Gameffine presents System Shock review. System Shock is the fully fledged remake of the ground breaking original from 1994, combining cult gameplay with all-new HD visuals, updated controls, an overhauled interface and all-new sounds & music
Product Brand: Nightdive Studios
Product Currency: USD
Product Price: $39.99
Product In-Stock: InStock
Much like Marc LeBlanc, I was in disbelief when I hopped into the System Shock Remake two weeks ago. System Shock, the groundbreaking FPS/RPG/Adventure hybrid (affectionately termed an “Immersive Sim” these days) came out during the golden age of PC Gaming in the ’90s. In fact, it came out the same year as Doom, another hallmark FPS with System Shock‘s polar opposite design philosophy. It cemented Immersive Sim as a genre and gave us SHODAN, one of the most menacing villains in all gaming.
It’s been 30 years since then, and the wait for System Shock remake has been even more longing. 8 years of development, multiple delays, a change of engine, and drop-dead silence from the team at Nightdive almost made the game a Vaporware. However, Nightdive has put out, and oh, put out they did! System Shock (2023) is a faithful recreation of the original, retaining all its charms and some quirks. As massive fans of the original, we can’t get through this review without being subjective and at times, nitpicky. That just goes to show how necessary it was for this franchise to land back in the modern gaming space. Presenting Gameffine’s System Shock review.
Like a Lamb to Slaughter
Contrary to what most remakes resort to nowadays, i.e., tweaking some elements of the core narrative to suit ‘modern audiences’, that isn’t the case in System Shock. System Shock remake largely retains the narrative of the original with a complete graphical and UI overhaul. The year is 2079 and it’s a time of great innovation and technological advancements. And you’re a hacker trying to break into the security of the Citadel Space Station remotely from Earth. However, pretty soon sirens blare and you’re accosted by law enforcement and taken to the very station where you’re forced to form a deal with Diego, head of the station, to remove the ethical restraints of the A.I that controls the station, SHODAN. However, little do you know what your decisions will be wrought upon the station.
As soon as you remove SHODAN’s ethical restraints, you’re thrust into cryo. And when you finally awake, you come to the realization that SHODAN has gone rogue and has ordered all the security robots to go on a killing spree, while ‘she’ abducts many of the station workers and turns them into mutants, cyborgs, and even mutated cyborgs! Her malicious plans don’t stop there and soon you learn that she’s got the station’s mining laser pointed and primed towards Earth. Her ideology: humanity is a disease, a lifeform akin to an insect that needs to be crushed and rebuilt in her image. Her plans are similar to what those Unitology cultists from Dead Space intended to—unify all by mutating them into hideous lifeforms bereaved of disease, weakness, and death!
And thus begins your race to take down SHODAN before she turns us into an endangered species. And you do that floor-by-floor—similar to The Raid: Redemption movie, destroying her CPU cores, foiling her plans of human extinction, etc.
The main campaign has a very simple plot, unlike many other Immersive Sims. But then, it was System Shock that defined an entire genre. However, if you head into the game’s manual, the lore will literally blow your mind! Not because it is interesting, but because it is written in such corporate aesthetic and lingo that you’ll feel Trioptimum, the company that made the Citadel Station, actually exists. Sadly, none of it makes it into the main game. However, you’ll have your fill with the sheer amount of audio files you’ll find abroad at the abandoned station.
The Immersion of the Sim
If there’s one word capable of encapsulating the entire remake, it’d be ‘uncompromising’. From painstakingly recreating the complex map layout to zero handholding, the System Shock remake has no intention of diluting the core of the original to suit a modern audience. Even though it’s not a 1:1 remake per se, almost everything essential has been brought over without changing the basics. Aside from the shiny new visuals and modern control scheme and HUD, it is essentially the original classic. Heck, even the guides made for the original still apply flawlessly to the remake. The game expects the player to have the least bit of common sense and figure stuff out on their own. The game often took me back to the days of PC gaming when writing down key information and creating your own maps were a thing. Absolute uncompromising design.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, System Shock manages to modernize the moment-to-moment gameplay while keeping the overall design intact. As the last survivor of the Citadel station, you, the hacker must navigate the labyrinthian spaces while avoiding/fighting the security of SHODAN and other mutated beings while accomplishing various tasks. The impressive and complex interconnected level design makes a return here with all its glory. Exploration is the heart and soul of System Shock and Nightdive provides immersive, and at times, genuinely terrifying levels to explore.
The first-person combat returns but with a modern control scheme and some really fluid animations. The gunplay does lack a bit of ‘oomph’ you expect out of a modern FPS but it’s more of a nitpick than anything else. Players can find various weapons within the levels and upgrade them, as well as use various ammo types to dispatch the overwhelming enemy forces similar to the original. The game uses full body awareness system and it takes immersion to the next level. There are various ways to go about your objectives and it’s all reminiscent of peak ’90s design.
But combat is only one-third of the experience. Exploration and puzzle-solving take up the rest. The game is again, uncompromising in these aspects as well. Expect little to no handholding while doing these hacking mini-games as well as when you enter the Cyberspace, where the game turns into a Descent-lite with 360 degrees of motion and stuff. Now, the Cyberspace is one aspect of the original game that could have used some tweaks in my opinion. It’s a fun diversion at first but soon turns into a slogfest, the same case with the original. Thankfully, the game lets you modify the difficulty of combat, puzzles, and Cyberspace individually for people having trouble clearing them.
Another aspect of the game I’m not keen on is the inventory management. It’s ‘fine’, I guess but lacks crucial QoL stuff like an ‘autosort’ option what limited inventory space you have, it gets filled quickly. Moreover, in order to obtain the in-game currency, you’ll have to individually pick up junk items, turn them into scrap and have to recycle them into credits at a recycle station which you can find while exploring. This is also a tedious system that could have used some streamlining. The other complaints I have are related to the last act and the final boss fight of the game. But that’s spoiler territory.
System Shock (2023) is a fantastic remake of the groundbreaking 1994 original with an eagle eye for attention. Above everything else, it’s a love letter to the original made by folks who knew the ins and outs of the Looking Glass classic. The striking visual design, rewarding exploration, challenging puzzles, and a menacing performance by Terri Brosius make System Shock not just a great remake, but one of the best games of this year. The wait was worth it.
FINAL RATING: 90/100