Future Shock

Okay, in a vague warm-up for Bioshock – and I figure that anything’s a better use of my time than sitting on every single Bioshock thread on the internet and pressing “refresh” all day – I download System Shock from Underdogs and get it working on DOSBox, with full sound (P-P-PATHETIC CREATURE OF MEAT AND BONE!) and everything. It’ll be easier if I still had XP installed, as I’d be able to turn to System Shock Portable, which will even run from a USB drive.

Other good things in 1994: Elastica, Amiga Power. That's about it.

Now, System Shock is a game I’ve played, but not played, as it were. Before my time by a good four years in terms of PC ownership and by the time I had one, I only went back for historic reasons. They’re always memorable. This means that every time I start playing it, I quickly get a sense of archaeological excitement, as if I’m excavating a Roman Ruin and I’ve just found a diesel engine or something. They did this back then?

This time, it’s a simple one. I’m nosing around at some high shelves, and notice that there’s a handful of boxes around. So, in proper modeled-physics, I start to kick them around to form a ladder and… waitasecond.

1994. Some people are still trying to pass this kind of object manipulation off as something to be excited about even now.

I’m chatting with Rossignol earlier in the kitchen. He’s talking about how, for him, System Shock was The Game, with sexy capitals. Back then, it felt so astoundingly new and complete that he kept on expecting something even more unprecedented around the corner, like an NPC who’ll talk to him with full voice-interface or something. It was a black obliesk landing into the summer of that year, and transformed any dumb apes lucky enough to touch it.

While it’s still worth battling with the slightly old-fashioned control system, what strikes me is that it’s just within some hacking to actually turn into something that’ll still be playable today. Just an introduction of a mouselook, streamling all the body positioning stuff (It has Leaning, crouching, crawling ala later games) without sending all the game’s other systems crazy would make it something you could actively recommend for anyone to play. Hell, the graphic fidelity has even been dealt with already by other archivists. System Shock Portable allows you to install extra textures to play in a passably meaty 1024×768.

We can just hope that there’s some p-p-pathetic creature of meat and bone who wants to prove to auntie SHODAN they’re not so p-p-pathetic out there. Immortality awaits.


  1. Periastron says:

    I bought the CD enhanced version of System Shock when it came out, and subsequently spent many nights cringing in terror in front of my computer, until I finished it. When I bought the game, I remember the sales clerk dismissing it as a “DOOM clone”, which in retrospect was a complete insult to the people at Looking Glass. The games were contemporaries, not knockoffs of each other, and when it came to features and innovation, there was a lot more in Shock than there ever was in DOOM.

    “Nice jump, human.”

  2. ShaunCG says:

    If you’ve yet to experience the joys of Terra Nova, I heartily recommend that as well. The horribly cheesy and stupid FMV is mandatory. Now when was it that we were supposed to get excited about squad-based tactical combat? Was it Rainbow Six in 1998? Terra Nova had two years on that.

    On the other hand, Faceball 2000 had several years on Doom, but that really didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. This is a silly game to play.

    The point is: Looking Glass, we still miss you.

    Liking the new blog, btw.

  3. ShaunCG says:

    I appear to have neglected to mention how fucking excellent System Shock is. I’m envious you’re playing it for the first time. So many corridors to pant and sweat through.

  4. mister slim says:

    EA should get off their ass and do something with this. Why isn’t this and SS2 on GameTap, Steam and XBLA?

  5. mister slim says:

    Also, why don’t any of you with contacts at EA suggest that online re-issues of SS1&2 would be an excellent way to capitalize on Bioshock and test the waters for an SS3? I don’t know if I really want an EA-made System Shock 3, but I doubt it would be worse than not having it. And there’s always the possibility Doug Church would do it.

  6. arqueturus says:

    I think Terranova is the game that occupies this slot in my heart as I sadly didn’t play System Shock just it’s sequel.

    Thinking about it, Looking Glass is possibly the most aptly named software company that ever existed.

    cheers arq

  7. roBurky says:

    Mister Slim: EA System Shock 3 has already been announced, I believe.