System Shock Remake Review – Hacked Its Way Into Our Hearts

    Title: System Shock
    Developer: Nightdive Studios
    Release Date: May 30, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Prime Matter
    Genre: FPS

After a long hiatus, SHODAN is back to create further terror in the universe as the classic space horror adventure System Shock gets a new terrifying reboot with Nightdive Studios at the helm of development. Being a remake of a classic that blew many gamers away with its physics, shooting, and gameplay system, this release has a lot to follow up with. Thankfully, the best parts of this adventure are still intact, with a focus on preserving what made this adventure so memorable almost 30 years ago.

System Shock introduces a familiar story of an unnamed hacker waking up in Citadel Station six months after receiving a head implant. However, after he finds his bearings, he learns the Station is in chaos. You see, before his operation, he was asked by the head of Citadel Station, Edward Diego, to remove the security restraints off of the Station AI known as SHODAN, only for it to gain sentience and transform the residents aboard the Station into mutated ghouls while converting other members into soulless androids that follow her orders.

As SHODAN plans to do the same to the people of Earth, the Protagonist must resolve the mistake of unleashing SHODAN and shut her down. Luckily, he has the help of an ally named Rebecca Langsing to catch him up and assist in progressing the plot.

Even after a few short minutes, immersing yourself in the cyberpunk aesthetic is easy. The scenery blends a realistic futuristic world with the retro 8-bit elements that instill some nostalgia when navigating the areas. This continues as you arrive at the Citadel and begin walking through the creepy maze-like floors of the Station, met with aggressive rouge robots, monotonous androids, mutated Citadel residents, and of course, SHODAN as she keeps a close eye on the Protagonist’s actions.

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As you navigate through the monster-infested halls of the Citadel, you’ll come across various logs and recordings belonging to the previous residents of the Station. While some returning players might be familiar with these, new entries have been added for the remake to give more insight into the state of the world.

As mentioned earlier, SHODAN keeps watch of every floor. If she thinks that the Hacker has it easy fighting through her legion of enemies, she will crank the difficulty up a notch by summoning more enemies when you least expect it.

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Players have to watch their backs now and again, as sometimes, even if all of the enemies in the area are cleared, SHODAN will spawn a new one to give a player a nasty surprise when they backtrack through the floor for various items or to look for a missed path. In addition, you will be backtracking now and again due to SHODAN blocking access to other areas until you lower her security on the current floor.

Doing this will also help remove her power on that floor, preventing her from hindering your progress. However, you will never really be safe from the AI’s wrath, and she may still surprise you even after lowering her security.

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Resource management becomes another significant mechanic as you traverse the Station. There are various kinds of atrocities that you’ll encounter, and supplies deplete at an alarming rate. Fortunately, they are different weapons to provide you with options to switch them out as you run out of ammo for a particular weapon.

Be it a powerful plasma blaster or a shotgun, you’ll be switching through your arsenal and managing your collection of health and stamina packs. The inventory system is set up with a Tetris-style layout where you have to rotate and move items to make room for the tools you pick up. You may also stumble across junk that might not be useful initially but can be used in various recyclable stations. Recycled items reward you with credits to buy various stamina or health to survive the more intense encounters.

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However, those with light sensitivity might be put off when some of the boosts cause a strobe effect around the Protagonist when used. For this, I’ll mention that turning the brightness down in the settings menu might help make this less of a problem.

However, let’s get back on track. There are plenty of challenging moments of gameplay as you push through each level. Thankfully, Regeneration Chambers can be found that act as a respawn point. Activating these is vital to prevent frustration from respawning back a few floors, forcing you to return to where you died. Also, when it comes to lost items, there is a convenient Lost and Found station used to reacquire dropped items.

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Now, how did I get this far in the review without mentioning the coolest system, Hacking. During gameplay, you can hack into Cyberspace to reroute power and access new areas of the floor. However, that damn SHODAN even exists here, causing you to blast through various hacking-type enemies and reach the end of the area. I should mention that the controls here respond differently and take some getting used to as you navigate Cyberspace.

If you’re looking for a greater challenge, the highest difficulty setting gives a time limit to complete the game in under five hours, which is right before SHODAN completes her plans to invade Earth and expand her mutant army.

It was exciting to explore the terrifying depths of Citadel Station in this new interpretation of this Sci-Fi horror classic. To add to the experience, Terri Brosius does a wonderful job reprising her role as SHODAN. However, some in-game systems might turn off modern gamers due to limited options and trial-and-error gameplay elements. Every moment of the experience will have you on edge, but pacing and backtracking cause some moments of confusion. Thankfully, this is mended by the brilliant level design, gameplay systems, and sound design.

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System Shock has stood the test of time which is shown in this remake effort that didn’t have to do too much in terms of updating its core features to bring it to modern gamers. If you’re coming from the original, the new visuals take some time, but the experience holds up from a gameplay standpoint. Immersion comes naturally throughout this experience as you hack and fight against a rogue AI to save Earth like an authentic ’90s sci-fi hero.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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