The quietly buzzing corridors of Citadel Station are suffering from corpses. They are silent, however every tells their very own story. Torn our bodies lie inches away from an audio log recorded simply moments earlier than their remaining stand. A file from a lady tells of her remaining days as she succumbs to a spreading illness. A pile of mangled stays, entangled in their very own guts, search for with lifeless eyes at a graffiti mural that depicts the synthetic intelligence that they worshipped like a god.
If this nightmare seems like a brand new BioShock recreation, then you definately’re solely half incorrect. These are all moments from System Shock, the sport that started the Shock lineage again in 1994. One of historical past’s most essential video games, the unique is sort of unplayable by as we speak’s requirements due to a fiddy person interface and management scheme that’s virtually prehistoric. But a good-looking new remake from developer Nightdive Studios has demolished these historical boundaries and highlighted that System Shock, regardless of its age, was the origin level of so most of the concepts that made its non secular successor so robust.
If you’ve by no means explored the corridors of Citadel Station, I believe you’ll be shocked at simply how a lot of BioShock’s DNA was drawn immediately from System Shock. Like the worlds crafted by Irrational Games’ lead, Ken Levine, Citadel Station is a spot gone to hell. The station’s synthetic intelligence, SHODAN, has taken over and has plans to decimate humanity. Like Andrew Ryan, she taunts you as you descend deeper into the station’s interconnected ranges, seemingly amused at your pathetic makes an attempt to foil her ascent to godhood. The kicker is that SHODAN’s rise to energy is your fault. Just like BioShock Infinite and Levine’s upcoming Judas, System Shock is all about fixing what you broke.
BioShock is maybe finest identified for its masterful narrative work and the best way its fallen art-deco metropolis conveys new tales in each room. System Shock comes from an period when video games had been largely led by mechanics reasonably than storytelling, and so the core narrative that runs by way of it’s nowhere close to as distinguished and layered as BioShock’s. Yet the world remains to be wealthy, and nonetheless revealed utilizing the identical elementary strategies as BioShock. Your mission to destroy SHODAN takes you thru the a number of decks of Citadel Station, from the depths of its reactor to the heights of its bridge. And whereas every stage is made up of maze-like patterns of repeating architectural motifs that may make each ground really feel confusingly similar, Citadel Station has an simple sense of place. It might not ship a narrative with the immediacy of Rapture, however examine its halls and also you’ll see a transparent objective in every one.
Citadel Station’s complete crew is lengthy gone by the point you arrive, and so the story is delivered primarily by way of audio logs. It’s a story method carefully related to BioShock, however System Shock pioneered it so efficiently again in 1994 that the remake has barely needed to alter them. They present a voice to the deceased, every one furthering the tales of a handful of recurring characters. Some tales are confined to a deck, whereas others span your entire size of the station. Each one is a miniature horror story, detailing the ultimate days of a inhabitants about to be decimated by a rogue AI, however they’re additionally the first supply methodology for clues to your subsequent goal. It’s this method that makes the audio logs so integral to the expertise, and in flip so superior to the best way many builders use them as we speak. Modern audio logs usually really feel like self-indulgent lore dumps reasonably than important listens, therefore why so many people skip them.
All the basics of BioShock, which felt so new and thrilling in 2007, had been there in System Shock.
The contents of these audio logs are sometimes uncomfortably haunting, one thing solely exacerbated by the realisation that the grotesque cyborgs you battle all through the station are the mutilated stays of the voices you’ve been listening to. The complete crew of Citadel Station, who simply months prior had been residing and dealing peacefully, at the moment are twisted, grotesque cyborgs with few wishes past consuming corpses and killing you. SHODAN has transformed your entire inhabitants into her private military, forcibly violating their our bodies with the applied sciences they created. There’s a parallel between these cyborgs and Splicers, the residents of Rapture who had been twisted by their dependancy to their very own science. It’s clear how BioShock constructed upon System Shock’s concept of a tragic inhabitants who fell sufferer to their very own genius.
It’s a destiny you may fall foul of, too. Should you die, you’ll be compelled to look at your physique being grafted onto a large mechanical spider whereas the phrases “as a cyborg you’ll serve SHODAN properly” flash throughout the display screen. But there’s a approach to escape such a grisly finish. Each deck has a Restoration Bay, a tool able to instantaneous resurrection. And as a result of it’s an in-universe system, it not solely brings you again to life but in addition retains all of your mission progress intact since you don’t must reload an earlier save. Yes, System Shock has Vita Chambers, the BioShock system that was usually thought-about a concession to the less-hardcore trendy avid gamers of 2007. There is a ‘90s problem quirk, although; SHODAN is utilizing them to create her cyborgs, and so once you attain a brand new deck it’s important to seek out the extent’s Restoration Bay and reset its medical perform.
Thankfully you may simply flip the Restoration Bay’s cyborg-making mode off, however the majority of Citadel Station’s programs should not that easy. Many blocked doorways or locked gadgets would require you to rewire a Grid Access Panel to achieve entry, a course of through which you create a pathway of energy between a supply and vacation spot node. Sound acquainted? It’s Rapture’s pipe-based hacking rendered cyberpunk. Even BioShock’s mini video games have their origins in System Shock’s puzzles.
The two video games’ fight observe comparable rhythms, too. Your journey begins with a easy lead pipe that, very like BioShock’s wrench, stays a significant software in your arsenal even hours later. It’s accompanied by pistols, shotguns, and rifles, every of which will be loaded with a wide range of ammunition sorts to go well with the state of affairs. And whereas there’s no plasmid powers, probably the most unique weapons draw power immediately out of your cybernetically-enhanced physique, draining an Eve-like energy gauge that should be periodically topped up with batteries.
All the basics of BioShock, which felt so new and thrilling in 2007, had been there in System Shock. But till now it was arduous to suggest experiencing these origins to all however probably the most devoted followers due to how archaic the unique model is. It doesn’t even have mouse look, by no means thoughts any of the opposite common UI programs and controls that we’re accustomed to as we speak. But Nightdive Studios’ remake brings System Shock into the 2020s with trendy controls, a very refreshed interface, an extremely placing visible model, and all the unique recreation’s many inventions intact.
System Shock is trustworthy – actually trustworthy – to its ‘90s supply materials. That means labyrinthine stage design that’s straightforward to get misplaced in, obtuse mission goals, and fight that lacks the crunch of contemporary day shooters. It remains to be an unyielding, difficult, hardcore PC recreation. But that’s not a weak spot. Nightdive has utilized its upgrades with a lightweight contact, bringing simply probably the most archaic components as much as trendy requirements, as a result of it understands that the sport itself – the expertise that lies past these historical graphics and interface – is as worthwhile as we speak because it was 30 years in the past. The method you play, not what you play, is what has been up to date. And due to these modifications, it’s now far simpler and much more pleasurable to expertise the origins of BioShock’s genius. It’s all right here, surprisingly usually fully-formed, and after only a few hours you’ll neglect you’re taking part in a recreation that predates Windows 95.
Nightdive’s remake proves that System Shock was years forward of its time, and is an important historical past lesson for BioShock’s largest followers.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.