System Shock Reboot: 9 Minutes Of Looking At Hackers

Night Dive’s remake/reimaging/reboot/rejiggering of the frighteningly important proto-immersive sim System Shock is due for Kickstarter later today, and word is it may include a playable demo. Ahead of that, here’s nine minutes of footage from the start of the game that are so impressive that I might have to end my moratorium on the use of the word ‘stonking.’

This comes via Polyon, who also a ran a making of feature a while back. The footage does a great job of blending the original Shock’s cool blue and industrial aesthetic with modern tech, I’d say. Obviously we’ll have to wait and see if it really looks as smart as this in practice, hopefully with that aforementioned demo, but this is looking mighty fine. And creepy, too. Creepy is VERY IMPORTANT.

System Shock Reboot – as it is now known – strides optimistically over the line marked ‘remaster’ and into the more uncertain pastures of ‘reimagining’. No blow-by-blow tart-up in a full 3D engine, it’s now effectively its own game, but in a setting and with base mechanics from Origin’s adored 90s action / roleplaying game.

This is not to be confused to be confused with System Shock: Enhanced Edition, a more traditional spit’n’polish that’s already out on GOG (which Night Dive were also responsible for). Here’s what that looks like:

And it’s also not to be confused with System Shock 3, which comes from Otherside Entertainment, an outfit which boasts Looking Glass co-founder Paul Neurath and no less than Warren bally Spector.

Honestly, you spend 20 years waiting for a new System Shock game and then two and a half come along at once, etc.

We’ll be sure to update you about the Kickstarter once it goes live, by the way.


  1. BobbyDylan says:

    My wallet is ready.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I dislike how they’ve taken keypads and hacking/logic puzzles out of the HUD. I really liked the modular HUD in the original game. They way it slotted in and out different screens as you needed them was cool and to me made it feel more like a piece of equipment you had installed, made it feel more real in some way.

    When I click on a keypad in a Deus Ex game it pops it up on screen nice and big so it’s easy to select the right buttons* while having to click on the little buttons in the game world would make the procedure, which is very simple in real life, very awkward.

    And the panel hacking being represented on the HUD also gave it a level of abstraction that made it easier to buy into. When you’re switching orange ASCII crosses and plus signs it’s easy to imagine it as representing rewiring power flow or something. When they take that abstract representation and put it directly into the gameworld so you’re squinting at and manipulating weird screws with glowing orange crosses on them the absurdness of it stands out a lot more. Also clicking individual buttons with the cursor tends to be a pain in the ass without shoving your characters face right up into the wall.

    Overall I think just putting things physically into the game world rather than as an abstraction in the HUD can sometimes make things feel more unrealistic even when it’s attempting to do the opposite because removing that layer of abstraction stops letting the player fill in the gaps in their head while making things mechanically more awkward for the player to perform.

    *actually I normally use the numpad for this which is even easier, but for the sake of argument let’s say I’m clicking them

    • Gravy100 says:

      I’d agree with this, also when you use the numpad you kind of feel more like a hacker which is cool, especially when you can dial in a number at speed without looking at the keyboard.

      • Syrion says:

        I loved hacking in Vampire Bloodlines solely because you could actually type in commands to the in-game computer screen with your own keyboard! You directly interact with the game world in a non-context sensitive way just using your “real world standard equipment”. I found that more amazing than it sounds and want more of it.

        • Premium User Badge

          Oakreef says:

          I’m also a sucker for this. It’s one of the reasons why I was so instantly enamoured by Her Story.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I agree with all of this.

      Some nice classic ladder fail around the six minute mark, too. And then different problems with ladders at 7:30! Ah, FPSes…will you ever defeat your true nemesis.

      Painful watching how badly it’s being played.

      • Replikant says:

        Remember Han Solo? The hacker just woke up from cryo-sleep, he should have problems aiming. He also apparently forgot that he passed a regeneration machine just a minute ago.

  3. Sandepande says:

    They have my money.

    I don’t really care about preserving every little quirk of the HUD. For me, System Shock wasn’t about that, at all. What it was about seems to be looking a whole lot better. I like all them shiny surfaces and gleams and flashy lights.

    • Unsheep says:

      I respectfully disagree with that. I wanted this game to look dark and grim, to match the oppressive and creepy atmosphere of System Shock 2. Yet all the shine and neon in this video makes me think of Borderlands and Overwatch, not a horror/thriller game.

      • Premium User Badge

        Waltorious says:

        Have you played the original System Shock? The colour palette is basically identical in this reboot. Also, the original System Shock is better than System Shock 2, that’s right, I said it!

        (Actually lots of people like the sequel better but I think they are wrong)

      • Mayama says:

        It has exactly the same colors/tone as the original system shock

      • LionsPhil says:

        Modern lighting has actually made this too grimy. Gloom too eagerly fills the gaps of even supposedly well-lit areas, rather than being saved for the maintenance deck.

        Reminders that this was a fairly bright daily workspace for people.

        Also it’s got the problem where they’ve made interactive things glow green, but also made noninteractive decorations grow gleen in exactly the same way, a problem the old ’90s stand-out graphics didn’t have.

  4. Unsheep says:

    Maybe you should actually wait for a demo before you start hyping the game up.

    • Sandepande says:

      Why? It’s System Shock. Of course they might fuck up the controls, but first-person, KB+M-driven gameplay should be pretty easy to do these days.

      • Spuzzell says:

        I’m concerned as that gameplay slice is being played on a gamepad.

        Which means I can’t watch it due to annoyance and seasickness, and also worries me as to what they have done to the control requirements of gameplay overall.

      • Sandepande says:

        Pad? Inventory management happens with a mouse, and the movement doesn’t suggest it uses anything else. There might be smoothing going on or such, but it doesn’t look terribly paddy to me.

        I detest bobbing heads as well, hopefully this can be killed off from the options.

      • Unsheep says:

        Yes but my concern is not with the controls, but with the fact that our media has a strong tendency to elevate games to the skies when there’s no tangible cause for it … other than generating views of-course.

        Calling this game ‘System Shock’ doesn’t mean anything. The question is whether the gameplay matches the classic games, or whether they will “do a Mass Effect 2” and leave out most of what was great about the previous games.

        • Premium User Badge

          Waltorious says:

          Normally I would agree, but I can see from this video that they’ve faithfully recreated the starting area from the original game, presented it with updated visuals that are true to the original art style, and provided standard mouselook controls (the awkward controls were the worst part of the original game). I’ve played and loved the original, so if they can recreate the entire game as well as they did this opening section, it’s definitely grounds to get excited.

          My main concern is Alec’s assertion that it will be more of a reimagining, and night change the levels around and whatnot. The level design in the original game is amazing, and I was astounded that such an old game (I played it for the first time in 2009 or thereabouts) could create such a convincing sense of place. Given that this footage looks perfectly faithful, I’m hoping they decide to maintain that throughout.

        • Razumen says:

          It’s called System because this game started out as a 1:1 remake of the original. In the videos you can see they kept the blocky layout of the original levels but spruced it up with shitloads of extra detail. Now they’re calling it a reboot because they’re going to take a few liberties with, but though I don’t think it will be as bad as what Bioshock turned out to be, what was once supposed to be THE spiritual successor to SS.

  5. Gravy100 says:

    holy shodan this looks nice and weighty and meaty, the sparq weapon looks very satisfying and the atmosphere is thick with thick dreads.

    Look forward to playing the demo later but this seems like a very assured take on system shock 1.

  6. Ross Angus says:

    I’ve not played the original System Shock, and I have questions:

    1) Why does that robot have a severed hand in it’s inventory?
    2) Why would that be a useful item to me as a player?
    3) Ewww

    • Ansob says:

      1) the station AI has gone rogue and the robots are murdering all the people.
      2) it’s bound to come in handy at some point.
      3) yes.

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        Come in handy!! I see what you did there!! Pun in a bun from Ansob!

      • Scripten says:

        “2) it’s bound to come in handy at some point.”

        I’ve got to give you a hand for that one.

      • Replikant says:

        The hacker is probably glad to have run into an arm stealer.

  7. BathroomCitizen says:

    I never played the original, but I love this atmosphere! Nice!

  8. BathroomCitizen says:

    Also, you know what I did miss? Small, narrow spaces.

    There’s a fashion in map design lately, that everything has to be big and epic.

    NAY! Give me claustrophobic stuff, I wanna feel death’s breathing on my neck, like, constantly!
    And yes, I liked Alien: Isolation.

  9. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:


  10. Kefren says:

    This is what I have been dreaming off for years.

  11. dr.denton says:

    Am I the only one who thought “Jesus fuck, what is with the head sway every time you pick something up?”. I mean, that doesn’t make sense when trying to mimick real life as closely as possible, let alone in a system as heavily abstracted as a computer game.

    Also, why replace the terrifying screeching of the mutants with “generic zombie sound#23423”?

  12. slerbal says:

    Nice. Also I agree that releasing a demo for the Kickstarter is a really good idea. Makes the whole thing far more plausible/possible. Good luck to them. I might even break my “no videogame kickstarter” rule for this as Night Dive have done great by me so far.

  13. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Ah, my old video game nemesis, the Downwards Ladder. Hello old friend.

  14. Muzman says:

    I love how they’re determined to work with the original look. Rather than be embarrassed by or rework a weird style that was half made to suit an engine that couldn’t do much more than squares all the same size and wedges of different angles, they are jumping right in there.

  15. piercehead says:

    “Grabbed a empty can”…tsk tsk.

  16. Kowie says:

    Watched the video before i read this article, was wondering why i was getting a ‘Polygon vibe’ off this video .

  17. Spacewalk says:

    Those pick up animations are too long. You’re a hacker dude, you know all about cyber decks, just grab those mods and jam ’em straight into your head. If you want me to examine those dealies then I’ll do that whilst it’s there on the shelf and not when you’re showing off flipping them about the joint.

    • Veav says:

      It’s the perfect amount of time if there are UI elements that haven’t been implemented yet, like little callouts and mini-tutorials about what you’ve just picked up.

    • Geebs says:

      Hel-met! Hel-met! Hel-met!

      Apart from that, this looks great. Much better than the first screenshots/videos.

  18. Andrew says:

    Looks too plastic-y. But they can fix that with shaders, methinks.

  19. mnemos says:

    Well, looks like I’ll be breaking my own rule and throwing money at a project that’s sure to be funded several times over.

  20. yhancik says:

    “Reboot” is a strange secondary title for a “Remake” :p

    • Jalan says:

      I believe there was a press release from the Night Dive Studios chief that they’re going to just call it System Shock (no tacked on “Reboot”/”Remaster”) since they believe it has gone beyond the confines of either of those descriptors.

  21. Weremoo says:

    Blimey, so much negativity and nit-picking in this comments thread! Personally, I think it looks rather fantastic, and am definitely looking forward to playing it! :D

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      Don’t get me wrong I’m extremely excited for this game. I love the original and this looks super cool. My ramblings about the UI weren’t meant to be “OH MY GOD THEY CHANGED IT AND IT SUCKS NOW JESUS”, just my thoughts on a pretty innocuous change because the HUD changes and panel hacking minigame stuck out to me more than anything else in the video because I’m weird.

  22. Niko says:

    Guess I’m spoiled by Alien: Isolation environmental design, but that architecture, which was ok in the year 1994, doesn’t look interesting now.

  23. Unsheep says:

    I just hope this won’t turnout to be a watered-down version of the previous games, made only to appeal to the mainstream.

    • dr.denton says:

      I’m pretty certain System Shock is not the kind of franchise that gets the mainstream excited. Unless of course, you market it to the Bioshock crowd in wich case you’d have to make a bland straight forward shooter, wich in turn wouldn’t appeal to old fans of SS, so …

      • dr.denton says:

        lol, that was supposed to say “bland straightforward shooter, which in turn wouldn’t appeal to old fans of SS, so …”

  24. vorador says:

    After Mighty nº 9 and Project Phoenix i told myself i would never back anything on Kickstarter again.

    Well now i’m in a pickle.

  25. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    I’m sure I have a great response to this, I just can’t put my finger on it…

    • Premium User Badge

      The Almighty Moo says:

      Blast, meant to be a reply…comment system strikes again.

  26. BuckyKat says:

    Ungh the person doing the demo was the worst! I havent shouted at my screen like that for ages! Looks good though, only ever playes SS2, and that was recently, so SS1 looks a bit to dated. This will be perfect.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, it’s painful. It’s like they’re controlling their camera via keyboard or something — not at all smooth like a normal human with a mouse and an aversion to headaches would play.