System Shock Review: The rebirth of a cyberpunk Sci-Fi shooter

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System Shock Review: The rebirth of a cyberpunk Sci-Fi shooter
system shock review: the rebirth of a cyberpunk sci fi shooter

A welcome date with the past: how is the remake of System Shock? A mythological game comes back to life on PC.

System Shock Review: The rebirth of a cyberpunk Sci-Fi shooter

Over the past ten years, Nightdive Studio has brought back authentic classics such as the first two chapters of Turok; the legendary Doom 64 and the progenitor of the Quake series by Bethesda Softworks (here is our review of Quake) but also, more recently, the transposition of Blade Runner, born in 1997 (here the review of Blade Runner). Although the results have not always been impeccable, it is undeniable that the work of the Washington collective is extremely important for preserving the memory of some of these treasures of the past. A series that the American studio has taken to heart is that of System Shockthe outstanding cyberpunk video game created nearly thirty years ago by Looking Glass Studios.

After developing a version ‘Enhanced‘ of the first episode, indeed welcomed with a certain favor by critics and the public, Nightdive has started another project related to the brand: a complete remake of the first System Shock, adhering to the philosophy of the reference material but revised and updated in design, so as to be more easily usable by a transversal audience of veterans and newcomers to the series. Will the team have succeeded in giving us a reborn classic? Let’s find out right now.

In space no one can hear you…hack?

The story behind this remake reproduces quite faithfully the one already experienced in the original System Shock and is still incredibly fascinating today. We are in 2072a hypothetical future in which, as in the most stainless cyberpunk tradition, the world is dominated by mega corporations that invest unthinkable amounts of money in the research and development of technological implants for the human body, in the establishment of computer systems at the avant-garde and, needless to say, in the enhancement of Artificial Intelligences

. Among these companies is the inscrutable TriOptimum, a gargantuan company with its hands in warfare and AI, which founded and governs the Citadel, a space station orbiting the planet Saturn and housing the home of our alter-ego, a skilled hacker without a name. The latter, in the midst of a delicate operation that would have led him to access the central mainframe of the company, comes intercepted and captured by the Security Corps and brought before the CEO, the eccentric and disturbing Edward Diego. The man, sensing the extraordinary abilities of our hacker, puts him in front of a moral dilemma: face the rest of his life in prison or agree to participate in a high-risk mission in exchange for the latest discoveries in the field of physical upgrades of degree military. The goal is quite linear: to break into SHODAN’s operating system, the Artificial Intelligence that manages practically every aspect of the operation of the entire Citadel, and remove its moral limitations so that it can adapt to Diego’s will without restrictions. Our protagonist, of course, cannot escape the request and is immediately transported to the operating room and induced into a coma to obtain the agreed upgrades.

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When he wakes up, however, he discovers that something has gone wrong: the Citadel has fallen to SHODANwhich seems to have lost any inhibitory brake and has committed a real genocide with the help of its robot adepts.

Even the last remaining humans have been modified by the unstoppable AI, to the point of having become full-fledged cyborgs, devoid of free will and totally enslaved to the system. It will, of course, be up to our alter-ego to try to resolve the situation: to understand what led SHODAN to the madness and to find out how to bring the Citadel back to normal. A risky undertaking to say the least: all the defense systems of the place are in a state of alarm, there are traps scattered everywhere.

Dozens of creatures of various kinds lurk in the corridors with the precise aim of eliminating any life form in front of them and, as if that weren’t enough, the AI ​​literally has eyes everywhere thanks to the cameras scattered everywhere.

What is striking about the plot of System Shock is how the Looking Glass team, now thirty years ago, had intuition the dangers that could potentially arise from the evolution of artificial intelligence and how he managed to graft this concept into a story full of mystery, secrets and some tasty twists. Nightdive limited itself to slavishly re-proposing a narrative canvas which, even today, offers very interesting food for thought as well as an exquisitely 90s cyberpunk imagery, which will delight lovers of the genre. On the other hand, if a work can still boast such a current vision of technology and its applications, why try to change it into a remake with the risk of distorting its power? For this reason we commend the direction taken by Nightdive with a view to preserving the themes and cornerstones of the original episode.

90s shootings

On the purely playful front, we are faced with a first-person shooter with a slight role-playing contamination (for example, there is no lack of power ups or particular attention dedicated to inventory management). The shooting phases mimic the traditional FPS of the 90s, with all the consequences of adhering to this specific trend.

Primarily, our hacker can count on both melee tools – like the traditional steel bar – both on guns of all sorts, from the more conventional ones, up to laser or energy weapons. From cyborgs to drones, passing through abominable mutated human beings, the park of enemies is quite varied but the behavioral routines of individual opponents are actually quite basic: in fact, the threats limit themselves to attacking us on sight, without attempting any type of defensive maneuver or strategic.

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The gunplay is quite pleasant, also because each instrument of death has its own sonic personality. At the same time, however, the reactions of opponents to the blows that reach them – from mauls to energy projectiles – have remained close to the standards of 30 years ago. This was, for example, an aspect where it would have been legitimate to expect something more from the work of the developers.

The pace of the action seemed to us sustained and capable of giving more than one satisfaction but, in accordance with the canons of this trend, do not expect choreographed sequences or high-rate scenic spectacularity. In this regard, the boss fights are quite varied and far from easy to overcome. The sense of satisfaction produced by having shot down a robotic thug is all right but, as we said, in general these sections rest on a very low scenic impact. Net of the presence of the difficulty selector, System Shock’s death campaign is brutal but also devoid of all those precautions that are easy to find in today’s FPS. For example, the lack of a useful indicator to suggest the way forward in labyrinthine maps is felt and could risk displacing users less accustomed to classic shooters. You simply have to come to terms with the idea behind this remake made in Nightdive: pay homage to the first title of the franchise and repropose it without intervening in a marked way on its DNA.

However, there are small structural changes useful for streamlining the overall experience. It is now easier to access the inventory, thanks also to a cleaner and more intuitive interface, and the inevitable environmental puzzles have been heavily revisited, to be still difficult but also more readable. The sections dedicated to Netrunning are also back, another revolutionary element of the progenitor of the series, which we find here in an updated graphic design but with a functioning similar to the original one.

Once connected to the SHODAN mainframe in predetermined points of the setting, the game camera is dropped by the protagonist, to become a sort of drone capable of moving freely in cyberspace, in order to gain access to new portions of the scenario or disable defenses of the city. From this different perspective, just like in the classic, we will have to face viruses and firewalls with laser beams, so as to overcome the defenses of the Citadel’s AI and be able to collect useful objects.

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In short, the remake of System Shock is a blast from the past in all respects, which brings to light the vestiges of an outdated shooter concept but not without its charm. It is an excellent entry point for newbies thanks to the small general improvements introduced by Nightdive Studio but which, at the same time, could discourage those who prefer a more comfortable experience and in line with the contemporary canons of the genre.

Renewed graphics, but with a look at the past

From a technical point of view, the remake of System Shock was made with the stainless Unreal Engine 4with an action that shows no signs of letting up even in the presence of areas packed with enemies and effects.

The most intriguing peculiarity of the work done by Nightdive, however, is to be found in a precise stylistic choice: weapons, character models and surfaces are detailed and embellished by realistic lighting, but have a very pleasant layer of pixels that amplifies the look retro of the production, without making us lose touch with the most up-to-date visual standards. This same encounter between classic and modern is clearly perceptible in the music and sound effects, which seem to come directly from the past of gaming, but in the most positive sense of the concept. Furthermore, the atmosphere of the Citadel fallen into the clutches of the fearsome SHODAN has kept its gloomy beauty intact: the setting is immersed in a heavy darkness and in a disturbing silence, broken only by distant lamentations produced by who knows what abomination and by the lights of the machinery that regulate the life of this dystopian city. Really great job.

System Shock
System ShockPC Analyzed VersionSystem Shock is back in a version that is a love letter to the original and to its fans, but which can also be an opportunity to rediscover an authentic video game classic for a new audience of enthusiasts. We have to overcome the obstacle represented by a gameplay that has remained anchored in the past, but – once this is done – we find ourselves faced with a memorable cyberpunk imagery, the same one that made an entire generation fall in love in the 90s. SHODAN awaits you in the Citadel: will you have the courage to face his evil machinations?