System Shock

released on Sep 22, 1994

A seminal cyberpunk first-person exploratory adventure game with RPG elements in which, waking up in the Citadel Space Station, a lone hacker has to survive corrupted enemies and collect audio logs and equipment from former station workers in order to shut down SHODAN, the station's artificial intelligence that has killed everyone on board and now intends to destroy the world.


Also in series

System Shock
System Shock
System Shock: Enhanced Edition
System Shock: Enhanced Edition
System Shock 2
System Shock 2

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No mouse look makes this the least playable version, but still, the importance of this game cannot be understated

It plays like Doom 3 if it was made in 1994. Great FPS with one of the best villains of all time. Kinda dated and takes a while to get used to but it's worth the time.
Status

Using this for both versions, the Floppy Disk MS-Dos and CD. The former I believe has even lower resolution and no audio logs and whatnot but I think it has its charms but the audio added, especially SHODAN's voice, are obviously great and iconic. I much prefer the visuals in this over the Enhanced Edition remaster but that has some decent QoL from what I saw, so I'll give it a try someday.

The music and crunchy audio quality in this original are amazing and add a lot. I like the UI and all the colors in the levels. The 2D sprite enemies are great too although for some objects not so much, only due to how they interact with the 3D camera rotating sometimes.

This original feels a lot more like a mix between Doom and a survival horror/exploration game than the remake. Which leans more into the latter, because in this original the music + enemy amount feel more pressuring especially at the end. I like both takes though.
The Engineering level is more sufferable in the Remake and I guess technically the Cyberspace is more appealing looking there but the actual objective and purpose of the Cyberspace in the original are better, and the presentation of them feels more apt to the setting.

I saw people complain about various stuff in the Remake as usual, and some parts I agree but it's more of a taste thing rather than good vs bad like the "writing" of the logs or voice performances. SHODAN is voiced by Terri in both versions, both are good but different. The random audio logs go either way as well, in the original they are obviously voiced by just some people they could grab and sound like amateurs reading their lines, but that kind of fits since the people are just random employees of the station. Diego is kind of worse in the Remake though. It would have been nice if the Remake came with a setting for original voices and music separately or at all, like Star Ocean 2 Remake.

Controls are hyper giga jank but it's okay and it's part of the charm of these games. I suppose this is why the first game already got called immersive sim, since you interact a lot more with the game through the controls and UI. While in the Remake you have smoother actions, WASD, etc, which then makes the UI less part of the game and focuses more on the shooter/survival aspect. That also highlights the lack of elements you would otherwise associate in game interactions with immersive Sims, that feel more present in the original due to the jank controls, more cumbersome processes and UI importance.
On top of that, you really needed Pen & Paper to progress parts of the game, which made you much more involved in exploration and getting lost into the game. Now you can just take a screenshot of what you need (if you know beforehand) or google cuck yourself.
I think getting lost and confused about what to do is probably a lot more fun and acceptable to most new players in the Remake. I could see a lot of people, including myself, getting more frustrated with it in the original if it happened there the first time. Hard to tell hindsight.

Both are good takes on the game in their own rights, in my opinion, both have their own strengths and weaknesses. But the original gets away with more just due to being the original form 1994 that turned out to be what it is due to intentions, limitations and Zeitgeist. I think people should play any version of 1994 and Remake if they are into it, they a both worth and fun. Remake is obviously smoother and more digestable to most MoDeRn gAmErS.

After the rough start I had with the Remake I'm surprised how much I got into System Shock 1. It's generally not a genre is get super into.

This was my first time playing the original System Shock and holy shit I'm impressed. How in hell did this game release only a year after the original DOOM? Every single element of what would define immersive sims as a genre is present and accounted for, from a diverse tool set of weapons and traversal abilities, audio logs revealing door codes and other objectives, ducts to crawl through, hidden items, resource management, the list goes on.

Of course, all my praise must be taken with the massive pinches of salt that are the enhanced edition from 2015 and the remake from last year. I played the EE and it removes a lot of the friction from the original release, adding mouselook, widescreen, higher framerates and greater customisation for controls and other settings. Even with these quality of life changes, it's a very old game at this point and there's a lot of nonsense in the way of getting into the game. Half of the keyboard become vital hotkeys, most of which you'll need to rebind to more sensible options, and if you don't learn to use them, you'll have a rough time. Even then, a lot of your abilities will need to be enabled with the mouse, as there's just too many to memorise all the controls for a ten hour game. The UI design too is incredibly creaky at this point. You have about fifty eight different menus, submenus and buttons crowding your screen, while your actual view of the world makes up a small letterbox in the centre. Fullscreen view can be enabled, but you can't make the menus and fluff go away, they just cease to have a background, arguably making the game uglier and harder to read.

These are problems, but I will say they add a certain charm to the game for me. You're a 90s, cyberpunk hacker with a massive cyberspace implant drilled into your bonce and boy does the game make you feel like that. The UI and controls are a clunky, unintuitive nightmare, but they perfectly instill that cyberpunk vibe that's missing from more recent games. What helps that along is the soundtrack, which absolutely fucking slaps. It's so good that I found the constant stopping and starting of tracks between different areas massively annoying and I really wished they could have integrated the music blending from Lucasart's SCUMM games.

The story isn't breaking any new ground, but the execution is fantastic. The audio logs you find feel like an actual reward rather than homework as in modern games, with some great writing and even better voice acting. There's a darkly cynical edge to a lot of it, with the same anti-corporate spirit as Jurassic Park the year before. Best of all though is SHODAN, whose writing and performance cement her as one of the greatest villains in gaming history. Terri Brosius does a fantastic job embodying a deliciously evil AI with the mother of all god complexes and the audio engineering on top makes every second she talks to you a real treat. Her unambiguous maliciousness serve as the perfect contrast to the dark irony within the rest of the game's story. Sure, maybe the real evil is capitalism and idiot managers screwing everything up, but right now there is an all powerful AI who have 38 different plans to destroy humanity so go stop that please. Talk about motivation.

All in all, System Shock is great. It's by no means perfect, it's jank as hell, the combat isn't great, the platforming is shonky and the visuals are dated, but god did I kind of love it in the end. The only caveat as to whether you should play it now is the remake, which I haven't played but I understand to be very faithful to the original, so if you haven't much patience for old, dodgy game design, you might be better served there. Either way, I highly recommend you find some way to experience the grandmother of immersive sims and have a great time.

wake teh fuck up CyberSamurai... your HTC Vive Headset is finally here, it's Time2Frag all teh positivized WholesomeChunguses, put on em rocketrollerskates and thrust through those corridors with your LightSaber in hand, panting&sweating while you DoTheDeed to that manmade "Spore 2008 protagonist producer", unafraid of failure or even death, because unlike all those NightDine&Dash CorpoSubsidiary Studios supporters, thou art an immortal Gamer, "Martyrdom" ready&equipped in your loadout, multiple hours of limited unowned digitally managed playtime still left to spare on the MAXdifficulty timer!!!!!!!!! Ahriman won't ever even know what hit "her"......

If you're a fan of retro video games, you know that going back into gaming's past is always a mixed bag in terms of accessibility. Nowadays, controls and user layouts are pretty standardized, even on different platforms, and with the exception of some of the more niche genres, you generally have an idea of how a game will control before you actually play it. It goes without saying that this wasn't always the case. Back before conventional control schemes had become the standard, going into a new game, you were just as likely to get a simple to control, easy to understand game like, say, Super Mario World, as you were to get...well, 1994's System Shock.

Let's get this out of the way; System Shock is, against all odds, an okay game. It exhibits a sense of exploration that's impressive for its time, and just enough dread that keeps you guessing, without ever ramping up into a full-scale horror game experience. But if you're going to play this game, you're going to have to deal with its controls, one way or another. And let's be honest; the HUD and the control scheme is downright archaic. Playing this game will make you feel-initially, at least-like you're playing one of those games that are deliberately made to annoy the player. There's a reason why games aren't made like this anymore, and this is a core example of why. As a result, it requires a pretty tremendous amount of buy-in from new players, many of which may not reach the point of familiarity that System Shock requires to play. It's understandable. But it's also a shame, because there's plenty to enjoy here, once you get over those first few big hurdles.

System Shock is considered by many to be an early example of the immersive sim genre, as well as a game that has been highly influential in the FPS genre thereafter; it's Bioshock's namesake, of course, but both Prey & Deus Ex have cited it as a spiritual predecessor. It's not hard to see why; this game definitely earns its "immersive" tagline, and a strong reason why players do get over the high barrier to entry is its impressive way that it draws you in. The story is not anything super unique; a Skynet-like AI system takes over a space station and threatens to destroy the earth. Rather, its immersion comes from the unique (especially at the time) way the story is told and progress is made, which makes exploring for secrets, finding audio logs for hints, and solving puzzles a surprisingly enjoyable experience. That this is all happening in a 2D, early 90s, DOOM-like graphical setting only makes it all the more impressive.

The voice memos that you find along the way certainly help in this regard, although admittedly many of these logs are full of typical early 90s-era voice acting (which is to say, bad). Special credit should go to SHODAN, though-the game's antagonist-who pops in at just the right moments to deliver some memorable, static-filled, glitchy lines. Unfortunately, for all the build-up she gets as an imposing villain, the final boss fight is so anticlimactic, you'll likely not realize what it was until the credits roll.

System Shock is a game with a lot of ideas, and when you compare it to its contemporaries, it seems to be operating at a whole different level. This can be a blessing and a curse, though, as sometimes it is just to do too much. In that way, the game feels simultaneously both ahead of its time and behind its time. Its level design and visuals are impressive-that is, until you get to cyberspace, which makes Polybius look like a graphical juggernaut. The puzzles are good, and the variety of difficulties is a welcome feature for its time, but even then, you're bound to run into some areas that will suddenly demand some serious backtracking. As a result, System Shock can feel like it goes on longer than it needs to, and not all of the game's runtime feels properly utilized.

When players are looking to get into the "Shock" series, it's common to skip the first and go right into the critically acclaimed sequel. It's certainly understandable; System Shock is certainly not a game for everyone, and even many with an affinity for retro games will find the first hour or two to be more off-putting than most. Even when players get a grip on the controls, some elements of the game can be a bit obtuse, and lack of a proper manual will mean you're likely going to be searching the internet for hints at some point. It's certainly a relic of its time, but it's also properly engaging in a really unique way. It's a hard game to recommend because the beginning will almost always be the most difficult part to enjoy, but for those interested in gaming history, it's at the very least worth trying, even if you do go on to skip it in favor of its real or spiritual successors.