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SYSTEM SHOCK

Written By:

Chris Jackson
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PLATFORM: PC, PS4/5, XBOX ONE/SERIES (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: 21ST MAY

Considered to be one of the most influential first-person shooters of all time (the developers of modern classics like Bioshock, Prey and Deus Ex all cite it as a major influence, and indeed share several key staff members amongst their teams), System Shock might have passed many people by due to its PC exclusivity when it was first released all the way back in 1994. Three decades later, System Shock has now made its way to home consoles for the first time, with a full-scale remake which itself – true to form – was first released on PC in May 2023, courtesy of the masters of game preservation at Nightdive Studios.

Playing as a nameless hacker, you’re transported to a space station and tasked with taking down an AI known as SHODAN which has gone rogue, becoming increasingly hostile as it turns the crew into mutants and sets its sights on intergalactic domination. Of course, its base – the very same station that you’re currently in – is the centre of activity, with each of its ten floors containing countless traps, puzzles, enemies and other hindrances that you’ll encounter en route to the final showdown. It isn’t a simple case of shooting stuff, beating the boss and moving on to the next level though – you’ll need to meticulously scour each floor to find audio logs and text files, paying close attention to even the smallest pieces of information to decipher your next objective. Without these, you’ll be trapped in space forever, doomed to wander the station for eternity with no escape in sight.

During the course of the game you’re given around 16 different weapons to play with, many of which have alternate ammo types to help contend with the variety of enemies that you’ll come up against. Grenades and land mines also come into play, and there are plenty of useful “patches” that boost various stats for a limited time (although many of these have detrimental short-term effects too, so things are never quite as straightforward as they first seem). You’ll hunt for key cards and electronic door codes, crawl around confined spaces, and stumble across secret areas that often contain handy permanent upgrades. There are also occasional trips into cyberspace, in which you float around eye-catching neon wireframe structures and battle SHODAN’s security programs with the aim of accessing data that will either help to progress your mission or have some sort of effect the station itself.

There aren’t too many games out there quite like System Shock – its structure, gameplay and reliance on forcing players to pay attention and figure things out on their own with very little hand-holding means that it’s pretty much one of a kind. And there’s no doubt that Nightdive’s remake is the very best way to experience the game – enhancing the visuals, updating the control scheme for modern controllers, adding new music and even going as far as bringing back SHODAN’s original voice actor to record some additional dialogue. There’s even a range of difficulty settings that allow you to add navigation assistance and alter the difficulty of various aspects of the gameplay, making things way more accessible than ever before. If there were any nitpicks, the inventory system is still on the clunky side (if there’s a way to swap out the items on your hotbar, they’ve certainly hidden it well…), but it’s a small price to pay when everything else has been done to such a high standard. System Shock is a tremendous example of a remake done right. If you’re into FPS games but haven’t experienced this one before, you’ve got one hell of a treat in store!

stars

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