System Shock 2023: A Very Good Version of the Classic or an Unnecessary Remake?

Upon release, the original System Shock suffered from comparisons to Doom. But that was reasonable. Doom has inspired countless clones that have rarely matched what modern DOOM has achieved. Veterans in the gaming world know that the first Doom is the father of First-Person Shooters (FPSs). As for System Shock, it came out almost exactly one year after the first title of the Doom franchise, which was in 1994.

Indeed, FPS was so new as a gaming model that anything that represented a first-person view was compared to Doom whose popularity resulted in selling over 10 million copies in total (due to the emergence of more sophisticated and visually spectacular games, Doom has lost a lot of its players later on). The title even reached the competitive gaming scene when such tournaments were in their infancy; now they are replaced with lucrative money-prized eSports tournaments, whose popularity has grown more in recent years thanks to streaming platforms and their place among online bookies’ markets, such as offers of MiFinity betting sites and others.

Even the term FPS appeared much later; for years, we called such games “Doom clones.” The term FPS or “First-Person Shooter” came to life later, only at the end of the 90s, with the appearance of Quake and similar games (the first Quake appeared on the market only three years after the first Doom, in 1996, two years after the original System Shock).

But when you look a little closer, you can see that System Shock was never a “Doom clone.” It was not a classic FPS but more of a combination of FPS and RPG (Role-Playing Game). Sure, the game is first-person, its world rendered in superb real-time 3D, the game has a gun (or the occasional wrench) sticking out from the bottom of the screen, and its combat and movement lean more towards action than most other RPGs of that era, especially on computers. But it was, first and foremost, an RPG in the sense that in every situation, the most important thing was how you prepared in advance for what awaited you.

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System Shock Is the First Game to Successfully Unite Two Opposing Genres

Combat, for example, was never about your ability to maneuver around enemies or to avoid enemy attack patterns but more about choosing the right tool for what lay ahead. This is equally valid for the remake of the game, which was released on the penultimate day in May. Aiming at enemies is not a challenge since their behavior is limited and predictable. Instead, your focus is on choosing a weapon that will be effective against the current enemy, while at the same time deciding which of several types of ammo, of which you do not have much, you are willing to spend to defeat those enemies.

Let us add the fact that the inventory, the space for storing items, is not very spacious and that the game will ask you to use the resources at your disposal wisely. The choices you make about what gear to carry with you and what to store in the freight elevator at each level will have consequences, which will definitely affect how you can or cannot react in future encounters with enemies.

Now that we look back on this approach, we can conclude that System Shock introduced some of the concepts that would later be applied and perfected in games like Deus Ex and BioShock. More specifically, now, when we look at classics like Doom and System Shock, we can see how hugely influential those games were on many other games, which is fascinating and an added indication of how good those games are still quality today.

System Shock was always more narratively sophisticated than Doom. The death of (most) characters before the player arrives and leaving the player to explore the abandoned space station afterward was a decision made to avoid interactions with NPCs (non-playable characters) via the sort of basic branching dialogue tree used by RPGs of that time. Instead of interacting with NPCs, you as the player, would find notes and voice recordings left by station personnel on data cards and computer terminals. With the enhanced CD-ROM edition of System Shock, we also got voice recordings.

SHODAN Now Fully Has His Own Voice, Which Is Creepy

Best of all, the game’s antagonist, an artificial intelligence known as SHODAN (short for Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network), was given a full voice. Appearing on nearby computer screens, SHODAN would try to discourage the player, mocking what the player was working on in a rather unsettling way. Through SHODAN’s outbursts, messages, and notes from condemned workers at the station that tell of the horrors that took place there, you (the player) are asked to not only piece together the puzzle of what kind of disaster happened but also what is what you should do in order to, as best as possible, fix the situation or at least minimize the damage.

When it comes to playing the game and figuring out what to do next, it has to be said that System Shock was pretty stingy; at least when it came to giving players instructions. This remains true to the remake of the game, to the point where you will sometimes wonder whether they left this in to please fans of the original and classic games or, at the same time, make you explore and find out the story on your own without two hours of animations to guide you through it; to make you think how good this is.

Yes, it draws a bit on the Souls games, but when was that a bad thing (if you are a fan of the Souls games)? If you are not, you will not play them. The same goes for System Shock 2023. If you do not like games that are pretty vague about the story, then you will probably skip this title. If you like these kinds of games, you will keep playing them until the end.

The Sparse Story, Revealed Only Through the Notes of Ex-Crew Members, Further Contributes to Exploring

The vague story, which was revealed only through the voice and written notes and messages of the former crew members, further contributes to exploring, which fans of the original game (and such games) will greatly appreciate.

For fans of such games, it will be very satisfying to explore every meter of the space station in detail, gradually uncovering its secrets, making mental notes about which areas to return to later, and creating a mental map of all areas, floors, and then the entire game. Of course, the space station is still conceived as kind of a complicated labyrinth, which in reality would certainly not look like that, or if it did, it would certainly not be a space station.

Regardless, if you like to explore the inch by inch of the environment and if you like to pay attention to details, analyze, return to previously visited areas, and discover new things, you will really like this. Players who are not so ready for this level of refresh, that is, those players who may have come to System Shock 2023 from Resident Evil 4 Remake, will find this too much and that all corridors are identical.

Everything Is as Good as It Was in 1994, but Much Better and More Beautiful

Speaking of the labyrinth that the space station on which the game takes place certainly is, let us also say something about the graphic upgrades of the game itself. All the areas that the developer Nightdive has tweaked look great. Graphically, the game is beautified to the maximum, as we would expect from a quality game that was released on the market in 2023.

What is noticeable and also a plus is that the aesthetics and charm of the original have been preserved, while modern lighting effects and more detailed and colorful textures shape the rooms and corridors of the station with greater coherence. The short sections of cyberspace have also been tweaked, not only visually, but to further add to the action element.

Journeys into cyberspace feel genuinely different and offer a very welcome change of scenery before you head back to exploring the rest of the station. Graphically, System Shock 2023 looks so that there is honestly nothing to complain about.

Final Verdict

System Shock remake brings us a lot of good, old elements dressed in new, beautiful clothes, which fans of the genre and the franchise will definitely be able to appreciate.

System Shock 2023 tries to combine what we experienced in the early days of the FPS genre with new, modern things. And to a large extent, it succeeds in that. Players who have not played the classic will find a lot more objections to this game than we do. Is it because of nostalgia? Maybe. Enemies move in a somewhat stiff and old-school way, which can bother someone, and that is legitimate. But we are of the opinion that the developers designed it that way on purpose, in order to keep the old System Shock spirit as much as possible.

The remake of System Shock also feels like an unusual, primitive product of an earlier, more innocent era, combined with a high-end, sharply aligned game design style. System Shock was created at a time when developers were still learning what the FPS genre was and how not to completely copy Doom, but on the other hand how to “borrow” some segments again because Doom in the 90s was the same as it is now: a giant of the gaming industry, which slowly created a follower cult among gamers.

System Shock brought a lot of new things, ultimately uniting two opposing genres: RPG and FPS, two of the most popular genres (the first one on mobile devices and the second one on PCs as well as for competitive gaming) and it did it quite well. The remake of the game from this year wanted to show players, both seasoned players, that is, fans of the genre and the game, and newbies, a combination of the old and the new. We are of the opinion that it succeeded in doing so. If you loved the original, you will love the remake. If you have never played the original and want something different, try System Shock 2023.