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First Impressions: System Shock Remake [PC]

The System Shock remake honors the original game while adding some minor improvements, and it's been a great trip so far.

Before this year began, if you asked me if System Shock needed a remake, I would’ve undoubtedly said yes. Like a dope, I saw the 1994 classic as influential but incredibly dated without even trying it out myself. When I first played System Shock earlier this year, however, my impressions proved false as it holds up remarkably well.

It had a distinctly modern design, which I suppose isn’t too surprising as it influenced a lot of future titles. Still, Nightdive Studios has been working over the past couple of years to remake System Shock, and their version of this watershed game launched just a few days ago.

I’ve gotten through the first three levels of the game, and even though the original game is still fresh on my mind, the remake is a whole other beast. My first impressions of the System Shock remake are highly positive, and it is undoubtedly the definitive version to play so far.

Improving the design

System Shock First Impressions
Defeating rogue robots and mutants has never felt more satisfying.

Right away, Nightdive deviates from the course by giving us an interactive intro to set up the story. It follows the same narrative as the original, but the dialogue has been tightened to paint a better picture for the player.

That doesn’t mean you won’t get lost in the bowels of the Citadel Station. If you’ve never jumped into the game before, you might be surprised by just how maze-like the levels are. It’s been a few months since I played the original, and that meant some pathways and tunnels felt foreign to me. Needless to say, I recommend new players check their maps frequently to figure out where to go next, or where you haven’t explored.

The layouts seem to be very similar, but the graphics have been fine-tuned for a suitably HD retro art style. You could be fooled into thinking it’s a remastered edition, until you realize this is a full 3D game with 3D models rather than sprite-based enemies and textures.

If there’s one problem I do have, it’s a lack of overall direction. This was a problem with the original game as well. But you’d think that the System Shock remake would’ve added a quest log, so you know your next goal. It’s a game primarily about exploration, but in forming my first impressions, I couldn’t help but notice how mysterious and borderline unfriendly System Shock is.

Honoring a legacy

System Shock Remake Cyberspace
The Cyberspace sections feel better than ever thanks to the improved graphics and gameplay.

In truth, System Shock didn’t need an overhauled remake. Nightdive Studios went the “do exactly what the original did in a new engine” route, which was the best approach. You’ve got the same levels as before, but with minor improvements to make some things more straightforward for newcomers. The core adventure remains the same, and so far, the remake has honored the original game well.

The most significant change is in the Cyberspace sections — the parts of System Shock which have definitely aged the worst. First off, the graphics actually give you solid direction since you can more easily judge depth and room layouts. Second, the floaty movement of the original has been refined to let you blast digital daemons much more easily.

I can imagine some longtime System Shock fans who played the original game back in 1994 might feel put off. After all, Looking Glass Studios basically had to create the wheel when it came to its mechanics and controls. I don’t personally remember a time before WASD became the de facto FPS control scheme, and the System Shock remake does lose some of that ingenuity that I applauded when I played the original. But if it opens up System Shock to people used to modern control schemes, I think it’s for the best.

Will my System Shock remake first impressions hold up?

System Shock Remake Shotgun
Locked, loaded, and ready to proceed.

After playing the game’s demo and seeing how Nightdive honored the original, there was no doubt in my mind the remake would be good. Playing the full game has been a blast so far. Any issues I have are shared with the original experience. With its accessible, improved controls and mechanics, and other quality-of-life upgrades, it’s easily the best way to play. (So far, at least!)

System Shock is developed by Nightdive Studios and published by Prime Matter. It is available now for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC / Mac / Linux via SteamEpic Games, and Humble Bundle. If you’re unsure about the game, you can download and play the demo on PC now.

What are your first impressions on the System Shock remake? Do you think it’s the best way to play the game? Let us know!

Daniel Hein

Daniel Hein is either A) a lifelong video game fanatic, writer, and storyteller just sharing his thoughts on things, or B) some kind of werewolf creature. We're not quite sure which yet. He also makes mediocre video game retrospectives (and other content!) on YouTube where you can watch him babble on for hours about nothing.
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