SHODAN from the System Shock remake.

System Shock Review

System Shock Review

need to know

what is it? An FPS/survival horror remake of one of the first progenitors of the modern immersive Sims.
release date May 30, 2023
expect to pay $40/£35
developer night dive
publisher Prime number
Reviewed on Ryzen 7 3700X, RTX 4080, 16GB memory
steam deck Unverified
associate Official website

Let me tell you about the one who got away. She is ruthless and cruel, narcissistic and delusional. She unfurled Castle Station among a thousand security cameras and as many electronic slaves whose flesh was taken from the corpses of the outpost’s former staff. She made pustules and blisters, mutants and monsters. She has killed me a million times and I miss her beyond words.

She is SHODAN, of course, the malevolent AI goddess who was at the heart and proudest creation of 1994’s System Shock, now rebuilt in shiny Unreal Engine 4 in this remake from Nightdive Studios. It suits her very well. Gone are the sprite-based enemies and screen-eating UI of the original game, replaced by clanking 3D robots and an inventory — not slick — but certainly better than the original’s weapons, dynamite roll Shopping lists are easier to use, and stimulants.

Really happy to see you again. (Image source: Nightdive)

Both System Shock and SHODAN are legends; they are iconic symbols of an era and philosophy in game design, and recreating them must have been a daunting task for Nightdive. How do you change a game that originally used the 451 code, which is still used today by every immersive sim to mark themselves as part of the tribe without being accused of profanity and sacrilege?

The answer to the pros and cons of the remake is “faithfully”. Nightdive’s System Shock is still the same game from 1994. It’s a project aimed at upcycling, beautifying and smoothing some rough edges. There’s some new content, but it’s not a complete overhaul, it keeps the best and worst parts of the original game intact. I think it’s fitting: SHODAN calls for faith above all else.

remember the castle

System Shock’s setup is classic cyberpunk fare, as accessible today as it was 29 years ago. You’re a hacker, a would-be villain who was caught trying to sneak into TriOptimum Corporation’s servers. In the prologue–a new, semi-playable version of the original game’s opening cinematic–you barely get past the login screen before getting kicked out of your door by gun-wielding thugs.

Hello. (Image source: Nightdive)

Don’t worry, one of the worst people in the world – a corporate executive – has offered you a job: use your talents to break the moral constraints of the artificial intelligence SHODAN, which runs TriOp’s Citadel Station near Saturn. facility, he won’t just let you go, he’ll give you the military cybernetics you wanted to steal in the first place. you do it. You regret it.

Then the game kicks in, and the remake’s love for the original is immediately apparent. After a 6-month post-op recovery period, you wake up in a medical area at Citadel Station, an almost one-on-one recreation of the same starting area as the first game.There are medical kits on the shelf to your right, a steep ramp leading to the exit and storage room, and you even – somehow – have to press a button beside Closet doors open it instead of simply clicking on the door itself as usual.

The corridors of the Citadel are a joy to roam in the remake, just like they were in the original

It feels like Nightdive is trying to convince you that you’re in safe hands: “Don’t worry, we’re not going to do anything drastic with something we both love.” I suspect that’s exactly what a lot of nostalgia fans want to see, honestly? It mostly works. My memory of the original game isn’t good enough to tell you if each map is an exact recreation of its 1994 counterpart, but over the course of my 20 hours playing, I experienced repeated déjà vu — usually positive ones.

I could swear I’ve been here before. (Image source: Nightdive)

The corridors of the Citadel are a joy to roam in the remake, just like they were in the original, and exploration will reward you with new weapons, new networking software, a new stockpile of ever-dwindling ammo supplies, or the most precious junk you can find in Redeem your credits at the game’s salvage dealers to buy mods for your ever-expanding gun roster (new for the remaster).

That aside, it’s still Castle Station in my memory, but where those hallways were bright, rickety, and flat before, they now have a fully realized physicality, dark and brooding, made of clanging, banging Stray gunshots were made of stray gunshots and clangs and clinks of material passing over them.

perforated deck

The station is just one part System Shock, another part Cyberspace concept from the 90s. At some point, you’ll run to a terminal, plug in your phone, and find yourself in an area that shares a newfound sense of space.

In fact, in this iteration of System Shock, it feels a bit different. Nightdive replaces the sparse and confusing wireframe of the first game with a mod that’s basically Descent.It’s colorful and fast-paced, especially with the non-cyberspace parts of the game, the roar of electronic music, and the relentless relativity Moving up and down can make you feel a little seasick as you dodge spiraling energy projectiles from hordes of enemies.

Part descent, part bullet hell, all electronic beats. (Image source: Nightdive)

The cyber vibe is flawless: The Hacking is an extended hallucinatory plot that immediately reminds me of Hacking 1995 and the cyberspace scene from the 1996 FMV game Ripper (although it’s a little less played well higher than both).

It’s not perfect, and sometimes cyberspace combat amounts to keeping strafing while keeping your crosshairs on a disturbing enemy that looks like an anthropomorphic octopus. The drastic change in how cyberspace encounters end up is more of a side than anything, but the studio has done a good job of bringing this part of the game up to date and simplifying it while keeping its atmosphere intact. I can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if Nightdive had adopted a similar will to change the rest of the game.

tedious anarchy

Because, while Nightdive’s reverence for the first game tickles my nostalgia center, there’s a downside too. The Citadel was and is a maze, a mess of bends, nooks and crannies.

There is a normal one. (Image source: Nightdive)

At first, it’s just for fun to explore, but it becomes taxing when you have to make your way through its mazes again and again. One of the artefacts that Nightdive brings back intact from the original game design is the tiresome backtracking. Citadel Station is built vertically over nine floors, and no one ever decided to build just one elevator to each floor.

One of the artefacts that Nightdive brings back intact from the original game design is the tiresome backtracking.

This means, for example, that when the game decides you return to level 3 at the end of level 6, you have to navigate to a different elevator on each level in between, sometimes at opposite poles of the twisted area. More than once, I’ve found myself Maximizing the game’s map and just playing it, guiding the arrow pointing my character through the long hallway to the elevator that I desperately hoped was the right one.

Pictured: Intensive professional navigation. (Image source: Nightdive)

Maps by the way, let me take this opportunity to emphasize that you should play this game with a keyboard and mouse, at least until it gets console versions and Nightdive backports any controller modifications it makes to those versions. The game’s user interface–a marked improvement over the original–is just unpleasant to navigate with the cursor controlled by the right analog stick.

Likewise, between your set of cybernetic powers and the game’s myriad weapons, it can sometimes feel like only Too much The System Shock fits within the gamepad’s limited buttons, letting you stalk enemies across their inventory screens to find what you want when they’re overwhelmed.

Another painstaking fidelity to the original project doesn’t help the situation: there are no objective screens or quest markers at all. Instead, you need to pay attention to the logs you get and the emails you receive to determine what to do next.

Still, even when backtracking, it does look beautiful. (Image source: Nightdive)

That doesn’t sound too difficult, but you’ll often find yourself playing the game distracted – by puzzles, combat, or something else. More than once I’ve found myself arriving at a new floor not entirely sure what I’m planning to do there, but hoping that after making enough mistakes aimlessly I’ll eventually hit the lever or hack the control panel to advance story.

This is not as scary as it sounds. You can always poke through your collection of audio logs and find the one that tells you where to go, and like I said, wandering in a new place is rewarding in itself. These are things that occasionally irritate you or add unnecessary friction, not the kind of issues that seriously threaten to ruin your experience. But sometimes I do find myself wishing that Nightdive in some parts tried to adapt the spirit of the original game, rather than the text.

System Shock certainly knows how to put together a compelling view. (Image source: Nightdive)

eternal life

Years ago, Nightdive’s project to remake System Shock was put on hold so the developers could “re-evaluate” their paths. Supposedly, they suffered from quest creep and strayed from their original vision of modernizing the original game. These new ideas drained an already limited budget and risked the ire of Kickstarter backers who wanted nothing more than modern renditions of beloved classics.

Well, they get it, you know? it’s great. I confidently say this is the ultimate way to play System Shock in 2023 and beyond, but I can’t help but wonder what the other world might look like. Nightdive had the budget and goodwill to take more risks, make more changes, and drastically reduce the number of U-turns it asked me to do.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.