System Shock Remake | Tried – Return to the Citadel

System Shock Remake | Tried – Return to the Citadel

The past, according to some, is a wise adviser. It allows you to understand the mistakes made to improve the present and better write the future, giving anyone the opportunity to make it less humiliating. From the past, however, we learn and understand what has been achieved, but above all what has been achieved, who did it and why. The birth of System Shock, if anyone remembers it, starts exactly some time after the publication of Doom and the first, unforgettable Wolfenstein.

System Shock, however, is the myth of the myth, the legend of legends and the founding chapter of a genre taken to the extreme and improved with the acclaimed Bioshock trilogy from Ken Levine, author of System Shock 2, replacing friends and mentors Doug Church and Warren Spector, at the time two of the most talented game designers in the world inside Looking Glass Studios, the US team known for the beloved UItima Underworld and the classic and captivating adventures of the thief Garrett in Thief .

Ken Levine, when he left his development studio together with two other developers originally, founded Irrational Games, which however closed in 2014 after the great success of Bioshock Infinite. In fact, in seven years, Ken Levine revived the spiritual heirs of the creations of Looking Glass Studios, capturing the most famous and well-known elements to expand them with greater care and refinement within his works. In fact, when we talk about the gaming legacy of Prey and System Shock, we return to a topic that is still hot at the moment: have both been underestimated by specialized critics and the public?

Prey and System Shock are very similar to each other but different in their approach, with two poles apart development stories but with a completely similar concept and sci-fi contexts. Arkane Studios, on the strength of the success of Dishonored, was trying to revive a production that had disappeared in the ether of videogame history with a workmanlike shot, hoping to be able to hit the player. He did it and also well, arriving at a time when there was a need for an immersive sim capable of entertaining and making the player dream. In 1994, the year of the publication of System Shock, this happened with a generation completely accustomed to the myth of Ultima, Doom and Wolfenstein, raised on bread and Tetris, absorbed by works that put sci-fi and fantasy as the main contexts and magnified as far as the eye could see. A striking example, which became famous as a subject of study of the history of video games, was War in the Middle-Earth developed by Beam Software with the support of Melbourne House.

Imagine proposing, after all these big names, a production which, however, differed from any author and proposed its own world, its context and its reality in a video game with the aim of push the limits of the players themselves, and that he intended to show something that had not yet been fully discovered. Its name was System Shock and its ultimate goal, before being a first-person video game with stratospheric graphics for the time, was to prove that it was one of a kind in everything and for everyone.

As we have discovered over the years, also thanks to Ken Levine, nothing really remains so, not even works that we would never have believed reproposed in some other form. System Shock Remake has been in development by Nightdive Studios for some years now with the support of the publisher Prime Matter. There is talk of an approximate release date set at the end of March 2023, although a certain date is still missing. In the last few days, however, I had the opportunity to try it through a demo released on the occasion of the Steam Next Fest, a real unmissable time to try some of the works coming out this year in advance, such as Planet of Lana.

Returning to the station called "Cittadella", almost twenty-eight years after the last time, was therefore a pleasant must-see. I spent two hours together with System Shock Remake, stripping and absorbing it to the fullest and trying to capture its essence. It would be enough to tell you that yes, it is System Shock to the nth degree, but it is not only this: it is a courageous, intense and layered re-proposition, which pushes us decisively to want more, even more, so much more.

System Shock Remake proves to be an engaging and enthralling work right from the initial prelude, which is not lost in so many frills, showing an avant-garde future dominated by empires and multinationals intent on getting rich on the backs of the poor, exploiting and trampling on last. No pity for the weakest, no concern for those who don't make it to the end of the month and trudge, trudge and can't do anything but trudge. Only so much, too much commodification of wealth, in which no one is really rich, not even those who dominate over the others.

The nightmares of the Citadel Station

The protagonist doesn't have a name, as some might think . He is just a hacker, a speck in society who lives from day to day and counts money with the hope of not seeing the light cut off from one day to the next. He is arrested for attempting to sneak inside some sensitive data that could put TriOptium Corporations in a bad light. The protagonist, later finding himself inside the Citadel as a prisoner, is contacted by Edward Diego, who offers him the possibility of dropping the charges against him only if he agrees to have a neural interface implanted in his brain capable of inside the S.H.O.D.A.N program, a sick artificial intelligence that has taken full control of the orbital station, killing every member of its crew and controlling its every floor, room and hidden corner with the aim of extending its dominion even further.

It's a risky mission for a young hacker, who until the day before was focused on not getting caught for minor crimes but who now, due to his negligence, finds himself inside a complex huge and completely unpredictable. Many already know the story of System Shock, so it would be extremely silly to analyze it totally: however, I can tell you that, compared to the past, the introduction is the same, with an obvious narrative modernization that is fundamental for entering the station aware of what is happening and a prelude made up of exhaustive and well-developed opening scenes. The year, in fact, is that of 2072: humanity has reached the peak of its knowledge and is now beginning to relate to artificial intelligence and new technologies, certain of being able to control them without any risk. However, as has already happened in human history, evolution is unpredictable and its control represents a significant unknown.

The artificial intelligence S.H.O.D.A.N, in fact, has taken control by deceiving the inhabitants of the station , indulging them and then suddenly betraying them. She is devoid of feelings but full of brutality and malice, which she uses to extend her power through the corridors and narrow places of the Citadel. The context, at the time appreciated by critics and the public, still remains one of the best parts of the production today, and the remake does not seem to deviate from this model at all, proposing again the same narrative plot that made it famous.

Strengthened by an incredible story, suspended between cyberpunk and science fiction, System Shock shows a well orchestrated and inserted prelude and initial chapter, projecting the player into the young hacker's room and, later, into the surrounded hell from steel walls, maximum security systems, gears and combinations. Retrieving the old dialogues, the team managed to capture the essence of the words spoken by Edward Diego himself in the original chapter, as well as the annoying interventions of S.H.O.D.A.N, who represents the real threat inside the station.

It replicates the worst human feelings, multiplying its negative influence in every respect, causing sudden breakdowns and hiding in any kind of electrical system with the aim of embarrassing the unfortunate protagonist. S.H.O.D.A.N represents the perfect antagonist, the real human exaggeration of excess and the search for perfection at any cost, unattainable for our species, and which belongs only to artificial intelligences, the only ones to keep under control the power of codes, numbers and algorithms. Nightdive Studios, in this sense, has faithfully reported this fundamental aspect in System Shock Remake, perfecting the initial incipit in the best possible way, which at the time could have been quite hasty. Here, however, everything is shown in an elegant and essential way, projecting the player inside the station without much ceremony.

A modern and engaging game structure

If you have played Bioshock in the past and Prey, then in System Shock you will immediately feel at ease. For those hearing about it for the first time, know that it is one of the most classic FPS of the genre, with the characteristic elements of the Bioshock series, specifically thanks to its emergent non-linear gameplay that you discover as you progress inside it , choosing the type of approach during the experience based on the countless and complicated challenges that can be encountered along the way, including enemies always ready to strike suddenly and in a brutal and perfidious way.

Once inside the Citadel, the only weapon I had was a mace to use against enemies. I didn't have to wait long to use it, actually, because the production immediately throws the player right in the middle of the action. Having taken out the first creature, I opened a door, heading almost everywhere until, not noticing an enemy behind me, I died unexpectedly. And I repeated the same path again. A curious thing, which I found particularly well integrated and which I hope will be explored better in the course of the work, is the barbaric use of the protagonist's body by the cyborgs.

A cutscene , in fact, it shows how it is disfigured and mutilated in a truculent way, which has given me particular discomfort, making me feel like an unwanted guest. Even if the claustrophobic corridors don't scare, they still know how to generate terror to no end, and I've noticed this on several occasions, especially visiting the rooms expertly hidden by walls and as many tunnels. The level design, well built and held up by a solid fidelity with the original material, is an element that pleasantly struck me during this first contact with the revival. In games of this kind it is the progression that amazes as well as the type of approach used to get to the bottom of delicate and borderline solutions: I often used the mace to stun the enemy, subsequently finishing him off with an electric pistol, obtained from a previously defeated corpse .

While advancing in the first level of System Shock Remake, I got to experiment with grenades, useful for getting rid of enemies quickly. While I didn't have an exorbitant amount at my disposal, I still managed to get enough to fool my enemies and get their attention. I preferred to maintain a cautious and measured approach, moving slowly and without haste, hoping not to find one of the creatures behind me ready to tear me apart .

I managed in the complex attempt to go unnoticed once managing to activate even the elevator, which then led me to the end of the demo. The purpose of Nightdive Studios is also commendable for another reason: it was complex to modernize something like System Shock making it fluid, especially in the use of game controls, yet their positioning is well blended and thought out, consistent and of value. Such productions require excellent inventory management and an interface capable of not being too annoying or cumbersome, and System Shock Remake seems to maintain a more than decent level from both points of view. The interface is divided by a quick selection table to use heals and grenades with the simple press of a key from the keyboard, while the inventory can be organized and arranged to your liking, rotating and rearranging objects intelligently.

It will be necessary, especially during construction, to understand how to give up fundamental objects to prefer others, to be reused to avoid any complex clashes in such a way as to face them intelligently. At the base, however, there is total freedom of approach, which is the very basis of the game structure. The mechanics, in this sense, have been simplified and refined to be easily used, not appearing artificial or uncomfortable at all. It's never easy to experience remakes of this caliber, especially of a twenty-eight-year-old video game that now, after so much time, needs a total modernization. The work done so far, however, is commendable and I can't wait to enjoy the work in its entirety .

What to expect from System Shock Remake?

I admit it, I didn't know what would I have found in front of me. Or rather, I was aware of it but I was afraid I would not find what I imagined. Instead, I was surprised: even if I was in the company of System Shock for only two hours, returning to the Citadel was unexpected and pleasant, a return to the past that could do good to anyone who has never played the original work and who is now interested in living it to the fullest.

However, how is it proposed to those who have already experienced it in the past? It could represent an appreciable journey to relive the same emotions and sensations of the past, sharing them with those who are younger. Considering that the publication of System Shock Remake is now completely imminent, it is worth emphasizing: the return to the Citadel will be overwhelming and enveloping also from a graphic point of view, as well as a playful one. Getting lost among those runners will be scary and unique, and absolutely worth it. All that remains is to wait .

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