Corpses litter the quietly humming corridors of the Citadel station. They are silent, but each tells their own story. The mutilated corpse lies inches away from the audio log recorded just before the final stand. A file from a woman recounts her final days as she succumbed to an epidemic of illness. A pile of mangled corpses, tangled in their own guts, staring up with dead eyes at graffiti murals depicting the artificial intelligence they worshiped like gods.
If this nightmare sounds like a new BioShock game, you’re half wrong. These are all moments in System Shock, the game that kicked off the Shock lineage in 1994. One of the most important games in history, his original version is almost unplayable by today’s standards, as his interface and controls are so complex and prehistoric in nature. But the fantastic remake from developer Nightdive Studios has broken down those old barriers and is the origin of many ideas that made System Shock so powerful despite its age, its spiritual successor. emphasized that it is
If you’ve never explored the corridors of Citadel Station, you’ll be surprised to find that much of BioShock’s DNA is pulled directly from System Shock. Like the world created by Irrational Games head Ken Levine, Citadel Station is hell. The station’s artificial intelligence, SHODAN, has taken over and plans to destroy humanity. Like Andrew Ryan, she seems to poke fun at you and amuse your pathetic attempts to block her promotion to god as she descends deeper into the station’s interconnected hierarchies. . The kicker is that SHODAN’s rise is your fault. Much like BioShock Infinite and Levine’s upcoming Judas, System Shock is all about fixing what’s broken.
BioShock is perhaps best known for its masterful storytelling and the way the crumbling Art Deco city tells a new story in every room. System Shock was born at a time when games were largely driven by mechanics rather than storytelling, so the core narrative running through System Shock isn’t as prominent and layered as BioShock. But the world is still rich and revealed using the same basic techniques as BioShock. Your mission to destroy SHODAN takes you through multiple decks of the Citadel Station, from the depths of reactors to the heights of bridges. And while each level consists of a maze-like pattern of repeating architectural motifs that make every floor feel confusingly identical, Citadel Station has an unmistakable sense of place. It may not tell a story as immediate as The Rapture, but if you study the halls, you’ll find each hall has a distinct purpose.
By the time you arrive, the entire Citadel Station crew will be gone, so the story will be delivered primarily through audio logs. It’s a narrative technique closely related to BioShock, but System Shock pioneered the technique in his 1994 so successful that the remake needed little change. They provide the voices of the deceased, each furthering the story of a few recurring characters. Some stories are confined within decks, while others span the entire station. Each is a miniature horror story, detailing the last days of a population about to be wiped out by rogue AI, but also the primary way to deliver clues to your next objective. This approach makes audio logging an integral part of the experience, better than what many developers use today. Audio logs these days often feel more like selfish lore dumps than important listening, which is why so many of us skip them.
The contents of those audio logs are often uncomfortably haunting, made worse by the realization that the grotesque cyborgs battling within the station are the mutilated remnants of the voices you were hearing. increase. The entire Citadel Station crew, who until just a few months ago lived and worked peacefully, are now twisted, grotesque cyborgs with little desire beyond eating corpses and killing. SHODAN turned entire nations into private armies and forcefully raped their bodies with the technology they created. There are similarities between these cyborgs and the Splicers, residents of Rapture who have been twisted by their dependence on science. It’s clear how BioShock built on his System Shock idea of tragic people who were victims of their own genius.
It could doom you too. If you die, you have to watch your own body being transplanted into a giant mechanical spider, with the words “Well serve SHODAN as a cyborg” flashing on the screen. But there is a way out of such a tragic ending. Each deck has a Restoration Bay, an instant revive device. Also, since this is an in-universe system, it not only brings the player back to life, but also keeps all the mission progress intact as there is no need to reload previous saves. Yes, the System Shock has Vita Chambers. This is the BioShock system that was often considered a concession to the not-so-hardcore modern gamers of 2007. However, it has its 90s difficulty quirks. SHODAN uses them to create cyborgs, so it’s important to seek out the level’s Restoration Bay and reset its medical functions when you reach a new deck.
Thankfully, you can just turn off the cyborg creation mode in Restoration Bay, but most of Citadel Station’s system isn’t that simple. Many blocked doors and locked devices require the grid access panel to be rewired for access. This is the process of creating a path for power between source and destination nodes. Sound familiar? It’s a cyberpunk take on Rapture’s pipe-based hacking. BioShock’s mini-games also have their origins in System Shock’s puzzles.
Combat in the two games follows a similar rhythm. Your journey begins with a simple lead pipe that remains an essential tool hours later, much like a BioShock wrench. It comes with a pistol, shotgun, and rifle, each of which can be loaded with different types of ammunition depending on the situation. And while it lacks plasmid powers, the most exotic weapons draw energy directly from their cybernetically-enhanced bodies, draining power gauges like Eve that need to be replenished with batteries on a regular basis.
The basis for BioShock, which felt so new and exciting in 2007, was all in the System Shock. But until now, it’s been hard to recommend all but the most die-hard fans to experience these origins because the original versions were so old. I don’t care about other normal his UI systems and controls that we are familiar with today, it doesn’t even have the appearance of a mouse. But Nightdive Studios’ remake brings System Shock to his 2020s with modern controls, a completely revamped interface, an incredibly striking visual style, and many innovations from the original game. bring.
System shock is loyal – TRUE Stays true to the 90’s source material. That means easy-to-get-lost-maze-like level design, confusing mission objectives, and combat that feels as crunchy as a modern shooter. This is still a complex, hardcore PC game with no compromises. But it’s not a weakness. Nightdive understands that the game itself—the experience beyond ancient graphics and interfaces—is just as valuable today as it was 30 years ago, so it applies upgrades with a light touch, making it the most archaic. Only the elements have been brought up to modern standards. . It’s updated how you play, not what you play. Thanks to these changes, experiencing the origins of BioShock’s genius is much easier and much more fun. It’s all here, surprisingly often so perfectly formed that after just a few hours you’ll forget you’re playing a pre-Windows 95 game.
The Nightdive remake proves System Shock was years ahead of its time, and is an important history lesson for big BioShock fans.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.