When I first played System Shock in 2011, I was introduced to the series as a whole; I’d never played one or two. It was overwhelming at first, but luckily I had my partner, who had already beaten it, so I had a human in my ear on the citadel to help push me in the right direction. The beginning of system shock was, like I said, overwhelming, as I had so much to wrap my head around. But once I got into the swing of things, it quickly absorbed my attention. The game has a level of interactivity and immersion that’s almost unrivaled.

The visuals and level design are staggering for 1994. They captured the feel of 2001, a space odyssey, so well.

I love the cyberspace sections; they may be dated now, but they have this indescribable 90s feel to them. But one thing that always caught my attention was how deliberate and immersive the game is. The game doesn’t treat you like an idiot, and you’re fully expected to use your brain. I love that the game throws all these tools and features at you and just tells you to do what you want with them. Towards the end, I became almost a god, almost unstoppable. I wish more games allowed you to just be yourself and think through problems.

SHODAN as a character is fantastic; the voice actress did a phenomenal job. I love the malicious and sometimes ethereal taunting that it does to you, jumping from a soothing female voice to a demonic sound. The cracking of its voice and the change in tempo really set the mood.

One thing that’s always struck me is the citadel. itself. It’s almost like you’re inside of SHODAN's mind; it’s twisted, full of hate, and incredibly violent. The citadel is SHODAN, and you’re in her domain. Playing is such an incredibly uncomfortable experience. I found the replay of this game to hit me much deeper than it ever did before. I have Stage 4 cancer, and I couldn’t help but associate SHODAN with my cancer, and while I was playing, it’s like I was trying to sever its connection to my body. Just the gameplay loop felt like I was acting as chemotherapy, and after beating it again, I felt this weird feeling.

This game is a favorite, and I think everyone should try it. Although I know the remake will have more of an allure for new fans, the charm of the classic is still worth it.

Reviewed on Jan 02, 2024