System Shock is just one of those games innit. It's one of those "classic" computer games that the old folk tell you about. You know those old folks, the ancient gamers (not me, obviously), just constantly yammering on at bus stops about System Shock and "oh, you shoulda seen SHODAN" and you're like "I did see SHODAN" and then they go "yeah, but you had to be there, it was like The Beatles. Like Khe Sanh." Something like that.

Anyway. We get it, this was good once. But it's 2024 now, grandma, it's 30 years later for crying out loud, why should we be arsed? Just because a game comes along and redefines a genre, sets a new standard and goes on to influence stuff like Bioshock and Arkane Austin's stupefyingly great Prey, we're supposed to drop everything and play it? Yeah right. Oh, and RIP Arkane Austin, you deserved so much better than to be destroyed by the greed of lesser people.

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However, before we all rush out to bonk any and all old fogies on the head with our copies of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (what do you mean that's past it now too?), before we tell them to stick their retro remakes entirely, the problem we have, after sitting down to play this particular revamp project, is that these smelly dinosaurs may actually have a point. Indeed, far from being the boring history lesson some newcomers may expect, or a return visit mostly propped up by nostalgia, System Shock Remake only went and turned out to be one of the very best games we played in 2023. And we're not sure if you remember, but 2023 had quite a few very good games.

So, if you're coming to this expecting something pretty decent but still quite old-hat in comparison to the juggernauts it inspired, if you're dragging your feet because there's been too many retro remakes recently or you aren't interested in the historical angle, we're here to tell you that actually System Shock circa 2024 can stand shoulder to shoulder with any modern title in this most excellent of genres. Nightdive Studios, the hottest remake team in town right now, has done such a studied job in how it's approached this modernisation that the whole thing comes off as immediately fresh, vital and more interesting than a thousand run-of-the-mill efforts that have passed our way in more recent times.

It's still System Shock at its core, meaning it can be rather...obtuse...if you've never got down and dirty with this sort of retro thing before. You're still all alone on Citadel Station, a single hacker charged with picking apart an enemy-infested space maze presided over by an out-of-control AI, and there are trials and tribulations aplenty to stop you in your tracks. Thankfully, there are also now a raft of tweakable options so you can make various things easier/more approachable/less obtuse should you need to.

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Playing on default mode the enemies here don't mess about, they are abrupt to the point of being rude, and you'll be dead before you know it if you attract too many. The puzzles can also be quite taxing, and it's generally the sort of old-school scenario where thinking is actively encouraged, big flashing waypoints aren't a thing, and you'll need to get to know Citadel Station quite intimately during your playthrough if you want to uncover every secret there is to find. It's not for everyone, basically.

Accessibility options and difficulty choices are probably the biggest and best addition in 2024 from a gameplay perspective, then, and they combine with a few areas and sequences that have been redesigned to flow more coherently, making for a System Shock that actually properly gives newcomers the opportunity to tailor things a little. To take the old-school edge off.

You can now dial down difficulty options in four categories; Combat, Mission, Cyber and Puzzles. Each category can then be cycled through easy, normal and hard modes, allowing you to adjust the complexity of one of the game's junction box puzzles, as an example, make enemies harder or more numerous, or even switch the mission difficulty up so you have just five hours to beat SHODAN on a permadeath run. Yeah. Good luck with that.

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Playing around with the in-game options we were able to find a nice balance, leaving the puzzle aspect of things as tough as possible while dialling down the heat in confrontations. The confrontations are still fun, by the way, don't get us wrong, the cyborgs that patrol the station are brutish thugs, bastards who'll snipe you in the back with cheap shots. They're also fantastically squishy and a lot of fun to explode into tiny red giblets - but they're also the game's one true weak-point. They're dummies, you see, they don't have any designs on flanking manoeuvres, nobody here has read any Sun Tzu - and why would they when there's games as good as this to play, let's face it. So you have rather simplistic confrontations from a strategic perspective as a result. Still tough, and still fun on account of the fact that the game's survival horror aspects make ammo/health conservation a priority, thus injecting every scrap with sweaty tension, but doubtlessly simplistic in comparison to other examples of the genre.

This remake sticks very closely indeed to the original layout and gameplay loop, then, but it brings a ton of excellent modernisations with it, even beyond those fancy new difficulty options. Graphically, Nightdive has stuck thrillingly closely to the original look, but it's been cleverly embellished, cleaned up and given all-sorts of fancy lighting effects, shadows, reflections and all that tasty stuff. Nothing looks out of place, they've refrained from going too far or changing too much, and the end result is something that's immediately fully rooted in its own history and mythos whilst also coming off as slick and right on the money in terms of currently trending aesthetics.

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And this is the real meat of this remake, it ensures that a truly great old game is unleashed from the shackles of time and served up as an adventure that's easily digestible by even the most modern consumers. Nightdive has nailed that. And it's also nailed the look, the visuals are a joyous fusion of retro/modern, the sound, soundtrack and all the eye and ear candy is 100% on point. Yes, we haven't gone into detail on the story - please just go in as blind as possible, thanks - but that's all still as weird and creepy and enthralling as ever.

SHODAN, most importantly perhaps, is still a terrifying presence, and none of the feelings of claustrophobia that (we guess) come from crawling around the inside of the very enemy you must destroy, have been diminished by the passage of time, or by this masterfully delicate reworking. This is another must-play straight off the back of the sublime Quake 2 for Nightdive. You love to see it.


System Shock Remake is another sublime piece of work from Nightdive Studios. This is a return to a seminal classic that studiously retains everything that's so beloved about the 1994 original whilst giving modern gamers an experience they can comfortably play and enjoy. It nails the remit of making this space survival masterclass vital once more, and it's a must-play all day long when it's looking and playing as beautifully as it does on Xbox. If it wasn't for some braindead enemies we'd be looking at a perfect score, but hey, this'll do nicely too.