Sunday Catch-Up#2: Good Gaming Friday: System Shock

“L-look at you h-hackers, a p-p-pathetic creature of m-meat and b-bones…”

No, I haven’t suddenly turned into Gareth Gates, that’s the near infamous line quoted to you during the Sound Test part of the install to an all-time PC classic that nobody bought:

System Shock – PC (DOS)

System Shock is a name many PC gamers might know, a cult classic from 1994, that brought so many new ideas to PC gaming, that the reason it flopped sales-wise is still a mystery. The game itself is a first-person action/adventure game. If you want it that way. Or it could be a first-person shooter. Or a purely puzzle-based first-person adventure. One of the innovations System Shock included was the ability to assign four ‘levels’ to different aspects of the game, such as Puzzles and Combat. A ‘1’ would practically remove it from the game, for instance in Combat, enemies would ignore you, and be killable in one hit. A ‘4’ in Puzzles would give you the hardest variations of the puzzles available and set a time-limit on the game.

The reason for a potential time-limit is that the game is set on the Citadel space station orbiting Earth, circa 2072. The rogue AI, which you helped to remove the ethics-restrictions on, SHODAN, has taken over the station, killed or zombified the inhabitants, and plans to strike the Earth with the station’s giant mining laser. Thus, it’s up to you to thwart SHODAN, and also to survive.

The environment is rendered in full-3D, in comparison to Doom II’s 2.5D graphics, which allows you to perform a variety of actions not found in most games of the time, such as looking up and down, climbing surfaces, crouching and leaning, and more. There was even mouse-based aiming, numerous amounts of digital speech, and high-resolution graphics.

Look! Real 3D! Take that Doom…and your sweet, sweet deathmatch and..oh, yes, System Shock forever!

So, aside from the technical marvels, what makes System Shock so fun to play? Darting from corridor to corridor, low on effective ammunition, SHODAN contacting and taunting you at every step, the game is an early example of the survial horror, except viewed from a first-person perspective. It’s hard to beat the adrenaline rush the game can give you at times, and the, using an ominous-looking headset, the gameplay changes entirely, as you get sent into cyberspace.

The Internet: Apparently it *is* actually a series of tubes.

The cyberspace areas of the game can best be described as a wireframe version of another PC classic, Descent. Without wanting to spoil the plot of the game, I advise getting used to the different controls, as cyberspace is used to open locked doors and the like, as well as combat certain enemies. And yes, the plot. Unravelled over time via the personal logs you find dotted around the space station, you get to follow the last days of the crew of the Citadel, hearing their panicked voices contemplate what’s to come, and how they try to figure a way to defeat SHODAN, and was a device picked up in System Shock 2, and of course, the spiritual successor to the series, Bioshock.

You can also zoom the playing screen to full-size to remove that pesky inventory. Who needs health when you have a laser-gun?

Overall, System Shock is a game that needs to played not just because it shows how far PC games have really come in the past 14 years, which aside from advances in graphics, is not very much, but also because it’s cracking good fun to play as well.

Pros: Amazing content, even for today. One of the best computer-game villains ever.

Cons: Outdated graphics, one annoying platform jumping section near the beginning, tricky to get running on modern PCs.


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