System Shock Review

Nightdive's remake of System Shock delivers an excellently grand and modern retelling of one of the foundational FPS experiences. Check out more in our full review!

Published: June 2, 2023 9:13 AM /

Reviewed By:

Shodan taunts players in System Shock's key art

System Shock is a name that's hard to avoid if you've been gaming for any length of time, even if a lot of people haven't actually traveled to Citadel Station themselves. Maybe you saw the striking green face of SHODAN as a user's profile pic, or maybe you heard Ken Levine mention it as inspiration for the Bioshock games. Perhaps you dived deep into the history of the FPS, discovering the origin point of audio logs as a storytelling tool in the process. Whatever the case, the 1994 original is a classic that deserves more respect, and that's exactly the goal of 2023's remake. It won't be for everyone, but there is now nothing stopping fans of the newer Prey and Deus Ex from experiencing the seminal immersive sim for themselves.

Your name isn't important, but your occupation is. You play as a nameless hacker just trying to download the latest cybernetic upgrades just like someone would download a car. After catching the ire of a megacorporation, you're shipped off to space and tasked with reprogramming a space station's AI to remove ethics from the equation. After that, you're put to sleep, and you can guess the rest. SHODAN eliminates the human crew, and you have to make your way to the core to stop her from firing a mining laser at the planet you'd still like to return to someday.

It's a simple story told effectively through audio logs and some environmental storytelling, although it's easily overtaken by System Shock's amazing atmosphere. Developer Nightdive Studios has done an amazing job blending retro expectations with modern sensibilities, creating a Citadel Station that feels of its era while remaining visually striking. Every blocky bit of furniture and angular environment scream of the '90s, but there's no mistaking when this vision of the future came to be. From the magnificent lighting to the aggressive sounds of combat, System Shock is a testament to how bigger isn't always better when it comes to game development.

Shotgun System Shock

The dark and claustrophobic corridors of Citadel Station still manage to instill a sense of dread and tension, while the haunting audio logs and scattered messages provide glimpses into the station's dark history. The game's intricate level design and complex puzzles continue to challenge players, rewarding those who are willing to explore every nook and cranny. The sheer depth and richness of the world make it an unforgettable experience. Nightdive Studios' dedication to preserving the essence of the original while enhancing the visual and audio aspects truly revitalizes System Shock for both nostalgic fans and a new generation of players alike.

Regarding presentation, System Shock may as well be a new game. However, Nightdive didn't fiddle with the heart of the experience. What you're doing as you traverse Citadel Station hasn't changed much, for better or worse. Created during the earliest era of first-person experiences, System Shock retains a lot of the key hunting and maze traversal that starts to strain on players once they get past the first few levels of any retro boomer shooter. Anyone who grew up on Bioshock or other, more modern immersive sims may have a hard time going back to a game with limited autosave opportunities and even more limited resources. Even on the easiest difficulties (which can be adjusted via separate meters for puzzles, combat, and more), System Shock isn't a cakewalk. Fans likely wouldn't have it any other way, but it would be nice to see even more expandable options when it comes to tweaking the gameplay to be accessible to all manner of shooter fans.

System Shock Guns Yo

If you can get in the mindset of an old-school player, there is some fun to be had in System Shock's combat sandbox. More traditional weapons like a pair of pistols and a shotgun work like you expect, just without an abundance of ammo lying around. Energy-based weapons, such as the electricity-slinging Sparqbeam and the laser rapier, offer a longer range and higher damage potential against some of SHODAN's more dangerous cohorts, but they require the use of the player's eternal battery, which can only be recharged in certain areas of each level. This battery also powers your headlamp and other key functions later on, leading to more situations where a stealthy whack with a wrench may be the best way forward, even if it isn't the most novel or fun.

No matter my hangups with how System Shock compares to what came afterward, you must commend Nightdive for their effort in reimagining this classic work. The original game was ahead of its time, and that's evident simply by how effortlessly it fits into a modern context. While there are certainly better immersive sims you could dive into, almost all of them were inspired by this seminal work, so it's great to see it emerge on modern PCs and (eventually) on consoles. Additionally, anyone interested in the roots of the genre will find a lot to dig into here.

System Shock was reviewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the Developer over 10 hours of gameplay.

Review Summary

While still firmly entrenched in '90s gameplay cliches, System Shock brings an old classic to life with a stunning new presentation. (Review Policy)


  • Amazing visuals that capture the original's mood perfectly
  • Varied weaponry that feeds into the game's resource management system


  • 90s-style mazes and key hunting
  • Difficulty tuned for existing fans

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Alex Santa Maria TechRaptor
| Staff Writer

Alex Santa Maria is TechRaptor's former Reviews Editor (2015-2020) and current occasional critic. Joining the site early in its life, Alex grew the review… More about Alex