Games: Re-booted System Shock offers a fancy yet faithful 90s flashback for fans of first-person shooters

Neil assesses Nightdive’s 21st century upgrade for a 1990s PC classic

System Shock
Do ya feel lucky, cyberpunk?

System Shock (Multi, Nightdive)

WHILE the summer of 94 saw the beginnings of meaningful paramilitary ceasefires in Northern Ireland, gamers were tooling up like Rambo for the eagerly awaited Doom II - but trigger-happy brainiacs have rose-tinted specs for an entirely different beast.

Long before BioShock or Prey, System Shock was doling out immersive gunplay with complex AI, deep storytelling and lashings of atmosphere. At a time when first-person shooters were all about blowing demons, Nazis and Nazi-demons into pixelated chunks, System Shock was so ambitious it came on nine discs.

Well, you can put that floppy away, as remaster kings Nightdive - the Vancouver-based digital grave robbers with a kink for resurrecting long-dead classics - have crowbarred the 30-year-old shooter’s coffin for a terrifying joyride down memory lane.

With the internet explosion, cyberspace tropes were all the rage in 90s Hollywood and, before The Matrix came along, they were universally awful. Swigging Tango underneath their Nirvana posters, however, gamers were like pigs in cyber-poo with System Shock, playing a hacker blackmailed into taking on a rogue AI aboard the Citadel.

Waking from a six-month coma to find the space station overrun with jacked-up cyborgs controlled by SHODAN, it’s up to the hacker to prevent this uppity entity turning the good folk of Earth into cyber-freaks.

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System Shock
Nightdive has spruced up the 1990s classic for the modern era - but gameplay and graphics remain faithful to the PC original

Rather than some tooled-up super solider, your lowly hacker takes on the mutants in a blend of blasting and roleplay, where stats and equipment can be customised, computers hacked and emails snooped. It may sound old hat now, but in 1994 this was groundbreaking stuff.

Its arsenal of weapons range from laser rifles to shotguns while our hacker’s skills can be beefed up with various cybernetic toys. Stealing the show, however, is SHODAN – one of gaming’s greatest baddies. Voiced by the same actress, she’s like a feminine HAL 9000 with god delusions, taunting players throughout the game’s 16-odd hours.

System Shock
System Shock

Tough as old space boots, System Shock is from an era when hands weren’t held. With indistinguishable maze-like corridors to traipse, no waymarks and fuzzy objectives, you’ll literally have to write down clues and codes to remember them. The combat is also from a bygone age, with weapons that lack oomph and controls clearly designed for a mouse and keyboard combo.

Proving you can make ‘em like they used to, Nightdive’s faithful recreation of the Citadel has been spruced up for modern rigs - though, by retaining the original’s old-school pixelated look, up-close textures resemble Minecraft.

A nostalgia punch for Gen-Xers, System Shock is a return to the PC glory days, when pixels were big and internet connections slow - and while this warts n’ all glow-up captures the original’s spirit to a cyber-tee, it’s perhaps a little too faithful for today’s lily-livered gamers.

System Shock
System Shock