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System Shock (Remake), PS5

Remakes of old games usually do a couple of things for me. They remind me what an amazing experience a particular classic game was back in the day. Like System Shock, highlighting just how “ahead of its time” it was. Conversely, said Remakes if not done with enough modern vigour, have a damaging effect on my rose-tinted glasses, laying bare how very far video game design has actually come. 

This remake certainly ticked the box of reminding me that System Shock was ahead of its time…..however, ahead of its time in 1994 does not equate to being a joy to play in 2024.

A Shock to the System

I played the original System Shock in the 90s and adored it. This remake is faithful to the “O.G”s design and story, with the player aka: The Hacker, being taken to prison and being tasked with going head to head with the prison Artificial Intelligence SHODAN.

However, 30 years is a long time in game design. And the feelings of adoration I once had, have not been replicated in this remake. Night Dive studios have done an excellent job finding the sweet spot of ‘retro-esque’ graphics, whilst making the game look honestly quite beautiful on my PS5. It looks great! And the sound design is clean, suitably sci-fi-ee and well voiced. But the other stuff which is inescapably at the core to the System Shock experience has been kept…. and 2024 me hates it.

The lack of player direction, the claustrophobic levels, the constant feeling of being lost, the lack of any story with substance, the unforgiving enemy accuracy in combat, the floaty melee combat and basic camera control are painful. All of it feels old and clunky. After an hour or so, I wanted to adjust the difficulty down from ‘Normal, as my frustration was getting the better of me. But No….not even the difficulty cannot be changed mid game. I had to start over with a fresh save. Why? I ask you Night Dive…why!?

And its not even a Roguelike

The clunk is ever present in the user interface too. Especially on controller. Trying to recycle junk and navigate the menus is paaaaaainful. I suspect the PC Master Race would fare better with a mouse in hand though, see Gerard’s PC review earlier… . In the heat of battle, trying to swap items or move quickly to a door while equipping something just sucked. I’ll be frank, I got a few hours in and put the game down for good I’m afraid.

The O.G System Shock’s effect on the wider video game landscape cannot be understated. It laid the design groundwork for the modern greats in this genre like Prey, Deus Ex and Bioshock. The big takeaway here though, is Night Dive studios have created a beautiful and loyal homage to one of the greatest games ever made. Unfortunately, they just didn’t take enough creative license to make it fun.