7 Changes Nightdive Should Make For The Thing (2002) Remaster

There were always movie video game tie-ins but sometime around the mid-2000s gamers saw a large influx of unusually late game adaptations. PlayStation 2 and Xbox had many games based on pretty old films at the time made by big publishers because they were easily recognizable names and the licensing was dirt cheap.

EA did several versions of The Godfather, Vivendi was on Scarface, Rockstar was on The Warriors and Capcom did The Nightmare Before Christmas. There was From Russia With Love which scored Sean Connery as Bond and there were a couple of Evil Dead games too. Martin Scorsese himself halted the production of a game based on Taxi Driver. Even Apocolypse Now almost had a video game adaptation. There was no limit to what films got late-game adaptations.

Like any movie tie-in, the results were often mixed. Most of them end up forgotten, but once in a while, there’s a movie game that makes an impression. Nightdive Studios has recently taken up the duties of remastering the 2002 PlayStation 2/Xbox game The Thing, which was a sequel to the indelible John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982. By all accounts, The Thing was a subpar action game even in 2002, but fans of the film latched onto it for its admittedly faithful atmosphere and connections to the film.

Nightdive usually produces excellent work as seen in their impeccable remasters of Quake and Quake II. They even have made the mediocre Turok 2 enjoyable with the help of tweaks and fixes. Can Nightdive take a third-rate shooter based on a beloved horror film and make it golden? With my seven suggestions, The Thing Remastered can finally deliver on its promises.

1. Make The Trust System Work As Intended

One of the key components of The Thing that made it stand out was the trust system. The original film was steeped in paranoia and the characters began to mistrust each other. The alien threat could imitate anyone and it could do it perfectly down to the cellular level. The only way to find out who was who was to administer a blood test which was ingeniously executed in the film.

The Thing game admirably tried to incorporate the trust elements from the film but failed miserably. The problem is that party members don’t really become suspicious, they just lose their fucking minds. Sometimes they puke all over themselves or start shooting like maniacs. The idea is that the player has to convince them that they’re human and this is done two ways: a blood test or giving them a gun.

The blood test didn’t work the way the developers intended. It can be used on yourself or the perturbed NPC. Using the blood test on anyone but yourself was never worth it because it usually would make the NPC instantly Thing-out which would cause a ton of havoc and maybe lead to other party members dying or turning. Using it on yourself usually made everyone calm down and trust you.

In a perfect world, The Thing would have had dialogue options where players would get to convince NPCs without the need for a gun or blood test. Unfortunately, The Thing is built around shooting shit and isn’t an RPG where you can make meaningful decisions.

2. Make The Infection System Fairer

Due to story reasons, Capt. Blake, the protagonist won’t get infected. This is already a problem at the game’s foundation that regretfully can’t be addressed. However, all the party members’ infection mechanics could be fixed since the game will have no problem forcing NPCs to mutate even after clearing a blood test. It’s very common to bust your ass protecting a medic or engineer, only for them to transform regardless, and it always is frustratingly unfair.

It isn’t apparent, but NPCs have an invisible infection meter that builds up as they get attacked. This is not a bad idea, but there are also instances where the game will force remaining NPCs to become monsters to get rid of them because the next story sequences demand Capt. Blake to be alone. Other times the remaining NPC Engineer will be deemed useless if there are no fuse boxes to repair and will be forcibly transformed into a monster. This can happen even if the Engineer was never attacked and passed a blood test.

It is always best to use blood tests on yourself because even if a party member is infected, not activating their transformation keeps things easier. Keeping them in the dark keeps you safe and proving to them that you’re not infected keeps them trusting you so they don’t blow their brains out.

3. Fix The Bosses

The Thing had several bosses and they were all buggy. The absolute worst example of this was the third boss which was an unfair son of a bitch that would slap the shit out of you no matter where you ran. It didn’t matter how mobile, or how quick your reflexes were, it always seemed like this fucking creature was always able to reach you and smack your face into the cold Arctic dirt.

How was this boss beatable? If you didn’t use up all your medkits while sneaking in shots, the best method you had was exploiting the poor coding. If you go against logic, it turned out the safest place to be was right up in front of this miserable abomination. It turns out the hit detection doesn’t work when Blake is up close to it and it will be unable to effectively hit him, making the boss as easy as shooting a fish in a barrel.

Nightdive will have their work cut out for them if they can address the poorly coded bosses. There needs to be more of a drawn-out wind-up animation for the boss’ attacks and they need to be avoidable and players should be kicked back or damaged if they get too close.

4. Flamethrowers Shouldn’t Be A Liability

While playing The Thing, you may feel compelled to administer a blood test to one of your party members. He fails the test and transforms and attacks one of your other remaining partners and he begins to transform too. Like in the movie, you wanna get the flamethrower and burn these things, but when you do, these creatures don’t just fall over and fry to a crisp.

When set ablaze, these things flail all around you, right up in Capt. Blake’s face. Now you’re thinking, “What’s happening? What’s going on?”, as you see your life bar quickly deplete as you rush through your inventory to quickly use a med kit, but it’s too late. Before you realize it, it’s Game Over and it dawns on you that all this happened because Blake somehow set himself on fire when trying to burn the things.

Nightdive would be heroes if they could adjust how the flamethrowers work so that players don’t instantly get set on fire if burning foes rush them. This is one of the most common ways to die in The Thing and it never feels fair.

5. Tasteful Graphical OverhaulImage taken from YouTube

Tastefully enhancing the visuals is something Nightdive has proven to be very good at. When they remastered the first and second Quake games, they added a feature that allowed players to use updated models. The new graphics were very subtle and were faithful to the look and feel of the original, and most gamers didn’t even realize there were new models at all.

In 2002, The Thing wasn’t exactly a great-looking game, but it wasn’t ugly either. It certainly didn’t match the level of quality seen in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty or Silent Hill 2 from 2001, but you could count on the atmosphere and style to carry the passable visuals. Nightdive could take a similar approach as they did with the Quake remasters and include options that feature more detailed and articulate character models.

6. Things Should Behave More Like They Do In The Film

As mentioned in my point regarding the unreliable flamethrowers; the things tend to wildly rush the player. This is not how the creatures behaved in the movie and it also doesn’t make for varied combat encounters. The boys at Nightdive need to reconfigure the AI so that every single creature doesn’t maniacally zero in on Capt. Blake.

In the film, some of the monsters would try to hide and flank the boys. Having some of the smaller things act as decoys so that the bigger and more threatening things can sneak up on players would be as cool and refreshing as a cherry Slurpee in a Florida summer. Rebalancing enemies to deal more damage but attack less directly would also be fairer, as well as adding some invincibility frames for Blake after getting hit since it is easy to get swarmed in this game.

7. Party Members Shouldn’t Vanish Between Stages

After bending over backward to keep the boys in your squad safe, you feel an awesome wave wash over you as you reach the end of the level… only to feel seething anger and blinding rage that makes your eye twitch as you make a horrible revelation. When you start the next level, all of your party members are gone like a fart in the tundra.

As it turns out, The Thing resets your party to nothing between stages. It may as well do this since the game has a nasty habit of forcing the party to transform into monsters unfairly. Any guns or medkits you gave away are lost and you get no reward for saving anyone which is just adding salt to the wound.

Nightdive would be wise to address this in their remaster of The Thing since this was one of the most infuriating design choices in the original. Either NPCs should be able to stay or players can choose to store them. Give gamers some options. If party members have to vanish between stages, at least reward players with some cool character skins, weapons, supplies, or something if they manage to keep NPCs alive to the end of a level.

These are only seven things Nightdive could do to enhance The Thing. There is so much more that could be done to improve the experience like adding local co-op to the action, tightening the aiming mechanics, or even restoring cut content. Good games don’t need remastering or remakes, but The Thing wasn’t a great game to begin with, so there is plenty of room for improvement which makes it an ideal candidate for remastering.