As a newcomer to System Shock, I’d wish to take a second and declare my timeless love for SHODAN, aka Sentient Hyper-Optimised Knowledge Entry Community, aka the murderous AI villain who engulfs the complete remake. Actually. As a captured hacker onboard the Citadel house station, you’ve been requested to take away the “moral constraints” from the station’s synthetic intelligence (that’s SHODAN) in an clearly shady alternate. You get again your freedom plus a cool cybernetic implant, and the megacorp govt who’s answerable for the operation will get to do evil issues with the brand new ethically unconstrained station.
Issues don’t work out for both of you. Months move by and also you’ve woken up, nonetheless on the Citadel, however this time the people have was bloodthirsty mutants, killer robots and cyborgs assault with a vengeance, and my beloved SHODAN runs the entire bleak celebration.
The System Shock remake begins in a lot the identical manner as 1994’s unique sport. Precisely the identical occasions happen, however they’ve been rejigged. The opening cutscene to the unique System Shock has this noisy, head-bopping beat taking part in within the background. The retro animation was form of surreal, nearly prefer it was straight out of a fever dream. The remake blunts a few of that vitality in alternate for one thing extra palatable.
I’m specializing in the introduction as a result of I believe it’s emblematic of the complete remake. Developer Nightdive’s up to date System Shock is a really devoted remake – typically shockingly so – recreating a lot of the Citadel’s zig-zagging structure because it was three many years in the past, however the unique’s considerably intimidating quirks have been ironed out, changed, or straight-up eliminated. That faithfulness signifies that System Shock (2023) doesn’t fairly arise subsequent to the various nice video games that System Shock (1994) impressed. Although it does imply that the basic’s pleasures at the moment are simpler to take pleasure in than ever, made extra approachable for a contemporary viewers.
The general construction right here is similar, although. After adjusting a number of issue sliders for fight, puzzles, our on-line world, and extra – as you probably did within the unique – you begin the trek via the Citadel’s steely ranges in an try and thwart SHODAN’s humanity-cleansing schemes. Emphasis on the plural, SHODAN’s a artful one. Sneaking below crawl areas and throughout the labyrinthine corridors, you’ll hop to destroy SHODAN’s cameras, discover entry playing cards, flip switches to unlock newer areas, and finally make your manner up and again down the station’s varied flooring. You’re slowly unravelling and studying about these knotted environments as you go.
The primary change that’s instantly noticeable is, after all, how the Citadel seems this time round. Or somewhat the way it feels. System Shock remake’s environments have a decidedly darker, scarier look than they did within the unique. Some partitions nonetheless have a number of blocky pixelated textures, recapturing that retro attraction. So even when the remake isn’t striving for realism, it nonetheless seems rattling cool. Regardless, thick shadows, silvery pipes, and abrupt corners are all over the place within the System Shock remake, leaning into that horror-adjacent environment very successfully.
Sound results largely assist with this as effectively. Taking a web page out of Lifeless House’s blood-soaked e book, you’re by no means fairly certain whether or not or not distant groanings are coming from the station’s creaking elements, the grunts of close by enemies, or your laptop slowly overheating. The typically ear-splitting soundtrack is gone too, changed by quieter ambient beats that incorporate lots of clicking, clacking, and thumping synths – as a result of it wouldn’t be cyberpunk with out thumping synths. And the top impact makes you cease, flip, peek out of corners, second-guess in case you’re actually alone in a room.
Even a run-in with the tutorial enemies – the hollow-eyed mutants – might be terrifying because of their inhuman stares. Most fight encounters really instil a way of concern because of tight assets and a good tighter stock – which is on double-duty with Tetris-management. System Shock remake’s taking pictures and whacking have been introduced as much as snuff and really feel extra like a contemporary shooter, however your basic lack of provides provides a tinge of survival horror scrambling. Cautiously matching the best bullets with the best foe could make all of the distinction, and your future self will thanks for saving ammo.
My stock was often missing in both ammo, health-restoring objects, or grenades, however by no means all three. So, as an immersive sim, there’s usually a scrappy manner out of inauspicious conditions. Operating low on ammo? Simply chuck an EMP grenade at your foes, disable them, and run up together with your wrench till they break aside. Fight nearly at all times has you on the again foot, however this desperation can encourage intelligent considering (or intelligent cheesing) and result in some huge sighs of reduction. Simply how I like my horror.
Final-ditch struggles are proper consistent with the sport’s tone, however in comparison with different fashionable immersive sims, fight can sometimes come throughout as stilted. You’re not given the plethora of choices you may anticipate from an Arkane sport, for instance, so when you’re totally loaded on provides, lots of encounters devolve into long-distance shootouts. Which is all effectively and good, although it doesn’t encourage the constant artistic problem-solving that really makes an im-sim sing.
These im-sim-isms do come out to play in the way in which you uncover and chart the maze-like world, fortunately. Most ranges are a sequence of interwinding corridors and also you’re just about free to sort out these knots from any route. Naturally, loads of doorways have been locked, both by SHODAN, defective wiring, or a scarcity of entry playing cards, and the remake trusts you to detangle every part. Significantly, an entire map of any degree resembles what I think about Space 51 flooring plans seem like.
That freedom results in loads of satisfying a-ha moments. Whilst you can’t chain stealth kills or throw out plasmids, you will discover a approach to disable respawning drones. Or possibly you need to prioritise unlocking the extent’s respawn level for your self. Or maybe you need to discover a crawlspace to side-step a exact enemy fully. The sport offers you loads of freedom within the order that you simply sort out aims, opening up alternatives for selections and discoveries, massive and small.
System Shock remake’s construction is basically unchanged from the unique, and (once more) this may be releasing, but a few of these obscure aims usher in annoyance. You see, progress is often tied to entry playing cards, levers in particular rooms, and different objects of curiosity however the sport not often places particular deal with these. So I’m cut up between loving the method of deciphering aims via environmental cues and emails, and feeling pissed off when working laps round indistinguishable corridors, solely to lastly discover my key on the physique of a long-dead enemy.
Oh, and our on-line world is again. These had been the summary areas within the unique the place you’d float via a complicated house and shoot at vibrant shapes. Now, they’re neon-tinged summary areas the place you shoot at vibrant indignant faces. They’re a enjoyable and sudden distraction, and whereas these shootouts aren’t the spotlight, I’m glad they’re nonetheless round. Our on-line world is odd and helps this remake retain a few of that weirdness from the unique. Really, come to consider it, there are lots of bizarre issues right here – from the mutants moaning “I’m hungry,” to a mournful audiolog devoted to a crew member’s cat.
General, there are some new and outdated annoyances on this remake, combined in with some new and outdated pleasures. And the crux of these pleasures comes from SHODAN, a villain that’s so delightfully depraved and artistic, it nearly makes the entire sport. The AI actually is the entire sport. Citadel and SHODAN at the moment are one and the identical factor – consider the Citadel because the physique and SHODAN because the mind. Which means whenever you’re stalking via the station, you’re additionally strolling via SHODAN’s innards which creepily reframes all of the seen pipes and creaking noises all through the place.
System Shock leans into this horror, exhausting. Audiologs continuously remind you about this relationship between expertise and our surroundings, from the enemy cyborgs that repeat “nothing” in a monotone voice, to SHODAN itself. The maniacal AI is at all times there. It’s the ship, and it’ll rejoice your small victories with lethal traps, sly remarks, and hidden alternate plans. I used to be continuously shocked by the way in which SHODAN manipulated the world, both by disabling a bridge from below me or by opening up doorways to extra baddies.
And, oh boy, the voice. It cracks and contorts in genuinely unsettling methods. Bizarre static results typically make it sound prefer it’s crying, or another person is screaming. Inflections simulate curiousity, small moments of pleasure, one thing vaguely human. Shortly adopted by casually ultraviolent threats. And each ugly a part of this station is a reminder of the greed wanted to create one thing so evil. What a marvel.
SHODAN is what makes elements of this sport actually particular, even with some warts. Fortunately, the unique’s impenetrable Excel sheet menus are gone. However Nightdive doesn’t take the Capcom or Sq. Enix method with this remake; they’re really fairly uncompromising of their mission to replace the unique. In consequence, there aren’t any wildly dynamic talents or playful methods to maneuver across the station (a la Prey) that some newbies may anticipate. However finally, the System Shock remake faithfully recreates a basic, retains most of its attraction, reframes every part with a horror tilt, and in consequence, makes it extra playable for everybody.