Hands on preview: System Shock - Building on the familiar

Published: 17:55, 20 December 2019
Nightdive Studios
A shot of the environment in System Shock.
Vents never looked so good.

The remake of System Shock was a massive success on Kickstarter, with over 20,000 backers believing in Nightdive Studios' vision to bring the game back to life for a modern audience. We went hands on with a demo build of the game.

Navigating the murky waters of satisfying a feverish, existing fanbase, while opening up the game to an unfamiliar audience might seem like a herculean task, but developer Nightdive Studios proved they were the ones for the job with a highly successful 2016 crowdfunding campaign that raised well over $1million. 

Despite repeated delays, an engine switch from Unity to Unreal, and simultaneous PS4 and Xbox One console ports, they have been upfront and honest throughout the process. Based on what we've played so far, we have no doubt they will deliver a faithful re imagining of the original, janky parts and all. 

System Shock was never afraid to throw you in the deep end, and we're happy to report that this approach has been replicated successfully here. Without being given a huge amount of context, you're left to explore a dystopian space station, unlocking passages and fending off attacks from various foes. The best part is that an entire audience of BioShock fans, who were perhaps unaware of its System Shock influences, will feel right at home. 

Graphically, it strikes a slightly jarring balance between tipping a hat to the plainer textures of the original, and the capabilities of modern hardware. Lighting and atmospheric effects remain moody as ever, but the visuals aren't as sharp as we expected from a current gen release. Of course, there's still a long road ahead and plenty of opportunity for added polish, but the art direction here is skewing a little too faithfully to the past.

Nightdive Studios An enemy approaches in System Shock. This guy probably isn't raising his hand to ask a question.

Of course, System Shock was never a run and gun experience, and to be given a metal pipe as your first weapon was an appreciated touch that, unlike the visual design, is the kind of nod to the past that works on every level. Aggressive robots and mutant creatures are the least of your problems, and you're best keeping your wits about you when diving deeper into the station.

Looting bodies and canvasing the environment are hugely important mechanics, and although the menu UI is needlessly over complicated, we're thrilled to see survival elements return and continue to be a focus. System Shock always did such a good job of overwhelming players with the possibility for ambush around every corner. You can never be sure what's ahead.

That's easily Nightdive Studios' biggest victory here; they've absolutely nailed the feel of System Shock, and given the title's rampant Kickstarter success (and subsequent $77,000+ from BackerKit support), all eyes are on 2020 to see how the finished product comes together.

Nightdive Studios Structural damage in System Shock. Glowy blue flames probably means bad.

System Shock launches in 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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