System Shock Remake review

by on May 30, 2023
Release Date

May 30, 2023


The concept of a rogue AI going insane and slaughtering a space station full of people may not seem all that original now, but it certainly was when System Shock was released in 1994. Lauded as the spiritual precursor to games like Bioshock, or even Arkane’s Prey, the mystery and tension behind System Shock’s plot earned it a legion of fans – many of whom came to the party years after it had ended. The release of Bioshock stirred interest in the floppy disc classic, but by then it was a difficult game to even get hold of.

Which is why in 2015, developer Nightdive Studios released an updated version of System Shock that made it once more accessible to PC gamers. It garnered such an interest that the same devs decided to take the concept further, and remake the entire game. The result is this: System Shock Remake, a faithful-to-a-fault homage to that ancient sci-fi horror classic.

It casts you as a hacker lost aboard Citadel Station, where a rogue AI called SHODAN has unleashed murder and mayhem. Like in Bioshock, the cause of the disruption isn’t immediately apparent. There are blood and bodies everywhere, shambling zombie-like enemies, and a lot of cameras and security turrets that really, really don’t like you.

System Shock Remake review

To the more vehement fans of the original, it’s worth saying that the Remake does a solid job of recreating the gameplay and mechanics of the original, but it’s kind of a warts and all deal. While the puzzles remain intact, along with the layout of each area and the placement of enemies, certain things have been enhanced and modernised.

The combat, for example, is faster and more fluid, but it remains the weakest link in the chain. Melee weapons lack impact, and the shooting – particularly with the first few guns – feels wishy-washy at best. Enemies move towards you without much intelligence, and they rarely even strafe to avoid fire. It has all the feeling of an old school boomer shooter without the “boom”. Weapons hiss and fizzle, and nothing feels precise enough to be considered thrilling.

What is thrilling, however, are the hacking sections that see you “enter” the computer system. The game switches neatly into what feels like a space shooter, as you fend off digitised defences while connecting nodes by shooting at them. While it’s easy to get turned around and even easier to fail, these sections at least feel exciting.

System Shock Remake review

Exploring the station – when not in combat – is compelling enough. You’ll need to piece together what happened from the scraps of info you can find, and while the mystery itself is nothing original, it does foster a genuinely tense and creepy atmosphere. Sound design is solid, too, which helps immerse you in the environment even when you’re just poking around the corners looking for clues or snatching everything off the shelves.

For a game purporting to be a remake, there are some frustratingly awkward systems at work, though. For example, the inventory is awful if you’re playing on a controller (and it’ll be interesting to see how that’s handled for the console version, coming later). It’s clunky and unwieldy, and I really can’t work out why when there are so many solid examples of inventory systems out there. For now, it’s far better experienced with mouse and keyboard, again: like the original.

It does look pretty beautiful though. It’s all deep reds, bright yellows, and dark blues, evoking a 90s-era Cyberpunk aesthetic that sings on the screen. The slight pixelation of the graphics is a gloriously creative touch, too, invoking your nostalgia while still looking modern and flashy. Many of the puzzles have a similar look to the original, and solutions you struggled to find 29 years ago remain intact here, so there will be no shortage of guides and walkthroughs that will get you through even with the updated visuals.

System Shock Remake review

One thing that desperately needed an update is the signposting – in that there is none. New players will constantly get lost in Citadel Station with very few clear clues on where to go next or what to do. You will kind of just do things as they became available to do, hacking things for reasons you won’t really appreciate, or smashing zombies and cyborgs to bits because they are there to be hit or smashed. Again, fans or veterans of the original probably won’t have this issue, but newcomers may find it too obtuse to be enjoyable.

Regardless of which elements work and which fall flat, the System Shock Remake is a tricky game to whole-heartedly recommend. If it’s for fans of the original, it doesn’t really add anything to the game they already love. If it’s for newcomers who never played the original, then no amount of fancy graphics will cover up the dated mechanics, lacklustre combat, and clunky menus.

Perhaps if you’ve always wanted to play it but never had the chance, there’s something here for you, but otherwise the System Shock Remake occupies an odd little middle ground between a true remake and a graphical remaster that makes it more of a curio than anything else.


Very faithful
Solid atmosphere
Looks great


Combat feels dull
Awkward menus
Very little guidance

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

If you’ve always wanted to play System Shock but never had the chance, then this remake is the ideal entry point for you.