Also, a Scuttler will usually spawn from a corpse lying up against the wall here. After you have everything, it's time to head upstairs, where you have to fight some more Scuttlers and a Brute Walker which will spawn the type of Scuttler that spits slime at you. Though it's not necessary, when they're all dead, you can check the lockers you find in the restroom for a health pack, but if you walk towards the back of the restroom, towards the stalls, another Walker will come charging out at you. As if that wasn't enough, when you go back out the doorway, some more slime-spitting Scuttlers will be waiting for you, so it's best to only go for that health if you really need it. After all the marauding Things are dead, you can head up the stairs here, which lead onto the roof of the station. From here, you can enter the dome, where you see a cutscene of Blake finding Pierce, only for him to say that he knows he's become infected. Blake offers to help him but Pierce tries to get him to shoot him; when Blake refuses, Pierce shoots himself instead. After the scene, you can get a sniper rifle in the box next to Pierce and, if you want, you can also activate the telescope to get a look at the frozen spaceship that the Thing arrived in from the movie. When you exit the dome, if you look behind the door that led you onto the roof, you'll find some burning fuel drums that you can blow up, allowing you to walk across the fallen antenna to the very narrow path around the side of the warehouse. You have to go to the right but you better be careful, not just because Scuttlers will come at you from both ahead and behind you, but also because, if you fall, you'll take damage and have to go all the way back through the station to try again. This is also where I tend to get hung up on the corners, which is very irritating. At the end of the path is some grating that you shoot open and walk into, while crouching, to head to the next level.

Pyron Hangar: A cutscene shows Blake make his way through the air duct and drop down into a large hangar, where he hears someone calling for help. You then see some Scuttlers, as well as your first Dog Beast Thing, prowling around a door that the man, a mechanic named Collins, is trapped behind. Once you kill them (they have a tendency to come around behind you by using the walkway you're in, which wraps around the inside of the hangar) and fix the junction box, you can go through the door to meet up with Collins. If you're wondering about the office next to it, getting inside of it is one of the major objectives of the level. Anyway, when you meet Collins, a cutscene shows Blake telling him about Pierce and then learning that he followed someone into the hangar, only to end up getting trapped. Thinking it's the Norwegian, Blake decides to go track him down, as Collins says he's downstairs somewhere. Once that's over, give him a weapon, stock up on health packs, and head down to the floor of the hangar. There's a junction box down there that you need him to repair but, before he can, you get attacked by three Dog Beasts and a bunch of Scuttlers. This can be a really tough battle, as this is a big, wide open room, with plenty of places for the Things to take cover, and though there are some fuel drums you can blow up for extra damage, you have to hit them at the exact right moment. Also, you have to keep Collins alive in order for him to fix that junction box, so you have to take them out as quickly as possible. It's best to back up along the stairs while shooting and burning, as it's much easier to wear them down in this narrow spot. When they're finally dead, you can stock up on the ammo that you can find throughout the room (there are more Scuttlers hiding near the many boxes of ammo you can find in the rear) and then have Collins fix the junction box. Doing so will lift up a sort of gate on a large, axle-shaped object hanging from the ceiling, which you can across to reach a bunch of crossbeams up in the ceiling. You have to use these to reach the roof of the other office with the locked door and drop through a hole there to get in (do not fall, as it almost always means certain death). Inside, you find a keycard on a table, next to a computer monitor, and once you have that, you can open a door down in the main room, straight across from the bottom of the stairs. Beyond it is a room with a save station (the fact that it comes around so late is what makes this level really difficult) and some more stairs leading down. At the bottom of the stairs, Collins will take a few steps and transform, so you have to burn him. When he's dead, you have to walk down the hall to a door, beyond which is the first boss.

This is the boss that can hit you before the cutscene revealing it is finished but, in actuality, it's pretty simple to defeat. It's best to immediately duck into the corner on the right side of the room, where the boss can't reach, and blast it continuously with whichever weapon you choose (you have to watch out for a tentacle that bursts out of the grating next you). The initial targets are around the boss' base and, once you've destroyed them, your next target will become the top of its headless torso. When you fire on that for a little bit, a human torso will pop out of it (if you miss the caption that comes it, it's the Norwegian you've been following) and once that happens, all you have to do now is burn it. Instead of using the flamethrower, it's best to shoot open some of the crates to reveal flame grenades and, after getting to a safe vantage point, throw them to instantly ignite the boss. If you've managed to wear down all of the target areas, it may take only one well-aimed grenade to kill the Thing; at the most, it should take only two or three. During the fight, some Scuttlers will start coming at you from the other side of the room, spawning from a pod that's hidden behind a bit of wall over there, but you should have enough ammo to take them down while also kill the boss (it is possible to destroy that pod but you have to put yourself in harm's way to do it). Once the boss is dead, you have to fix the junction box next to the door in the corner of the room in order get out and advance to the next level.

Pyron Sub Alpha: This is where the levels start to get more difficult and more complex, with a lot of backtracking and taking multiple paths. You start in front of a hole in the floor and when you drop down, you end up in a narrow corridor, with plenty of rooms to search. The hallway to the left leads to three doors that are all locked for now and the one to the right leads to a room where Scuttlers will spawn out of some duct-work until you damage the ducts to where they can't crawl out (there's also a corpse in here that spawns some as well). There are two doors on the left wall of this room but only the first one opens. When you walk in using a little ramp, you'd better equip an extinguisher, because a sudden fire starts spreading across the floor and if you're not careful, you can become trapped. The best thing to do is to extinguish a path to the door in the corner, which has ammo for both the assault rifle and the flamethrower, as well as a health pack. Once you have that, you can clear a way through the flames to the door that leads back out into that main room. Beyond it is a short hallway, with a door on the left that leads into the Operations Room. In addition to a save station, there's a monitor, some CCTV stations, and four numbered door controls. The first three of these open the locked doors at the opposite end of the place but the control to Door 1, which leads to the Prep Lab and is where you need to go, isn't working. Behind Door 2 is a fire that will spread into the hall if you open the door, while a Brute Walker is behind Door 3. Both of these rooms have items, namely fuel canisters in the former and a blood test kit and a grenade launcher in the latter, but unless you really need them, they're not work risking your skin. To get Door 1 working, you have to activate a hydraulic switch that's down in the area past Door 4, the Growth Chamber, which is beyond the door across from the Operations Room. But, if you look through one of the CCTV monitors, you'll see a technician get cornered and killed by a Walker down there, letting you know what you're in for. Also, to get through that door across from Operations, you need a code that you can find on the computer in here (doing so also tells you that your next objective is to find Dr. Faraday).

The Growth Chamber is a confined, maze-like area of twisting and turning hallways, with lots of blind corners, and it's crawling with oversized Scuttlers, a product of the experiments that have been conducted on the Thing. Despite their size, they're no tougher than the normal ones. The shortest route to where you need to go is to keep heading right as much as you possibly can; there is some ammo to be found on the left side of the maze but you'll run into more resistance trying to get it. In any case, as you might expect, the hydraulic switch is in that part where the Walker killed that one guy, so when you get there, you have to take him out. Once you've done that and flipped the switch, you can head back to Operations but you have to kill another Walker that shows up in the hallway leading to it. In Operations, you can now open the door leading into the Prep Lab and, when you do, you turn left, go through another door, and head to the next level.

Pyron Sub Beta: The first part of this level is really tricky, as beyond the door at the end of the hall is a room where, when you step inside, some slime-spitting Scuttlers and a couple of Walkers, one of which is the type that can spawn other slime-spitters, will come at you. If you have plenty of health, then you can just go in there and fight them to the death, but if you're running low and don't have many medical kits, things are trickier. There is a station full of kits on the left wall of the room but you have to run to it, stock up, get back out the door, and hope that it closes before the Things can follow you through so you can have a breather to use to heal yourself. Once you've managed to kill them all, which can take a while because of the large size of the room and the Things' tendency to duck behind the walls, if you check behind the door in the room's left-hand corner, you'll find a mechanic named Price. After you save him from a Scuttler and give him a weapon and ammo (as well as get the stun grenades that are there), you can have him follow you to a door across from the one you used to enter the main room. When he fixes the junction box, you can go in there and load up on assault rifle and shotgun ammo and flame grenades, and once that's done, you're ready to go through the door in the right-hand corner of the main room. This room has a flight of stairs leading down and when you approach, some Scuttlers will attack, both from the stairs and from a duct in the corner. When they're head, you can head down to the level below, where there's a save station, a computer, three CCTV monitors, and nine more door controls. The CCTV cameras are trained on the testing chambers down below and if you use the monitors, you'll see that the controls are for their doors. What's more, the third monitor will show you that Faraday is in the last chamber and, in order to get to him, you have to open the doors to create a path to him. There is a way to open the doors in a manner that allows you to get to him without opening them all, which will leave you with less Things to battle, but it's hard to decipher, so I just open all the doors (except for Door 1, as the control to that one is damaged) and just deal with it. You can also open the doors one by one and clear them out before going to fetch Faraday, which is a good way to keep him from being injured, so take your pick. When you're ready, you can follow the stairs down another level to reaching the testing chambers.

The first room has Scuttlers, as well as a medic, who will end up turning into a Thing at some point (it's always random), but if you're lucky, you can get him to heal any damage you've received and have him join you for some extra firepower before that happens. There Scuttler-producing pods to be found and some Brute Walkers to contend with in here as well, so you'll have your hands full trying to reach Faraday. When you get to him, there's a cutscene where he joins with Blake (as they're leaving, Blake tells him, "Oh, and keep your ass covered. I'd hate for you to get an unwanted suppository,") and, after that, you can give him a weapon and lead him back the way you came. As you might expect, you'll run into resistance on the way back, including any Things in the testing chambers that you haven't already killed, some more Scuttlers in the room where you battled those Walkers, and another Walker and some tentacles on the wall in the Prep Lab. Being a doctor, Faraday can heal you if you get injured but you have to keep him healthy as well. Also, those narrow, winding stairs are where trying to get the characters to follow you is really a problem, as they get hung up on and go the wrong way a lot. Regardless, once all those obstacles are taken care of, and you make it to the end of the hall past the Prep Lab (which is now crooked and crumpled, as if there were an earthquake; what happened?), which is also full of Thing masses stuck to the wall, with Faraday, you'll go into the next cutscene. Said scene shows Blake and Faraday about to exit the warehouse from before, when they run into Colonel Whitley and some armed men. Whitley tells Blake to give up his weapons and, while he's initially not willing to do so, the lights come on and reveal that there are many more armed men pointing at him from the walkway running the width of the hangar. With that, he surrenders his rifle but, when Whitley shows no remorse for what's happened and that his men have died, saying he has no idea what the infection can do, Blake charges him, only for Whitley to whip around and shoot him with a tranquilizer dart. Faraday is horrified by this but Whitley simply has his men take the unconscious Blake and Faraday with him.

Strata Medi-Lab: This level begins with a cutscene where Dr. Faraday is shown fiddling with a control panel in a room where Blake is being kept on an examination table, while, in the next room, Whitley is admiring some Thing specimens being kept in some large test tubes, one of which watches him as he walks out (by the way, note the female voice over the PA system; like MacReady's computer chess game in the movie, it's the only feminine presence in the whole game). Walking into the examination room, Whitley sees Faraday, who tells him that the infection is spread across the base and that all of the specimens must be destroyed, as he worries what will happen if the Thing reaches the mainland. Whitley, however, says that he himself is proof that the infection can be controlled, which Faraday feels is not possible and he's not going to let him expose himself. Whitley has no intention of allowing Faraday to interfere and shoots him in the back, killing him, before cancelling the program on the computer to terminate the specimens. After that, Blake awakens in the examination room, which is now completely dark and it's clear that all hell has broken loose in the base. You start this level with no weapons at all, so you have to play smart and stealthy for the first bit of it. A junction box in a small room to the right restores the power to the examination room and, when you've got everything up and running, if you look through the window across from the box, you'll an armed medic. Getting to him is not so easy, though, as there's a Walker roaming around the long, curving hallway outside the examination room, and in the room to the rear of it, there's a Scuttler pacing back and forth. You basically have to use yourself as bait by opening the door to the hallway, wait for the Walker to come charging in at you, evade it, get outside in the hallway, and close the door, trapping it in. However, this won't be the last time you'll have to deal with it. Regardless, in the hallway, there's a corpse against the wall with some assault rifle ammo lying next to it, as well as the door to the security area, which has an armory full of weapons. But, the junction box to it requires an engineer to repair to it. You can, however, repair the junction box to the sterilization area, where that medic, Falcheck, is. Give him some ammo and he'll listen to you, but before you go exploring the hallway that curves around across from you, you have destroy a drone gun in the ceiling that will cut you down when you walk in front of it (you have to temporarily take Falcheck's weapon, which temporarily damage his trust in you, but when you give it back, he'll listen to you again). You have also have to watch out for a computer monitor that blows up in your face and a corpse down the hall that spawns some Scuttlers.

In the hallway, a door on the left side leads into the "North Area," with a junction box that you can repair and once you do, you can go into some quarters (some Scuttlers will come at you from down the hall, though) that contains a couple of CCTV stations, a station with medical kits, a monitor, and a save station. If you access the computer, it will tell you that all security gates have been programmed to recognize Blake's DNA, but the one in the armory is malfunctioning. Those CCTV stations are the first ones that allow you to control sniper drone guns in another, large room but, really, they're only good for some target practice. Now, it's time to head to the armory but, the problem is that the mechanic you need to repair its junction box is in a room in the back of the examination room... where the Walker is currently trapped. Since you still don't have any sort of flame weapons at this point, you have to again lure it out. The best, but trickiest, course of action to take is to open the door, lure the Walker into the sterilization chamber where you found Falcheck, and trap it in there. Because that room is so small, you have to run like crap and be very precise with your button-pushing to shut the door in time (sometimes, you can glitch the game out and trap the Walker within the door itself). You can also simply lure the Walker out of the examination room, run in, and close the door, but you'll still eventually have to deal with it and you need to keep Falcheck in play for as long as possible, since he's the only one of you who's armed. As I said, there are Scuttlers in the small room in the back of the examination area and, while you can lure them out into the examination room and shut the door on them, it's best to bring Falcheck along and have him shoot them. Once that's taken care of, you can grab a flashlight in a small alcove in this room and then fix the junction box to the Cryo Area, where the mechanic, Dixon, is cowering. He's injured and you have to heal him quickly before he bleeds to death, and once he's good to go, you can lead him to the security area's junction box, though you have to deal with more Scuttlers that spawn from the corpses in that in-between room. Once he's fixed the junction box, you can get in there, grab a couple of items outside the security gate, and head through to load for war (it is possible for the security gate to detect you but it doesn't seem to affect anything, really). Some Scuttlers will explode out of a duct behind the gate, so you have to quickly load and kill them. Once you've gotten everything, you can give Dixon a weapon and ammo and move on.

You can now head down the main hallway to the door at the very end and open the door another medic is standing behind. He, more than likely, will change into a Thing, so you have to burn him very quickly. The hallway to the left of this room has a security gate that you need to deactivate by flipping the first and last of the four switches you find on the right side of the wall; trigger it and some Black Ops will emerge from the elevator in that room you were in and make mincemeat out of you before you realize what happened. There's also a drone gun in the ceiling above the door that you have to blow up before continuing. At the end of the hall is a large room containing a bunch of cells, and when you first walk in, you have to kill some Scuttlers (if you like, you can run back to the room with the CCTV sniper rifles and shoot them down from there). Some more may spawn after you kill the initial ones but it shouldn't be difficult at all. Checking the two computer monitors here will show you a note from Faraday where he's concerned about Whitley's mental stability and the listing of people being kept in the cells, some of which have become Things. The soldier named Fisk, who's in Cell 6, is someone you want on your team (even if you don't get him, he'll suddenly be part of your team in the next level anyway). There's another man being kept in one of the cells but he'll turn into a Thing as soon as you open the door, so forget about him. You now need to go into the third cell, which is empty but has a grate in back of it. You shoot that off and you then crawl through the duct, which leads to a raised platform in a room that has a couple of Brute Walkers stomping around down below. There are some flame grenades at the end of the platform and you can toss them down to try and kill them quickly. If you don't kill them, you can at least weaken them to where some hits from the flamethrower will finish them off. When they're dead, you can hop down there and find a junction box in a cubicle, but you need to have Dixon fix it. Fortunately, the door in this room connects to the hallway that leads into the North Area, so it's not at all difficult to regroup with your men. When he fixes the box, it'll activate the computer on the desk, which contains the code for the elevator near the cell room. Once you have that, you can head in there and ride it to the next level.

Strata Maintenance: You start out riding the elevator, and there's some ammo and an assault rifle on the floor, so load up while you can, because when the elevator stops, the level will begin. A cutscene shows the group disembarking from the elevator, as some Black Ops troopers prepare to get through an access door nearby to take them all down. When they get the door open, you'd better shoot them down as quickly as you can. When they're dead, you have to head down the hallway to the left of the elevator and go through the door on the left at the end there. However, while attempting to get through this short hallway beyond the door, you'll get ambushed from behind by about four waves of troopers, and you can very easily lose a guy here, so you better make sure you're ready for them. (The room beyond has a CCTV monitor and sniper turret, which you can use to pick the troopers off as they come through the door. Just be sure not to hit any of the big tubes containing Scuttlers that are also in the room.) Up in the booth that contains those controls, you also find a fire extinguisher and some medical kits, and there are three crates on the floor beneath it. The ones on the ends have a shotgun and some more rifle ammo in them; the second has a Scuttler. And the door with the junction box next to it in here leads into a small storeroom with more weapons and ammo. Once you've got everything, it's time to head back to the spot where you started, though you have to take care of some Scuttlers that pop out of some pipes in the ceiling. Now, you can go through the door the troopers came through and, when you do, an alarm will sound but then immediately short out. Around the corner up ahead, there are three or more troopers to take down, and at the end of this hall is a switch that activates a sentry gun around the corner up ahead. Some troopers will attempt to throw the switch and if they do, you'll have to peek around the corner and destroy the gun as fast as possible. It's impossible to do this without taking damage, so it's best to make sure you have plenty of health, and once you've destroyed the gun, if Falcheck is still alive, you can have him heal you. That reminds me: if you have to destroy the sentry, be sure to tell your men to stay behind until it's done or you're very likely to lose one. At the end of this corridor is a door but there are a couple of Walkers behind it. Instead of dealing with them, you can shoot out the grating next to the door and crawl through.

A couple of Scuttlers will come at you but you should be an expert at killing them by now. At the end of the tunnel, you can shoot out some more grating and down into a large room... and when you do, you better be ready to run. A fire will break out and spread throughout the room and up the stairs leading out of it. You have to run up there and down the hallway, ignoring a Walker that you run into (it, more than likely, will end up getting burned to death), and make it through the door at the end, killing some more Scuttlers in the room. After a few seconds, the fire will start to settle down and you can use an extinguisher to put out the remaining flames, head back to the room you dropped into, and grab some grenades (regular and high explosive). The room that you were led into is the one beyond the room the Walkers are in and it's full of switches, a save station, a monitor, and a junction box that you need Dixon to fix. There's also a room in the far corner that has some medical kits (there are corpses in there but they don't spawn anything). Your next objective is to get the four numbered switches in the center of the room working and to do that, you have to go through a door in the corner opposite from the room with the health packs. Beyond the door is a corridor, with a corpse in the corner that spawns some Scuttlers you have to shoot down and around that corner are two doors: one at the end of the hall and the one on the right. The junction box for the Fuel Supply switch is beyond the former but that room is full of fuel drums and Scuttlers. The best course of action is to throw a grenade in there, as the resulting explosion and inferno should kill everything in there, and once that's done, you can fix the box. The box to the Pressure Tank Controls is beyond the other door and there are more Scuttlers you have to kill, as well as more fuel drums on the floor, before you can get to it. There's also a small space of stairs to the left of the door you came through and it leads to a spot with grenades, pistol ammo, and a health pack inside a grate that a Scuttler bursts out of. Once you've repaired the switches, you can back to the room with the controls and if throw the switch labeled "1," it'll turn the room the two Walkers are in into an oven and kill them both. After they're dead and you've extinguished the flames, you can bring your men into the room and have Dixon fix the junction box in here, which will activate a much-needed save station. After you've saved, you can throw switch number four to open up a door in a corner of the room, which is where you must go next.

A trooper charges around the corner at the end of this hallway but, if you shoot the explosive crates there, you'll blow him to smithereens. Around that corner is an active sentry gun above an elevator, which you have to peek around at and destroy. You then have to get Dixon to repair the junction box next to the elevator to get it working and quickly kill a couple of troopers who are appear inside it when the doors open. Just walk into the elevator and you're off to the next level.

Strata Furnace: Likely, when you step out of the elevator, you'll have to deal with a Walker. You can trap it inside the pen of crates in the middle of this room and then, after repairing the furnace controls, open it and let the fire spread, killing the Walker, or you can just do it the old-fashioned way. After you repair a junction box next to the enormous door on the other side of the room, you can open it to reveal a two-leveled room, with the lower level being filled with crates as well as some troopers, and it won't take long for them to spot you. Also, when you walk through the door, Falcheck, if he's still with you, will turn into a Thing, so you have your hands full for a bit. Once all the threats are neutralized, you can make your way over to the door on the left side of the upper level and Dixon repair the junction box there. Inside the office, you get a cutscene where Blake comes across Temple, a wounded medic. When you're back in the game, you can heal him and give him a weapon. The CCTV station next to him is connected to a sniper sentry in the large room and you can use it to pick off some more troopers that find their way in. After that, you can grab a sniper rifle and ammo for it, both of which you'll need in the section up ahead. At the end of the walkway to the left of the door here is some flamethrower ammo and, on the opposite side of the upper level, is a room that, when you approach it, will produce one loan trooper. Inside is another mechanic, Lavelle, and he's about to crack, so you need to give him a weapon or perform a blood test on yourself to prove you're not infected. Once you've done that and you've healed him, he'll join you. Down in the lower level of the room, across from the bottom of the stairs, is a room with a save station in it but you have to get one of the engineers to repair the fuse box first (there's also an extra flamethrower and medical kits in a room right by the foot of the stairs). Upon saving your game, as well as loading up with shotgun, pistol, and flamethrower ammo, as well as some high explosive grenades, you can make your way to the opposite end of the lower level (some Scuttlers drop down near the furnace), where there are a couple of door switches in the right-hand corner. Throwing them opens up a couple of doors but some troopers come at you at this point, so you have to be prepared for them. Beyond this spot is a staircase that leads down, and while nothing will attack you, there is an explosive charge with a laser tripwire at the bottom of the stairs that you need to shoot in order to get by. Before you head out the door at the bottom, grab a health pack that you can find underneath the stairs. You'll need all the health you can get up ahead.

Beyond this door is a long, dark tunnel that's filled with troopers, as well as some Things, and it's very tricky to make it through in one piece. You need to have your flashlight on when you first enter here, as it's so dark, and head to the right of the door, towards a wrecked truck. Some Scuttlers will come at you here but, if you blow up some fuel barrels to the right of the truck, you'll take them out easily. There are grenades on either side of the truck and a junction box on the left that you need an engineer to repair. Once it's fixed, the lights in the tunnel will come on and with that, it's time to start heading down it. There are four or so troopers and a Walker to contend with in this first spot and, for my money, it's best to make use of the sniper rifle to take out the troopers from afar, while killing the Walker through the usual means. At the end of this section is a blockade but you can destroy it by using a CCTV sniper turret in an alcove off to the right of the tunnel to shoot the fuel drums behind it. When you blow that up, more troopers will come for you, so you have to pick them off, and when they're dead, you can grab some ammo from some crates and have an engineer repair the junction box by the enormous door at the end of the tunnel in order to get through it. Inside is a large room with spare ammo and grenades in several corners (one corner requires you to throw a grenade over some crates in order to clear a way to a mess of flame grenades), as well as some Scuttlers waiting for you and a guy atop a walkway who turns into a Thing. When they're all dead and you've gotten everything, you can repair a junction box up in the booth atop the walkway to activate the large door below. You'll have to deal with some Scuttlers and Walkers that come after you and, when they're dead, you'd best grab what ammo you can and heal yourself to maximum health, because beyond that large door down there is the second boss Thing.

You must make sure you have everything you need before opening the door, because when you throw that switch, it leads into a cutscene that introduces the boss and you'll be stuck in this large room until you kill it. And that sucks, because this boss is very tricky to figure out how to battle. The first thing you have to do is repair the junction box to the winch power supply that's around the corner of the line of crates here. Following that, the best course of action is to switch to first-person, peer over the low part of the line of crates her, and toss grenades to score enough hits to firmly damage the boss (you have to be careful in throwing them, because they can easily bounce back at you). It is possible to use the sniper rifle from this vantage point but it's difficult to score enough hits to thoroughly damage the boss. You can also run out in front of the boss, use the winch controls on the opposite side of the room to electrocute and stun it to where you can shoot it, and then duck back into the corner before it can attack again when it recovers. However, with that latter strategy, it's impossible to keep from taking damage and this boss is strong enough to kill you in just three direct hits; what's more, going back around the corner is harder than it sounds, as there's a glitch in the graphics that can you cause to become stuck in the split-second necessary for you to get hit. In any case, once the boss is in the red and you've stunned it with the winch, you can toss flame grenades at the spot atop its torso where a head would normally be and finish it off. If that doesn't work, you can take cover, heal yourself, and repeat the process until the boss is dead. Once it's dead, you can throw a switch on the wall behind it to open the door to the next room, which is to the left of the door that led into the one with the boss. In that room, after you get what ammo you can find in there, there's a switch on the wall you need to throw. Doing so leads to a cutscene, where Blake discovers that one of the crates in the room contains a ticking bomb that's just 35 seconds away from exploding. With that, you have to run all the way back to the room in the tunnel that contained the CCTV monitor and head into the elevator in the back of it, which you activated by throwing that switch. Your men don't survive this, even if they do make it back with you, so you might as well take their weapons and ammo before you rush to the elevator (preferably before you throw the switch).

Transit Hangar 1: You begin outside in the cold and your destination is this large warehouse at the end of the line of lights in front of you. There are a couple of troopers patrolling the outside door, as well as one right on the inside it, and you can take them out however you see fit (I prefer to use the sniper rifle, and the stacks of fuel drums on either side of the entrance make for easy ways to take them out instantly). Inside, you can find a health pack in a large container and some sniper rifle ammo in the far right corner. The door on the left side of the room leads deeper into the place, going from a small corridor to another room, where a trooper will sound the alarm that he's standing near, bringing a lot more on you, if you don't kill him as quickly possible. And when you kill him, you have to watch out, because a couple will come through the door behind you, wielding flamethrowers. A door on the left side of this room leads into a small space with a save station, as well as a weapon and some ammo, but it's locked. The door on the right leads deeper into the building, into a corridor with a corner that's hiding another trooper and beyond him a door that eventually leads into a much large room with a couple of more troopers in it (the troopers are your main enemies in this level). If you use the computer in the corner to the left of the door, you'll read about some C4 explosives held somewhere in the place, which is a hint to one of your later objectives. Around the corner from the computer is another door that, again, has a junction box that you need a mechanic to repair, so you have to head on through the door to the right of it. Beyond it, you come across a couple of Scuttlers heading down the hall and a couple of more will jump out at you from the corner across from the door. The room beyond it is another large area that's separated by an unfinished wall and doorway, to the left of which is a couple of troopers and a Dog Beast in a large container. If you don't want the latter getting loose, you have to quickly kill the troopers, along with a couple of flamethrower-wielders that emerge from the elevator on the right side of the room. After they're all dead, there's a much-needed health kit dispenser to the left of the next door. That door leads into a twisting hallway that has three more troopers that you have to kill, as well as a grate in the wall that some Scuttlers are hiding behind. The door at the end here leads to a spot where you can take out a trooper on a lower level by using the sniper rifle through some open windows, and at the bottom of the slope here is a room to the left where, around a corner, a mechanic named Powell is cornered by some troopers. You need him, so you have to quickly kill the troopers and once you enter the room, you get a cutscene where Blake and Powell discuss the cargo that the troops appear to be protecting, saving that if it's for Whitley, it must be destroyed.

After giving Powell a gun and ammo, as having him repair a junction box for a save station in the room, you can check the cold storage room behind him (after he repairs the box for it) for a shotgun and some various types of ammo (why is that stuff in cold storage?), along with some Scuttlers. Now, you have to head back the way you came, shooting a trooper who pops up around the corner, and if you want, you can lead Powell back to that holding area, have him repair the junction box, and inside, have him repair another one. This allows you to access a computer in there that gives you the code to that locked door you came across early in the level, beyond which is a save station (which you can use now or save for later), a grenade launcher, and some ammo. The problem with this part, though, is that the holding area is covered with blood and full of dead corpses, which instantly terrify Powell. It's very hard to get him over to the junction box, have him repair it, and get him out of the room before he becomes too scared to move, and if you don't have an adrenaline syringe with you, you're screwed, because you still need Powell later on. (That whole section is unnecessary to complete the level, so do it at your own risk, basically.) Anyway, back at the room where you found Powell, across from it is the next hallway you need to head down and around the corner, you'll run into some troopers. These guys will try to trip the alarm like the one before, so you have to kill them quickly, and some flamethrowers will come through the entryway behind you (yeah, you have to watch your rear a lot in this level). The door at the end of this room leads to a stairwell that you have to walk down, killing Scuttlers that explode out of grates in the wall (there's a health pack underneath the stairs that you can reach from the bottom, although Scuttlers can spawn from the corpse next to it). Beyond the door at the bottom are a couple of doors, one of which has a junction box Powell has to fix. Behind it is a long hallway with some fuel drums in the far, right corner, and if you shoot them at the right moment, they kill a couple of Scuttlers that jump from around the corner to the left of them. Around that corner is a corridor with some windows into another room which has some troopers in there and if they spot you and can't get a shot at you, then they'll come around to where you are. Also in this corridor is a lot of ammo, as well as door controls and a CCTV station that shows you a room containing a Dog Beast and a couple of Scuttlers in large, glass containers. If they haven't broken out, things will be much easier when you get around to that room but, regardless, you have to throw the lever to the door that they're behind.

The door to that room is back down the hall, in the spot along with the door with the junction box. Once you enter it, you can have Powell fix a junction box for a save station and enter the room with the Things in order to get a key by a corpse. Said key is to the room that contains the C4 but, in order to get to it, you have to first shoot one of the tubes containing a Scuttler and then kill it if they're still contained (be really careful not to let the Dog Beast loose). The door with the explosives is right across from the save station and, inside, you have to deactivate the lasers that are protecting them. But once you do, you set off the alarm and troopers will start swarming into the place, so once you have the C4, you have to battle your way back the way you came. Not only will you have to shoot through a whole lot of troopers but Things will start swarming the place as well, not just Scuttlers but also some more Dog Beasts (for instance, if the one Dog Beast in that container back in there didn't get loose before, it will be now). There's one hallway where some troopers will be trying to kill one with flamethrowers and, in the room beyond, which is where the holding area is, you'll run into another one. And then, right as you're reaching the entrance to the place, another one will come crashing through a door (fortunately, though, it's the last one). After that, you'll come to that coded room with the save station and grenade launcher and, once you've saved (killing some troopers who come in on you in the process), you can head on back out, killing any other troopers who get in your way, the next level starting when you make it outside the warehouse's entrance.

Flight Control: Like before, you begin this level outside and your first objective is to plant the C4 on the cargo planes in four hangars, which you come upon by just heading forward at the start of the level (if Powell is still with you, you have to command him to follow you at the beginning of the level; otherwise, he'll just stand there). Each hangar has a guard patrolling it, meaning it's best to use the sniper rifle, but this time, you have to make sure you gun each of them down as fast as possible. If you miss or just wound them, they'll run for the controls that shut the hangar doors and once they flip those switches, you might as well restart the level, because you can't abort the procedure and you need the hangar doors open in order to do what you ultimately have to. Because of that, it's best to approach and attack the guards from the ends of the hangars' fronts where the controls are housed, so you don't have to chase them down, and also to make Powell stay in one spot, as he's a little too trigger-happy for all this stealth. In any case, once the guards are dead, you just have to go in, plant the C4 on the planes' front wheels (like in the first level, the game is nice enough to show you where exactly to do it), and repeat the process for the other hangars. You can explore the hangars themselves for ammo and items (except for the third one, which is completely empty) but you also often run into some Scuttlers while doing so. What's more, the latter two hangars are behind the main building in the are and you have to head around the fence on either side of it in order to reach them. Once you've planted the C4, it's time to head into the main building, killing a couple of troopers standing guard outside its main entrance. Inside, you have to kill a Brute Walker roaming the square-shaped hallway and, after that, you can fix a junction box to a door that leads into the staff room. Inside, you find a corpse with a key that you need, as well as a PC and a save station. But, you won't be in there long before a Dog Beast bursts through the door, along with a couple of Scuttlers, forcing you to fight in a very confined space. Once they're all dead, you'll probably be ready to save your game.

To the left of the staff room is a door that leads into a small spot with two more doors: one to another data room, which requires you to have Powell repair a junction and contains a save station, as well as some shotgun and assault rifle ammo, and another to the maintenance area of the building. The maintenance area in the back has a fork, the right of which has a room with Scuttlers, while the left has a twisting corridor around a corner. There are a lot of fuel drums around that corner and it's best to shoot the first one from afar, in order to kill a Thing mass in a nook next to the corner as well as to wound a Walker down the corridor. Said Walker has a medic named Reed trapped in a corner and if you want him to join your group, you have to kill the Thing quickly. Once it's dead, heal Reed, give him a weapon and ammo, and have him follow you back to the staff room. On the opposite side of the building is a restroom on the outer wall (there's nothing in there) and a door on the inner wall that leads to a staircase that winds its way up to the top of tower here. On the way up, you have to kill some Scuttlers and, when you reach the top, after killing a Scuttler beyond the door, you'll find a circular, curving corridor with a room on either side. One of them contains a Walker as well as a save station, so you have to kill the Thing, save your game, and get ready for the really crucial, and most nerve-wracking part of this level. Both of the rooms up in this tower look down on the hangars harboring the cargo planes and you have to use these vantage points to snipe them. However, what makes this so tense is that, when you destroy one plane, the hangar doors will begin closing, and you have to quickly destroy the other one that you can see from your current vantage point, rush to the other room, and destroy the remaining two before they close; if they do, you fail and have to try again. Not only does doing all of this take time but so does finding the perfect spot to easily hit them both without having to move around too much (it's best to stand right in the center of the windows in each room), aiming and zooming through the first-person view of the sniper rifle, and then switching back to the normal third-person in order to run to the other room. Regardless, once you've managed to destroy the planes, you'll see some Things entering the building through maintenance area and, when you walk out of the room you're in, you'll then see troopers entering through the building's front entrance. More often than not, you run into them when they reach the top of the stairs, while the Things (a Walker and a couple of Scuttlers) wait for you in the maintenance area. Once they're all dead, the next level begins when you head outside through the maintenance area's door and crouch down to move through the duct-work leading underground. Like before, your group won't join, so it's best to take their weapons and ammo back before leaving.

Weapons Security: As tough as the game has been for the last few levels, this is where it really pulls out all the stops and gets truly frustrating difficult. It doesn't seem that way when you first start this level but, just wait. At the end of the duct that you crawled into, you come out into a large, underground cavern, and if you walk straight ahead, you come across a couple of shacks and an elevator across from them. When you get close to the shacks, you'll hear the sounds of a Brute Walker inside the large one and it won't be long before he'll come bursting out and you have to dispose of him. Once he's dead, you can go in the shack he was in and take some medical kits, shotgun ammo, and high-explosive grenades, as well as repair the junction box in the smaller shack. This fixes that elevator but you still can't use it because it requires a keycard. Also, when you approach it, some Scuttlers drop down on you. You have to take this slanting, rocky path to the left of the elevator and follow it until you reach some more ductwork in the wall ahead, inside which there's a small explosion, followed by the appearance of a Scuttler. While crawling through the ducts, you get jumped by some more Scuttlers around the first corner, some of which drop down on you from above and a couple of more that tag you from behind. When you reach the end of the duct and drop out onto a walkway the curves around the walls of this huge, vertical chamber, a medic, Cohen, will run past you, being chased by some troopers. He runs to the very top of this scaffolding, so you have to chase him down, give him a weapon and ammo, and kill any troopers that follow him up, as well as some Scuttlers that he runs into up top. Once all these enemies are dead, you have to make your way down the walkway and this is the toughest challenge yet, as you have to avoid blasts of hot steam from the pipes alongside the platforms, destroy sentry guns on the walls at the end of just about every other corner (some of them have fuel drums near them that you can blow up to take them out but doing so at one spot starts a chain reaction that creates a line of fire you have to put out yourself), deal with more troopers, and watch for corpses in nearly every corner that spawn a ridiculous amount of Scuttlers each. This is hard enough to do with Cohen helping you but there are some instances where he inexplicably turns into a Thing and you have to kill him, forcing you to take on all this crap alone.

The last ramp is the worst, as you not only have to endure a never-ending torrent of Scuttlers spawned from this one corpse and a sentry gun at the end, but there's also a damn Dog Beast roaming around the door that you need to go through. And even once you get through the door, you're still not safe, as there are two sentry guns in the back of it that will start shooting at you once you walk in, and the room containing the switch that deactivates them has a crate in front of it. You have to stay over to the right side of the wall at the front of the room, shoot the crate, and then quickly run through the door and throw the switch. Once that's done, you can collect a pistol, a shotgun, and ammo for it, as well as a much-needed save station. However, the rest of the level isn't any easier, as you have deal with more sentry guns. In the next room, you again have to run as fast as you can to a little booth across from the door and throw a switch. Unfortunately, it only turns off the sentry on that same wall; the one on the opposite one is still operational and will cut you down if you anywhere near the open windows in this space. It's best to crouch down, switch to first-person, and fire on the sentry until it explodes, although you also have the option to throw the switch under the now deactivated sentry on the left wall. There's also a health pack and sniper ammo to be found in the crates near the sentry on the right wall, and some Scuttlers will burst out of air ducts in the back of this room. However, the next and final room is the worst one of all, so it's best to go back and save again before attempting it. It has four sentries: two at the back of the room and two over the door you walk through. There are two switches in the room but, no matter which one you throw, you deactivate one set and activate the other! The best approach is to run into the small booth on the right that contains one switch, destroy the sentries above the door you need to go through before throwing the switch, and then doing so. Some Scuttlers tend to break out of the grating in the wall here but, more than likely, the sentries pick them off before you have to fight them. After all of this crap is over, you can finally go through that door and head to the next level.

Weapons Lab: This level starts with Blake coming upon a standoff between two mechanics, Ryan and Stolls, who have each other at gunpoint. When you're back in control, you have to decide which one to trust. If you don't have a blood test, there's one on the opposite side of the little station they're standing in, and if you use it on Ryan, he'll be exposed and transform. After he's dead, you can have Stolls join you and walk through the door around the corner from where he was standing, which leads into the robotics lab. There's a data room here with a junction box you need Stolls to repair and, when he does, you can go in, grab some shotgun ammo, and save your game. Another junction box that you need to have repaired is at the top of the ramp in the room and it restores power to the room in general. When everything's up and running, you can check each of the PCs here that are still active (which tells you how things started out as business as usual in the lab and then progressed until the Thing wiped the place out), but when you walk past the second pair of desks, a Brute Walker and a couple of Scuttlers burst down the door to the right and you have to quickly kill them. Once they're dead, the next order of business is to get into the "Black Tech" lab and, when you head back down the ramp after killing the Things up there, you get a cutscene where Stolls tells you that you have to open the door to the lab using a switch on the desk at the bottom of the ramp. You have to wait for Stolls to reach the door, which you can see by using the CCTV monitor that's also on the desk, and then throw it. After he walks through, an explosion will occur and, before you follow after him, you can another CCTV station there, which has a sniper attachment, to clear the room beyond the now-demolished door of Scuttler-spawning pods and any Scuttlers that have already spawned. When they're dead, you can walk in there and extinguish the fire on the floor. And if you're wondering what became of Stolls, if you go into the room on the right wall, you'll see that he changed. When you kill him, you can take back his weapon and ammo, get some more pistol ammo, and then head on through the door at the end of the corridor that was burning. Doing so will start another cutscene, where a guy asks Blake for help, lures him into a room, and then shuts the door behind him. The room starts filling up with toxic gas and you only have 30 seconds to figure out what to do. Fortunately for me, I saw Spoony's video long before I got to this, so I knew exactly what to do: repair the junction box in the room, operate the CCTV sniper station, and use it to blow up the gas pumps outside of the door, stopping the gas and blowing the door open. With that done, you can grab some ammo, fuel canisters, and health packs before heading back out, saving your game as you go (if you check the one PC, you'll see a message from Whitley, telling Blake to breathe deep).

If you checked the other PC in that gas room, you would have seen a short clip of some troopers running through the large door across from the security station that you came across when you first started the level. That's where you need to go next, but when you head into the red light district, you first have to destroy a sentry around the corner, on the wall next to the door, and through the door, you have to destroy a Scuttler-pod before you can throw the switch behind it to the sentry controls (otherwise, you'll get cut down when you enter the next room). When you walk into the next room, you'll see a quick clip of someone ducking behind a door that's down the hall from where you enter. There are several things to do in this large area, though your main objective is to gain access to the weapons research room. To the right of the door you come through is a junction box that opens a door into a room with three CCTV stations. Using them, you see that there are two troopers guarding one door elsewhere in the room, another couple of them apparently holding a man hostage in another part, and the room where the guy you saw earlier has barricaded himself in, putting a bunch of fuel drums up against the door, and which happens to be the weapons research lab (if you zoom in on him, you can see that he's bleeding out rapidly). The next spot you want to go is the operation booth that overlooks a gun range on the left-hand section of this large room. When you approach it, the two troopers in the booth will come down to greet you, and when you've returned the greeting, you can repair the junction box that restores power to the booth under the stairs leading to it, as well as stock up on a ton of ammo on some shelves near the gun range (you can use the gun range but it acts as little more than target practice). Up in the booth, you can get the man who was being held hostage, an engineer named Peltola, to join with you, as well as make use of a CCTV sniper station to destroy the fuel drums that have been stacked against the inside of the door to weapons research. If you use the normal CCTV station next to the sniper monitor, you'll see a room that has a container with a Brute Walker contained inside it, which is what the two troopers you saw earlier are guarding. On the way to weapons research, you can have Peltola fix the junction box to a data room (which you will want to use very soon), which also has ammo for the assault rifle, shotgun, and pistol in it. In the weapon research lab, you can grab a key on a table in the left side of the room, which opens the loan door near the gun range. Open that door, kill the two troopers guarding the door beyond it, and you'd best save before tackling what comes next.

When you walk through the door that those troopers were guarding, you're greeted by the third, and most frustrating, boss: a Thing-monster that smashes through the ceiling and hangs down in the center of the room. Initially, it may seem like there's not a safe place to shoot it from, unlike the first couple of bosses, but there is an apparent glitch you can exploit: if you run right at the boss and stand directly underneath it, it just sits there and won't attack you, for whatever reason. From there, you can easily shoot it until its cross-hairs iris turns red, but the problem comes when it's time to burn it. There's no way to blast it with the flamethrower from this safe spot without injuring yourself, albeit slightly each time, and when you do, the boss will start thrashing and, more than likely, let loose that Walker by smashing its tube open. You can let the Walker loose yourself and kill it by shooting and burning it without moving from your spot but doing so is really difficult, and I often end up having to fight both it and the boss at the same time. I also find that backing away and tossing a flame grenade at the boss is often disastrous, as the boss can easily bounce the grenade back at you. For me, the best thing to do is just stand under the boss and keep blasting it with the flamethrower, ignoring the damage I gradually receive, as well as the Walker when it gets loose, and heal when it's necessary. Basically, what I'm saying is that there's no easy way to kill this boss, and once it's dead, you have to kill some troopers that burst into the room, so don't be surprised if you have to reload your save state in a number of times. Once that's done, your next objective is simply to escape, so collect the weapons in the crates in the room, save your game again, and hope to God that you still have some medical kits with you, because the final two levels are really hard and you won't get any more kits for quite a while.

Escape: It seems like every time I get to this level, the game has managed to severely screw me over, as I've used up a lot of health kits trying to kill that last boss, my health bar is down to half or less, and I only have maybe one kit, which sucks, because there are moments here where you can't avoid taking damage. And there are no save stations, so if you die at any point, you're doing it all over. The gist of the level is you're heading back through the facility, which is now exploding and burning all around you, and you have to avoid explosions and patches of fire, as well as some troopers and Things in the latter part of it. You start out by going through the last sentry room you went through earlier and when you reach the door at the end, it blows open and you take damage. In the sentry room beyond it, some Scuttlers will crawl out of the ducts but it's best to ignore them, as they don't last long in the fire, and then, you go through the first sentry room and have to walk back up the walkway you came down earlier. This is where it gets especially difficult, as you have to avoid random explosions in spots (it seems like one happens around every corner), blasts of hot steam from the pipes, and put out fires that block your path. There's one spot near the top where there's an explosion and wall of flames comes at you, again injuring you, no matter what you do, and making things harder. When you get near the top, you encounter a couple of troopers, as well as two Brute Walkers who will likely be attacking another trooper at the top. Weakening them and burning them in this narrow walkway is really difficult, as they can easily trap you and force you back down the walkway, and it's difficult to hit them with the flame grenades when they first run at you because you can miss, the grenade might not explode in time, or it can ricochet off the wall and come back at you. So, like that last boss, there's no easy way to do this. One time, I just got lucky and managed to kill one Walker, while getting past the other, and just ran to the top of the walkway, where you have to climb up some stacked boxes and squeeze through an opening into some ductwork. You follow the vent, reach a point where you drop down (you don't take damage from this, thankfully), crawl to the left, and make your way back to the cave... where there are four Dog Beasts roaming around. Best way to handle them is to wait from them to charge up the ramp, towards the duct, and once they're standing outside the opening (they're too big to get in), wear their health down, and fry them, though you have to watch out for the Scuttlers they spawn once they're dead, as they'll come at you in the duct. You can then head down to the cave's floor, take out any remaining Scuttlers, and use the elevator that you couldn't use before.

Field Testing: You thought that was the end of it? Oh, no, the hell is just beginning. Now, you have to get about halfway through this last level to reach a save point, and not only will you start it over if you die at any point before then, if you give up, you'll start at the Weapons Lab level and have to go through the entire Escape one again. That sucks, because this game is a nightmare, especially if you're running very low on health and have no kits, as I usually am when I get to it. At the start of this level, you see Whitley running away into the snow and you have to pursue him. But you have to do so through a series of tight valleys and gorges of snow and ice, which are crawling with troopers. You get some sniper ammo at the beginning and there, you can pick off three that are waiting for you just up ahead, but after that, it's all about reaching each corner, manipulating the camera around so you can see what's waiting for you, and tossing a grenade around the corner to take out any troopers waiting for you, while gunning down any that come around the corner after you (it's best to use the shotgun for that). It's nerve-wracking, and while you can make use of some stacked fuel drums that you find along the trail, blowing them up along with any troopers who are standing near them, it's not made any easier by how there are several snipers waiting for you down the path. The first one, who's around the corner of the second canyon, killed me so many times, as it's hard to get into a position to shoot him, line up and zoom in the sniper rifle, and fire before he gets the first shot off, and he can easily kill you with one direct hit. He also happens to be sitting near a small cave that's full of ammo, grenades, and, hallelujah, health packs, but getting to them is anything but easy, and when you go in there, some troopers often zero in you and you have to kill them as fire at you through the opening, as well as be wary of any waiting on either side of it outside. Speaking of "outside," remember that you're out in the cold this whole time and you have to keep an eye on that exposure meter and beat it to the nearest warm place to recover when it nears the bottom (I forgot about it one time and died before I realized what happened). Beyond that cave is a spot where the course forks off in two directions, both of which have troopers coming down them, and there's a second sniper waiting for you beyond it, though it's possible to back up far enough at the start of the fork and pick him off. Beyond him is one last gorge full of troopers and a third sniper patrolling the dome that you need to get into.

Inside the dome, you get a cutscene where Blake confronts Whitley and shoots a bunch of fuel drums surrounding him, only for him to resist the flames that engulf him. Now fully infected by the Thing and completely out of his mind, he tells Blake that an evacuation chopper is heading towards them and that he's going to use it to infect the entire world. Saying that the game is just beginning (God, I hope not, as this review has been a butt-kicker to write), he then runs off into the depths of the place. First thing you want to do once you come back to the game is grab some medical kits and flame grenades in a nook to your right that you have to crawl under and then save your game with the station to the left of the fire he was standing in. Now, you have to navigate this maze-like area, which is full of more troopers, as well as a bunch of laser trip mines (you see what I mean when I said how, by this point, it doesn't feel like The Thing anymore?) If you take the path to the left of the save station, you'll run into a trooper coming around a corner, and once you kill him, you'll find five more waiting for you... right in front of some fuel drums. You should know what to do. To the left of the spot where the drums were is a corridor with a mine that you have to blow up and then head down a zig-zagging path, killing several more troopers. You then come to a fork in the path but the mine-laden corridor ahead of you eventually leads back to where you started (which is good if you want to save your progress at some point), while over to the left, you find another mine, as well as a couple of troopers, who will stupidly set off the mine and kill themselves if you don't do it first. Around the next corner is a straight corridor with troopers hiding in several different spots, making it perfect for a grenade, as there are some fuel drums back there as well. You then have to crouch underneath some scaffolding, blowing up another patrolling trooper by shooting some drums behind him, and use the sniper rifle to take out a couple of more down the corridor (another tends to hide in this small spot to the left as well). Beyond this is the last leg of the maze, which has a mine at the start of it but, again, a dumb trooper will walk into it and blow himself up. Around that corner is another trooper and another mine beyond him, which likely blows up another idiot trooper. Beyond is another trooper, another corner with a mine, another trooper, another corner with a mine, and then, the last little corridor, with two troopers at the end of it, as well as another around the corner at the door. After you kill them, you can stock up on a lot of ammo on the right side, particularly sniper ammo, as you'll need it for the next bit, and you might want to go back and save before attempting this.

You head back outside and come across five cargo containers, which you'll need to use as cover, as beyond them is a sniper area where five of them are waiting to take you down. There's no real strategy to this part, except to find a suitable spot to duck behind, aim, and shoot, hoping that you can take them down as quickly as possible. This is far from easy, though, as they're excellent shots, the thick snow blowing in the wind can obscure your vision when you're trying to take aim at those in the back parts of their complex, and there's one on the ground out front and another on the lower part of the structure that you might not see. Once you clear him and some of the others in the front out, you can hide behind a number of crates in order to more accurately get at the last snipers. Like before, you have to keep an eye on your exposure meter and go back inside and warm up when you need to. When you've killed all of them, you can enter a large container behind the structure, stock up on more ammo, and raise your health, before heading through the gorge that's to the right of the sniper complex to the final boss: Whitley.

Whitley: When you reach the end of the gorge, you get a cutscene where you Whitley is atop a structure and, after throwing up, bursts out and grows into a gigantic Thing monster (kind of a ho-hum design, though, considering the other Thing creatures you've encountered throughout the game, don't you think?) After that, you round the corner ahead and another cutscene will show a helicopter flying in past the Thing and land at a helipad, where Blake meets up with it. The pilot asks him if he needs some help and Blake says, "No shit," telling him to circle in close. With that, you're at the controls of the machine gun mounted inside the chopper and the way to kill the Thing is ridiculously obvious and simple. You have to blow up the four sets of fuel drums surrounding it, which sends flames shooting into the monster, and from there, you just have to fire on its head, as well as the spot below it that shoots out a tentacle, now and again. That's it, basically. Just keep doing that (you can't run out of ammo), deal with the pilot's sometimes off-kilter flying, which can make it hard to shoot where you need to, especially when he flies away from it and you have to wait for him to come around again, and eventually, the Thing will go down and the game is over. It ends with Blake asking the pilot, as they fly off, who he is and, as you's probably expect before he even say it, it's MacReady. By the way, before we sign off, let me tell you a little story about the first time I got to this final battle. It was back when I still had the PC version and, after battling my way through the game, being stuck on the last few levels for a long time because of the lack of health and medical kits, I was more than ready to put it to bed. So, I battle the final boss, I beat him, it cuts to black, I'm expecting the final cutscene... and the game bombed! It ended up going back to the main menu and I had to do the fight all over again, which I did. And the same thing happened. After playing this game off and on for eight years at that point, dealing with all of its glitches and irritating aspects, it felt like it had deliberately robbed me of the game's ending. I was livid, to say the least, and while I had the option to watch the credits from the main menu and listen to After Me, I still felt completely screwed and cheated, as I wanted to earn the ending, even if I did know what it was was, thanks to that Spoony video. But, until I got the PS2 version some time later, I was never able to truly beat the game.

On the whole, if you're a fan of survival-horror or shooter games, The Thing is worth at least one playthrough, despite its flaws. While it does suffer from glitches, problems with character AI, graphics and character animation that are rather dated, aspects of the game mechanics that don't work as well as they were originally advertised, gameplay spots that can get tedious after a while, and, halfway through, it switches from being something quite special and creepy into a more generic storyline, I think there's still plenty to recommend it. It manages to be fun and challenging, the environments and Thing monsters are well-designed, it's fun shooting and blasting your enemies, figuring out where to go and what to do is just tricky enough without being frustrating (most of the time, anyway), the sound design and music work well, After Me is a really cool song, and the game, especially during its first third, manages to be quite creepy and really captures the atmosphere and feeling of isolation that makes the movie the wonderful piece of cinema that it is. Again, a gaming classic? Probably not. An entertainingly spooky time-waster? In my opinion, yes.

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