System Shock Is Now Available On GOG

The original System Shock is now available on GOG. It’s no exaggeration to say that Looking Glass’ first-person sci-fi horror hybrid is one of the most influential games ever released and the new enhanced edition should lead to a re-evaluation of its precise place in the history and development of the immersive sim. Night Dive Studios are responsible for the re-release:

“With System Shock: Enhanced Edition, we’re implementing game-changing improvements, including mouselook, widescreen, and a high resolution display mode,” says Stephen Kick, CEO of Night Dive Studios. “The classic game has never been more accessible to a modern audience.”

Video and details below.

“The re-release supports resolutions up to 1024×768 (compared to the original 640×480), and a native 854×480 widescreen mode. Gameplay was also streamlined with a toggleable mouselook mode, including more intuitive inventory and item management. Combined with assorted bug-fixes and remappable controls, System Shock is now truly enhanced.

“Some gaming experiences are truly worth preserving. Gamers can also return to the authentic 90’s gameplay with System Shock: Classic – ready for modern systems, completely unaltered in all other aspects. Both releases are available in a single package, with a 40% discount for all System Shock 2 owners on GOG.com – and 20% off for everyone. The discounted offer will last until Tuesday, September 29, 6:59 AM GMT.”

I’m one of those – and there are many of us – who feel more of an attachment to System Shock 2 than the first game, but I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that timing plays a part in that. I was thirteen years old when System Shock came out and while I remember playing it at the time, I also remember being intimidated by it – I’d never seen anything like it and didn’t fully understand quite what I was seeing. By the time the sequel rolled around, encased in a friendlier (though still fearsome) shell, I was wiser and more willing to engage with the kind of bold thinking that drove the series.

Twenty years later, a return to Citadel is long overdue. I reckon it’ll feel like going home. We’re also going to look into exactly how this enhanced edition came about, and I’m probably going to argue that System Shock should be our game of the month for September because I am the cat among the pigeons.

70 Comments

  1. Oakreef says:

    I have a boxed copy of this but I’m buying this anyway just because it’s SYSTEM SHOCK

    • Spacewalk says:

      I’m buying it because those additions and enhancements are worth the price which actually hasn’t changed seeing as I paid that much for a budget re-release of SS.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    I thought you were younger. It clicked for me completely when I was able to play it a few years later: it felt like Ultima Underworld but improved, with no olde english and wonderful cyberpunk segments. Ss2 is more a survival horror, a game that never said something to me – and I tried to “get” it many times up to the end of it -, more a modern fps with its very scripted events, scary monsters and horrific music. Ss1 has techno music, adventure all along, cyberpunk and way more variety, and I prefer it for that.

    Yeah, not-fps-it-is-an-rpg. Whatever

    • wcq says:

      Somewhat amusingly, the “RPG elements” (skill points and whatnot) are one of the things that have consistently turned me off SS2. Due to how highly that game is venerated, I’ve repeatedly tried getting into it since I was, like, ten years old. On the other hand, I instantly fell in love with SS1 when I played it for the first time two years ago.

      • Detocroix says:

        The worst thing about the RPG elements in SS2 is how harsh they are on the combat. I think the RPG elements are fine otherwise. The thing is that SS2 is quite open and there are plenty of places in it that you are supposed to go in much later than you actually can access them, which makes the RPG system seem very unbalanced… I guess! The RPG systems in Mass Effect, Ultima Underworld, Bioshock, etc, work fine in my opinion, because the progression curve is nice and smooth.

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          basilisk says:

          It doesn’t just seem inbalanced, it is insanely imbalanced. Just for fun, I did a playthrough focusing exclusively on exotic weapons. You need to pour crazy amounts of modules into them and they are hilariously useless. (Except for the shard, which is of course the cheapest one.)

          The only character builds possible in the late stages of SS2 are either madly overpowered or utterly pitiful. No middle ground.

          I love the game, but the RPG elements in it are mostly terrible.

        • MisterFurious says:

          No, the worst thing is that people don’t know what ‘RPG’ means.

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            phuzz says:

            Duh, it stands for RPS Plays Games of course.

            Or was it Rotatable Plastic Gloves?

          • Detocroix says:

            Ah, but that is why term “elements” was used in it!

      • ansionnach says:

        Not really a fan of SS2 either, although I haven’t finished it… and probably haven’t played it much more than the condition of the box might imply (looks brand new). As well as the RPG elements (SS had none), I really hated the controls. Having two different modes meant you couldn’t really do both at the same time like you could in the first game and in the Underworlds.

        Might sound funny from someone often moaning about difficulty, but SS2 seeemd much harder than the first one (had it on the highest possible without the time limit). “RPG” elements were at work here, with weapons so flimsy, it’s a wonder the wrench wasn’t made out of chocolate. Once the difficulty passes a certain point and items are rare or need to be repaired often, a game really can degenerate into running around with a wrench hitting things and save spamming whenever you get a few successful hits in. Eventually you’ll whittle them down but it may not be much fun. Oh, and controls are crap. SS1’s were much better.

        • ansionnach says:

          The bit about the time limit referred to the first one. Don’t think there was one in the second one so I probably played it on the highest difficulty, unless there was a respawn setting. Seems unfair when monsters respawn but items don’t!

        • fish99 says:

          SS1 has probably the least intuitive controls I’ve seen in a game. That’s not a criticism, because they were inventing interactions that had never been seen before in a game, so there was no standard, but it’s clear playing later games that people have come up with better options since. It’s not an easy game to go back and play now.

          SS2 on the other hand you can sit down and play like it’s a modern game, and the controls don’t get in the way.

          • ansionnach says:

            …but SS2 didn’t allow you the same degree of control as the first one… and more modern games “solved” the problem by resorting to streamlining/simplification. I don’t think you could improve the level of control in these games without a third hand or using your head to look. That way you could retain the cursor as your “hand”, allowing you to interact with the world and move things about as you go.

          • ansionnach says:

            Oh, I’ve played the Underworlds again recently so my opinion isn’t based on hazy memory. Only finished UW about two years ago… and UW2 a few months back.

    • fish99 says:

      SS2 doesn’t have scary music, it has techno, and it doesn’t have many scripted events, just a few at certain key points to move the story along.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        Well, it did not feel that way when I played it.

      • Muzman says:

        It has some techno. But it’s mostly pretty moody. eg

        • fish99 says:

          That’s not really ‘scary’ music. Scary implies music that’s situational, rather than just something that plays for a whole level. System Shock 1 music isn’t all pumping techno either.

          Also if someone is offended by the amount of small amount of scripted elements in SS2 then you must hate most modern games, because games are way more scripted now. Half Life is like a hundred times more scripted and linear.

  3. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Was round at a mate’s place recently and he was going thru citadel again. Just sat and watched for a few hours (SHODAN is *so* awesome!).

    The controls though, horrific! Would be good to see if they’ve genuinely improved those.

    • Premium User Badge

      Risingson says:

      It’s fun how Ss is blamed for its controls and how the UW games are forgiven for them, btw.

      • tomimt says:

        I guess it has some to do with UW being an older game and when SS came out there was a lot more first person games it could be compared on. And the UI of SS is pretty clunky, even when compared to UW.

      • Detocroix says:

        But… Underworld is fairly perfectly playable with mouse and keyboard (some button configs are a bit odd), but System Shock needs two hands on the keyboard and third hand on the mouse. Both of those games are one of my all time favorites, but I do think SS has a horrible control scheme EVEN compared to UW :)

        • TomxJ says:

          That crouch system. urgh.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          Indeed. UW really isn’t that bad, considering they were breaking completely new ground. Looking up and down is a bit awkward, but the rest of it is fairly okay. Not great, but definitely playable.

          System Shock, on the other hand, was clearly designed for octopuses.

        • Jungle Rhino says:

          Agree, the SS1 controls were somewhat infuriating, but as a keyboard player of Duke3d I had octopus like hands back then and persevered. Was well worth it. I actually went back to try keyboard duke3d after getting broken in on mlook playing quake. Couldn’t do it anymore!

          UU by comparison was far better.

          Having played SS1 made the final level of SS2 make a helluva lot more sense…

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Not by me! I persisted with the controls in SS because at the time it came out it was something new and exciting, a cyberpunky sci-fi thing. I have never been able to get into Ultima Underworld because there are older fantasy RPGs I can compare it to with much, much better control systems. Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder are a joy to play in comparison.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        SS is much more action-forward than UW- there’s a lot more combat.

        And most of it happens at ranges requiring better aiming precision than UW’s whack-a-mole melee.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Bah!

      Gameplay was also streamlined with a toggleable mouselook mode, including more intuitive inventory and item management.

      RUINED FOREVER.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        Did you just feel like complaining or did you miss this part:
        “Gamers can also return to the authentic 90’s gameplay with System Shock: Classic – ready for modern systems, completely unaltered in all other aspects” which offers an “untainted” experience.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I have never had a problem with SS’s control scheme. It’s not quite as intuitive as modern fps controls, I suppose, but it works fine and takes about two minutes to get used to. I know that’s just me, but still.

      • ansionnach says:

        Same here. Had no difficulty with the controls in the Underworlds or System Shock. Found them quite intuitive and I’d still say that you couldn’t do much better unless you want to turn them into some sort of shooter (which they most certainly aren’t). I disliked the SS2 controls. Having two separate control methods – one of interacting and another for moving, reduces the complexity of each “mode” but makes the game more awkward. In the frozen area of Ultima Underworld II you can slide along the ice, pikc up the blackrock gem and then jump across the river without ever needing to change modes. For those capable of mastering the UW/SS control scheme, it allows for much greater interaction. Also: it really isn’t that hard.

    • carewolf says:

      The controls where default for the time. Being able to look up and down had only just been made possible, and mouse-look wouldn’t be invented for another few years.

  4. piedpiper says:

    When I first played both System Shocks I liked the first one better. After replaying both last autumn I liked the sequel more. Why? It has much replayability.
    The first one plays like a game we all dreamed the games would be in the future back in 1994… and they never did. They became more streamlined and movielike instead of doing things of their own. Abomination of Bioshock Infinite is the last shot to the head of the once great future. At least Shock series.

    • Detocroix says:

      I think they have just about the same amount of replayability. The big and fairly open levels of SS1 leave more space for rediscovery of things or finding things you missed on the first run, but SS2 are mostly seen in one go, but in either case both of the games are fun to replay.

      Personally, for me, the SS1 controls are the thing that keeps me further away from it. SS2 controls still feel fairly good compared to modern games (where they place much bigger priority on how playable they are).

      As for Bioshock… I always found it a bit meh. Nice visual design, but not much more in it. It definitely didn’t improve the “-shock genre”. And rumors of SS3 still float around randomly… especially after UW3 resurfaced.

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        The big and fairly open levels of SS1

        I think you mean “mazelike, and trying to fill every single possible corner”. The level geography (as distinct from other aspects of level design) in SS1 is awful. If you’re interested, I wrote a bit some time ago explaining why I felt that.

        Although I will admit I only got four levels into SS1—something killed it for me. I do owe it to Origin to revisit it and actually finish it sometime.

        • Fenixp says:

          Heh, I always felt the exact opposite of what you wrote. Levels in SS2 felt extremely gamey to me, whereas Citadel felt like they designed a huge space station first and then carefully put obstacles and enemies in place second. The whole thing gave me a huge feeling of an actual place, albeit with some extremely illogical choices (some dictated by technical limitations like the huge maintenance shafts, others by gameplay reasons like the CPU nodes in medical being accessible via high-security door, elaborate complex of secured bridges in the irradiated area above the core, and then a random secret lift next to the main elevator. Eh.) I love how the levels in the original System Shock tend to contain more ways of getting to your target, medical floor being the prime example – you can find a shortcut to armory right at the start, there’s a secret leading to security hub which allows you to unlock the security door towards CPU core and you may bypass the entire irradiated area etc. Pretty much every time I play System Shock I find something I missed previously, which doesn’t quite apply to SS2, which in my eyes makes SS2 a lot less replayable.

  5. elvis71 says:

    I´m tempted to buy it again, even if i have the boxed original still in the shelf. I was already 23 when i played it on release in ´94 … god, thats over 20 years now.

    It was a blast back then and it still holds up very well ! Its a great RPG with a lot to explore, a good story and tension. I have fond memories of sitting in the dark staring at my 15″ CRT and being terrified :D

    • Detocroix says:

      I was 10, I remember firing the fletchette gun in elevator of the invisible beasties level (3? 4?), listening to the elevator music and nearly crying (fear?) while the hacker was lying on the ground from the fletchette kickback :D

      • Subject 706 says:

        I was about 14, and my most vivid memories of SS1 are also the level with the inviso-mutants. Definitively one of the most memorable gaming moments!

  6. JamesPatton says:

    *SQUEEEEEEEEEE*

    Ahem. While SS2 is an incredible piece of gaming history, I’ve always felt the first game got short shrift. Yes the interface was like trying to manage a herd of digital cows with a trackball, but the whole thing just feels so strange and foreign and oppressive to me even now. I still think it has some of THE most complex, most labyrinthine environments ever created for a videogame. It feels like this dense, unforgiving artifact that feels, to me, unlike anything else (including its sequel).

  7. Blake Casimir says:

    There are so many things one can say about System Shock that it’s difficult to know where to start. At its core it is a first person immersive simulation that combines RPG elements with a player inventory and some solid shooting / melee combat against a variety of terrifying enemies.

    The thing is, it isn’t JUST this. It’s Looking Glass product. It’s an immersive simulation. It has unpredictable and labyrinthine levels to explore, fascinating back-story that isn’t thrown in your face every five minutes, and it encourages careful resource management in a dangerous, malignant environment that exists entirely to end you. You are one man against many horrors, and System Shock MAKES you adjust to its rules, to its design, to its systems and world. It is a textbook example of “deep design gameplay” that involves more than simple shooting, more than simple clicking. It will challenge your spacial perception, your hand-eye coordination and your decision making.

    System Shock is an object lesson in everything that is great about gaming as a medium. Though its setup and scenario may not be the most original in gaming, it is applied to a deep, clever, immersive and frightening experience that you will never, ever forget.

    Can we have another sequel now please?

    P.S.: Autechre – Oversteps & Move Of Ten for an alternative soundtrack works wonders.

    • Premium User Badge

      Risingson says:

      IDM and melodic techno in general. The soundtrack is not that far from the first albums from Speedy J, Spooky or CJ Bolland after all.

      Jumping in an offtopic, I played the entire Eye of the Beholder 2 with the few electronica CDs I had back then as music. The bad thing is that Can’s “last night sleep” sounds to me like slashing skeletons :)

      • phlebas says:

        My college computer room had shareware Doom with no sound. I had the Blade Runner and Alien3 soundtracks on tape.

    • Distec says:

      I was going to pass on this after having a “difficult” time with SS many, many years ago. But your final recommendation has made my curiosity override all that.

  8. Thirith says:

    Another fan of the first System Shock here. I very much like the second one, but the first one pulled me in more at the time. It felt more original, more tense and more focused than SS2’s action/RPG hybrid, at least to me. It’s the one that’s burned into my mind (especially the music) and the one that hinted at the potential in immersive sims (were there any to speak of before System Shock?).

    Ironically, even though I was a huge Ultima fan, I never really got into the Underworld games all that much. They were cool, but for me they suffered due to the Ultima connection, as they lacked all the things that made that series for me. System Shock, however? That felt like being in the original Alien.

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    basilisk says:

    Does anyone know what’s the relationship between this and the System Shock Portable project (now discontinued precisely because of this release)? I know that the creator of SSP was less than satisfied, but are they building on his work or not?

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      I’ll answer myself: at least some of the modders were involved, see here. Well done, Night Dive.

      • Jay Load says:

        I’d also like to say thank you to Night Dive. Thanks to Bundlestars I’ve seen their name popping up on a few older games. Great to see that someone else out there is giving the old classics some love!

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      Some detail here – I’m hoping to put the full story together soon.

      link to systemshock.org

  10. Turkey says:

    It’s nice of the police to warn the hacker that he’s about to get raided.

  11. Jay Load says:

    I came to the System Shocks in reverse order. 2 first, 1 second. To me, they’re like the first two Alien films. Ostensibly the same subject matter with two very different approaches. But both masterpieces in their own right making it pointless to try and deliver anything but a wholly subjective opinion of their worth. I love them both.

    SS1 is a stonking experience. It beats SS2 for sheer sense of place. Citadel station was just so superbly designed. The game itself is a joy to play (despite the cumbersome UI) Really glad to see it on GOG getting some time back in the limelight.

  12. rebb says:

    Does this imply they got access to the source ?
    Just imagine if Looking Glass had released their game sources like id Software did, the magical source ports we could have by now :(

    • Gryz says:

      No. They don’t have the source.

      “This is the CD version of the game, now running through a custom windows loader that has been created by Malba Tahan – basically, enhancing and incorporating his already released mods like SHLINK and the mouselook/hires mod into one complete package, featuring;

      – the game runs natively under windows, no (slow) dosbox emulation
      ….etc….”
      See link to systemshock.org for more details.

  13. Replikant says:

    For me, SS2 has always been just “the sequel”. Similarly story (waking up in deep s…pace all alone, going up against an almighty AI) and for me never felt as original as, well, the original.
    Also: the tapes, the radio contacts, the dangling carrot to find other survivors, the sheer terror of the invisible stingrays. Swarting Shodans plans at every turn. Cyberspace! It all just clicked and was truly immersive.
    I even started to kind of like elevator music after playing SS1, because in the game it was the one place where you knew you were safe for the moment.
    Despite the latters upgraded graphics, I personally preferred SS1 over SS2.

  14. malkav11 says:

    It’s one of my great gaming regrets that I have only played a few minutes of System Shock 2. But I’ve played quite a bit more of the original System Shock (still without having finished it, alas), thanks to a $1 CD copy I picked up back in the day and it remains utterly brilliant and still pretty much singular. This is not a case where people iterated on the ideas until it became safe and familiar. 2 is an entirely separate game in a lot of ways, and 2 is the one that’s been emulated by the likes of Bioshock and Dead Space.

  15. N'Al says:

    a) I played Shock 2 first, and
    b) Shock 1 eleven years (!) after it got first released.

    Nevertheless, I still can’t decide which one I prefer. Shock 1 showed me how many of the ideas I liked in Shock 2 had actually just been recycled from the first game (and I don’t just mean the final level), but then Shock 2 had the much better control scheme. This version of Shock 1 may finally put this argument to bed for me.

    Time for a replay, methinks.

  16. kud13 says:

    I played both in my Uni years in mid-2000s.

    I enjoyed SS1, but I played with a walkthrough after encountering the invisble things on the 4th floor. Once you pick up the laser rapier on the same floor they’re dead meat, but you have to get to it first!

    I enjoyed 2 more than 1, b/c SSP had difficulties adjusting the last boss battle to modern processing speed, and I always lost to the overtaking Shodan’s face. Also, I enjoyed the different skill builds in 2 more.

    Still, SS1 was a great game, gonna re-purchase this weekend.

  17. Kefren says:

    Excellent. I’ve completed SS2 about 8 times, SS1 twice. Enjoyed both game each time and look forward to more plays. The screenshots for SS1 Enhanced look really nice. System Shock 1 and 2 are my favourite survival horror games.

  18. adamacuo says:

    Not clear in this story or on the GOG site whether they added support for controllers / gamepads. I’d be interested if I can play with my 360 controller in the living room on the flat screen.

    • ansionnach says:

      Even if you could play with a controller, the game is far too complex and would be pretty much unplayable. You pick stuff up and interact with the world using the cursor, you see. Unless you’ve got a massive screen, on-screen text may be unreadable from a distance as well.

      For controller support the game would need to be simplified, and this would require the source code, which may not even exist any more. If it was used for this release, you could bet that there’d be higher resolutions available than 1024×768. A simplified version of SS for controller support wouldn’t be the same game… and I’d suggest it wouldn’t even be worth playing.

      As it is, you can play the game with a controller using third-party remapping tools, but it wouldn’t be much fun.

  19. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Think I’ll get this one, don’t think my old CD would work – had to call in customer support back then to get it to work with MS-DOS.
    Good days of pre-configured Dos-Boxes.
    I’ll regret this as soon as I hit the dark level with the invisible respawning slimes again. ;p

  20. aircool says:

    I’m gonna dig out a 486 DX2/66!

  21. Kaeoschassis says:

    I figured this wouldn’t be long when Terra Nova got its re-release. Alright, listen up. Anybody who’s ever been put off playing SS1 because of the controls, for the love of dog, go buy this and play it immediately. SS2 is a damned wonderful game and deserves all the praise it gets, but SS1 deserves at least as much and gets far less.

  22. carewolf says:

    My God, this game was soo revolutionary! You could look UP and DOWN (using PgUp and PgDown). It was the future!

    Also 3D cyperspace for hacking, because that is how it is down.

  23. Razumen says:

    I played SS2 first and loved it, despite it’s flaws, it got so many things right.

    I got around to playing SS1 many years later, but never got around to actually finishing it, maybe this will give the game the bit of a modern face lift it needs for me to finally get the job done.

  24. Muzman says:

    The original audio log game and probably still the best. It’s a real pity that narrative technique has become so worn out over the years, to the point that it’s almost a marker of lazy design.
    But that’s just because few have the gonads to really do it properly.

    I mean, if you want immersion this is how it’s done. The writing is still amazing. Most of the logs make sense in their own context, rather than being there to shove important information or backstory at you as quickly and clearly as possible. No, you have to read between the lines. These people aren’t recording themselves for your benefit (mostly). And all the while it’s telling you the story of the ordinary life and then gradual downfall of this place. A temporally cut-up narrative, a many faceted jigsaw. Pick whichever metaphor you like. Without a great deal of insistence that you get all these tidbits in a specific order, especially at the start.
    Few designers or writers dare let their hands off the wheel like that, especially when they have a specific story to tell. Or if they do they have to force it on themselves and you can sometimes see when you got things out of the ideal order fairly plainly.
    Even the people who made this probably think, now, that it was almost suicidally bold. The mainstream will probably never be able to justify it. Sometimes if I squint I can see that sort of singular design and narrative purpose coming back into games design. Took a while, but I’m not complaining.

    • Razumen says:

      The problem with audio logs is often you have several logs from the same person just strewn throughout the world, it doesn’t make sense. Why would someone record diary entries in a tablet and then just throw it away, only to do the same thing somewhere else again, and again. I mean, I agree with you, it as cool at first, but you can’t carry a whole story with it, and a lot of games haven’t bothered to try to find a better solution, or even polish it that much.

  25. dethtoll says:

    Everyone here who is bashing either System Shock 1 or System Shock 2 is wrong.

  26. MrObvious says:

    Ah, the elevators and their music. I have spent many an hour listening to the music, afraid of opening the door of a new deck (especially Engineering!). Ah, the sweet, soothing elevator Muzak, and the possible utter chaos once you gather the strength to open that goddamned door. If System Shock had been on Steam back then, and there were Achievements, there surely would have been one for longest time spent in an elevator.