Review: System Shock Remake (Xbox) – Nightdive does it again with another excellently studied remake

System shock is just one of those games. It’s one of them “classic” computer games that the old people tell you about. You know those old people, the old gamers (not me of course), who are constantly whining at bus stops about System Shock and “oh, you should have seen SHODAN” and you say “I saw SHODAN” and then they go ” Yes, but you had to be there, it was like The Beatles. Just like Khe Sanh.” Something like that.

Anyway. We get it, this used to be good. But it’s 2024 now, grandma, it’s 30 years later because we cried out loud: why should we be in the ass? Just because a game comes along that redefines a genre, sets a new standard, and influences the likes of Bioshock and Arkane Austin’s astonishingly awesome Prey, should we drop everything and play? That’s right. Oh, and RIP Arkane Austin, you deserved so much better than to be destroyed by the greed of lesser men.

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But before we all run out and fuck all the old people in the head with our copies of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (what do you mean that’s over now too?), before we tell them to completely cancel their retro remakes paste, The problem we have, after playing this particular revamp project, is that these smelly dinosaurs might actually have a point. Far from the boring history lesson some newcomers might expect, or a return visit buoyed mainly by nostalgia, System Shock Remake proved to be one of the very best games we played in 2023. And we’re not. Especially if you remember, but 2023 had quite a few very good games.

So if you’re coming here expecting something pretty decent but still pretty old compared to the juggernauts it inspired, if you’re dragging your feet because there’s been too many retro remakes lately or if you’re not interested in the historical angle, we are here to tell you that Actually System Shock circa 2024 can stand shoulder to shoulder with any modern title in this excellent genre. Nightdive Studios, the hottest remake team in town right now, has done such a well-researched job in the way it approaches this modernization that the whole thing immediately seems fresh, vital, and more interesting than a thousand run-of-the-mill efforts that have been the last time passed our way.

It’s still System Shock at its core, which means it can be quite… obtuse… if you’ve never gotten into this kind of retro stuff before. You’re still all alone on Citadel Station, a single hacker tasked with taking apart an enemy-infested space maze led by an out-of-control AI, and there are plenty of trials and tribulations to stop you. Luckily, there are now a whole host of customizable options too, so you can make different things easier/more accessible/less obtuse as needed.

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If you play on standard mode, the enemies here don’t mess around, they’re abrupt to the point of being rude, and you’ll be dead before you know it if you engage too many of them. The puzzles can also be quite taxing, and it’s generally the kind of old-school scenario where thinking is actively encouraged, big flashing waypoints aren’t a thing, and you’ll have to get to know Citadel Station quite well as you play if you want to get to know each discover the secret that is out there. In principle it is not for everyone.

Accessibility options and difficulty choices are probably the biggest and best addition in 2024 from a gameplay perspective, and they’re combined with a few areas and sequences that have been redesigned to flow more coherently, making for a system shake that actually gives newcomers the opportunity to give things a a bit to adjust. To take the old-fashioned edge off.

You can now choose difficulty levels in four categories; Battles, missions, cyber and puzzles. Each category can then be cycled through easy, normal and hard modes, allowing you to adjust the complexity of any of the game’s junction box puzzles, for example making enemies harder or more numerous, or even changing the mission difficulty so you just five hours to beat SHODAN on a permadeath run. Yes. Good luck with that.

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Playing with the in-game options allowed us to find a nice balance, keeping the puzzle aspect of things as difficult as possible and reducing the tension of confrontations. The confrontations are still fun by the way, don’t get us wrong, the cyborgs patrolling the station are brutal villains, bastards who will shoot you in the back with cheap shots. They’re also fantastically soft and a lot of fun to explode into little red guts, but they’re also the game’s only real weak point. They’re dummies, you see, they have no plans for flanking maneuvers, no one here has read a Sun Tzu – and why should they, when there are such good games like this to play, let’s face it. This results in fairly simplistic confrontations from a strategic perspective. Still tough and still fun due to the fact that the survival horror aspects of the game make ammo/health maintenance a priority, injecting every bit with sweaty tension, but undoubtedly simplistic compared to other examples of the genre.

So this remake sticks very close to the original layout and gameplay loop, but brings a lot of excellent modernizations, even beyond those fancy new difficulty levels. Graphically, Nightdive has stayed excitingly close to the original look, but it’s been cleverly embellished, tidied up and provided with all kinds of beautiful lighting effects, shadows, reflections and all that good stuff. Nothing seems out of place, they’ve refrained from going too far or changing too much, and the end result is something that’s immediately completely rooted in its own history and mythos, while also coming across as slick and good in terms of the current situation. trendy aesthetic.

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And this is the real meat of this remake: it ensures that a truly great old game is released from the shackles of time and served up as an adventure that is easily digestible even for the most modern consumers. Nightdive has achieved that. And the look is good too: the visuals are a cheerful mix of retro/modern, the sound, the soundtrack and all the eye and ear candy are 100% correct. Yes, we haven’t gone into the story in detail yet – please go in as blind as possible, thanks – but it’s all still as weird, creepy and captivating as ever.

SHODAN is, perhaps most importantly, still a terrifying presence, and none of the feelings of claustrophobia that (we assume) come from crawling around the enemy you’re tasked with destroying are lost on the passage of time, or on this enemy, not diminished. masterfully delicate workmanship. This is another must-play right after the sublime Quake 2 for Nightdive. You like to see it.

Conclusion

System Shock Remake is yet another sublime piece of work from Nightdive Studios. This is a return to a groundbreaking classic that painstakingly preserves everything that’s loved about the 1994 original, while giving modern gamers an experience they can play and enjoy in comfort. Tasked with making this masterclass in space survival vital once again, it’s a must play all day long if it looks and plays as beautifully as it does on Xbox. Without a few brain-dead enemies we’d be looking at a perfect score, but hey, this is doable too.

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