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REVIEW: System Shock Remake [PC]

Welcome back, hacker...

What is the purpose of a remake? There’s plenty of trains of thought regarding remaking classic games, especially in the modern industry climate where new remakes seem to be churned out every minute. Some view it as a great way to give an outdated title a place to shine among modern games, which is why the System Shock remake is such a big deal.

The legacy of the original title is well-established by now; we’ve covered System Shock enough to make that clear. It’s a landmark title for first-person shooters, story-driven adventure games, horror titles, and sci-fi games. Without System Shock, you wouldn’t have games like Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid, Prey, Deus Ex, and BioShock (the last three of which are spiritual successors).

Yet like many classic games, it’s tremendously dated. While Nightdive Studio released System Shock on Steam with compatibility and control scheme updates, the game certainly hasn’t aged very well. That’s why Nightdive assembled a crack team to remake System Shock from the ground up.

Three attempts at development, one successful Kickstarter campaign and a lot of waiting later, the remake is finally in our hands. The System Shock remake has been one of my most awaited titles for the year, and now that I’ve traveled up the corridors of Citadel Station one more time, I can safely say that it was worth the wait.

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System Shock Remake Story
The hacker’s got some explaining to do…

As with the original game, you control an unnamed hacker in the System Shock remake who’s hacking their way into the TriOptimum databases. You’re not very good at hiding your tracks, though, as you’re almost immediately apprehended by TriOptimum security.

The company’s vice president, Edward Diego, offers to strike a deal with you: head to Citadel Station and disable the ethical restraints on the AI SHODAN, and you’ll go scot-free with a cybernetic implant added as a kicker. You take the deal and enter a six-month coma to recover from the surgery.

Six months later, you awake to find that giving an AI unrestricted morality was a bad call. SHODAN has wiped out the entire station and converted survivors into mutant cybernetic soldiers. Her plan is to wipe out the Earth, and naturally, we don’t want that to happen. The hacker sets off into the station to shut SHODAN off once and for all.

Exploration and explosions

The original System Shock thrived on exploring your surroundings and finding secrets and resources to survive. All of the original maps are retained in the System Shock remake, most of which had some updates to the level design in addition to a facelift. You still fill out the map as you go, and the winding halls of Citadel Station will still get you lost on occasion.

System Shock Card

Even though I played the original System Shock just a couple of months ago, the maze-like design of these areas still got to me. It was rarely ever a problem as you’ll eventually find the way forward through either finding the right spot to go next or just trial and error. Yet it’s an intensely claustrophobic place to explore, possibly more so than the original game.

We also can’t forget about the aesthetics, which are absolutely stunning. First, I want to highlight the amazing ambient music by zircon and Jonathan Peros, which highlights the tension of each area. Whether or not you think it’s better than the original score, you can’t deny that it makes this world come alive.

The enemy models admittedly don’t look the best and the lighting can be a bit too dark sometimes. But the environments are rendered in a lovely retro 3D style. The artists wisely chose to adapt many of the original textures into high fidelity rather than try to force a new art style on it. As a result, the remake still looks like nothing else out there.

Halt and catch fire

System Shock Wrench

Where I was most curious about the System Shock remake is its controls. The original controls (both the keyboard layout and actual movement and game feel) are certainly dated, and I guess the remake controls aren’t the most pristine. Yet it’s still a marked improvement, leading to a heavily enjoyable time.

It’s hard to overstate how much of System Shock still holds up today at its core. There’s enemies around every corner and a permeating sense of dread. The inherent terror in the game shines through in every section. Just like in the original, you feel increasingly bigger as you get more weapons and deploy them against SHODAN’s forces.

Then there’s the cyberspace sections, a really unique part of the original game that’s also aged the worst. The slippery controls and lack of proper feedback from the past is gone, thankfully. The cyberspace mechanics in the remake are much more action-packed and tighter. And the sound design actually lets you know what’s going on. It’s undoubtedly the best improvement Nightdive made.

Reuse, reduce, recycle

In some ways, the System Shock remake doesn’t live up to its title. Or maybe I mean that it lives up to it a bit too much?

System Shock Remake Cyberspace

Let me explain. I don’t think anyone will argue that the original System Shock is easy to go back to. It was influential, sure, but the core mechanics and design are firmly stuck in the 90s. This is a PC FPS released before WASD became the norm, for SHODAN’s sake.

Nightdive mades some solid improvements, but there’s not much new here. The only thing worth mentioning is a redesigned inventory system, the ability to recycle junk into coins, and using those coins to buy items and ammo. Otherwise, it’s the same experience we all know and love.

That’s where things might get a little tricky. Undoubtedly, the refined gameplay makes this the superior way to play System Shock for newcomers. Whether it will thrill them is another story. At the end of the day, the design is still the same. You’re not given a ton of direction — enough to beat the game, but not enough to always know where to go next. Getting lost is the point, but many players today don’t want to experience that. (To be fair, who enjoys getting lost?)

The System Shock remake is awesome, warts and all

System Shock Remake Bad Ending
You’ll make a fine addition to my army, hacker.

Overall, the System Shock remake is an excellent adaptation. It’s a perfect way for newcomers to dive into this classic title. The tighter shooting and movement controls are perfect for modern audiences. For the most part, all of its flaws were present in the original game. Nightdive’s mission statement has always been about preserving the past rather than completely redefining it. That’s more apparent here than any other title, and the result is a fantastic yet still retro-feeling game.

The System Shock remake 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. An enhanced version of the original game is also available on Steam, courtesy of Nightdive.

What are your thoughts on the System Shock remake? Let us know!




The System Shock remake is a perfect way for newcomers to dive into this classic title. The tighter shooting and movement controls are perfect for modern audiences. For the most part, all of its flaws were present in the original game. Nightdive's mission statement has always been about preserving the past, and the end result is a fantastic game that honors the original's legacy.

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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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