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The System Shock Remake is Perhaps Too Faithful for its Own Good

System Shock 1 (1)

To those who remember it, the original System Shock is a classic. And whether you’re familiar with it or not, it’s unquestionably one of the most influential games of all time. Without System Shock we wouldn’t have Deus Ex, for example. Or Bioshock. Or perhaps even Prey. That’s why you should be excited about the System Shock remake, available now on PC and coming to consoles at a later date. At least a little, anyhow.

Developed by Nightdive Studios, the new System Shock is a faithful remake of the original, putting players in control of a nameless hacker trapped on a space station. After a period of hibernation, they’ve awoken to find it under the control of a rogue AI named SHODAN. On top of that, the station now seems to be overrun with grotesque creatures, and security measures once put in place to protect are now hostile.

From there, then, it’s a fight for survival. You need to explore the station, find and make use of resources, and also employ your hacking skills when necessary, entering cyberspace to eradicate bugs and bend aspects of the station to your will. On paper it sounds like a great time, in the way that being put in peril in videogames generally is. But we can’t help but feel that when remaking System Shock, Nightdive Studios has tried to remain just a little too faithful.

System Shock 2 (1)

For one, there’s the combat, which simply feels dated. Melee weapons don’t really feel like they make much of an impact, and aside from charging up a heavy attack, there are no further options. It would have been nice to at least be able to block incoming blows, making fighting at close range more dynamic. As it is, it feels sterile and basic. Thankfully things are little better when it comes to firearms, but on the whole combat is still perhaps the weakest aspect of the game.

Related: These System Shock Toys Aren’t Real but We Still Want Them

For many though, what’ll prove to be the biggest frustration in System Shock is the lack of direction. This is a game that does not hold your hand. There are no objectives displayed on-screen or mission markers leading you to where you next need to go to progress: you need to figure things out for yourself. You’ll spend lots of time exploring, seeking out passcodes or keycards for doors that you can’t open otherwise. And sometimes you simply won’t have any idea what to do next.

System Shock 3 (1)

Of course, some will love this aspect of the game – it’s a matter of personal taste. And Nightdive has made some efforts to make this new System Shock more welcoming to newcomers. There are difficulty levels for individual aspects such as combat and hacking, for example. But for many, the game will still feel archaic in most regards. Even the visuals still have a retro feel. And on the subject of how the game looks, your screen is occasionally so busy that it can be hard to identify useful items that can be picked up or interacted with.

All this isn’t to say that System Shock is a bad game; not at all. It’s engaging from the outset, with a setting that still feels unique with some interesting gameplay elements. But we just wish Nightdive Studios had gone further in reimagining it for modern audiences. The gaming landscape has changed substantially in the near-30 years since the original System Shock was released, and instead of updating the classic to make it more appealing to modern audiences, it’s likely to only to land well with those already both fond of and familiar with it.

System Shock is available now on PC, and is coming to consoles at a later date.

Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!