Fresh cyber-hell awaits in new System Shock remake vid

System Shock

Back in March, we reported that the successfully-crowdfunded System Shock remake was rebooting development with a new central aesthetic. We’re starting to see that decision bear fruit, as the latest update for Kickstarter backers features a good chunk of new footage showing off the refreshed visuals, some new concept art, and a peek at some of the improvements they’re bringing to combat.

After the jump: A generously-portioned developer vlog video, giving us a broad peek at how development on the game is progressing, adorably presented in official Citadel Station audio-log format.

The biggest change from the last time we saw System Shock in action is a broad tonal shift towards more modern sci-fi. While parts of Citadel Station still look vaguely familiar, it no longer feels like they’re adding greebles to the original blocky environments in order to dress them up as convincingly human-inhabited environments. The new medical deck lobby shown in the video looks just close enough to a real-life hospital to make the blood-splattered children’s play area especially chilling.

The concepts for the new and revised cyborg enemies look significantly more intimidating than the original designs too. Rather than just being TriOptimum grunts with some robot bits slapped on, they look more like the result of Shodan’s casual disregard for humanity, repurposing whatever pieces of flesh she has seen fit to preserve while replacing the rest with pieces of salvaged robotics still bearing the company branding, giving them a vaguely improvised look. I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with Edward Diego’s design.

We also get a look at some interesting test-room footage demonstrating the new geometry-shattering technology and its applications on flash-frozen mutants. They’re also working on a gore system allowing enemies to be picked apart limb from limb. Possibly a little much, but my brain tingles pleasantly with the potential for picking apart cybernetic enemies one dangerous component at a time.

Adding all that up, I’m suddenly reminded of Dead Space, which seems strangely appropriate considering that Visceral’s sci-fi horror trilogy began life as a spiritual successor to System Shock, before diverging from the design after Resident Evil 4 left its mark on gaming. After all these years, it’s funny to see that we’re still closely orbiting the same thematic touchstones, iterating, tuning and refining.

The current plan over at Nightdive Studios is to complete a Vertical Slice of development – a single, fully-featured segment of game – and then build outwards from there. The originally planned December release for System Shock’s remake is now well out of reach, but you can keep up with development via the updates panel on the Kickstarter project page, which is fully open to the non-backing public.

49 Comments

  1. N'Al says:

    Hrm. The original demo they released REALLY hit my nostalgia glands hard, so I was a bit disappointed when they moved away from that faithful recreation.

    Then again, I’ve got both the Classic and Enhanced Editions on gog, so I can always go back to them if this version doesn’t work out.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Yes, i agree with you. Personally I am happy for them to explore the setting a bit more and refresh elements as long as the original and the Enhanced Edition are still available for those who prefer the original, and they are so that’s all good then :)

      I like this new look.

    • Caiman says:

      Yes, I put money down on the Kickstarter based on what they were doing with that original Unity demo. This new direction doesn’t interest me at all, it just doesn’t look or feel right, it’s lost its unique atmosphere. Why does everything always have to make perfect sense in videogames? It’s why we have to have fucking toilets in every single game these days.

      I’m not going to lose my shit over it though, just disappointed for what could have been. Seems the original will remain the definitive version. Let’s hope they can at least produce something of an interesting homage similar to new Prey.

  2. Chromatose says:

    I was really worried that the visual design was just going to pivot to AAA blockbuster greeblecore overdetailing, but I was super into that demo. Levels felt solid, functional and believable and didn’t look like my character was going to be getting stuck on superfluous geometry too much. Pretty excited for this.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Yeah, it looks about right for an immersive sim, roughly on par with Prey.

      Wolfenstein 3D-era 3 meter cubes are not the best thing to build a modern game on, so I can understand their desire to switch up to something a little more modern.

      I do especially like the upgrades made to the cyborgs though.

  3. something says:

    Citadel Station was strange. Not entriely recognisable or even believable. The physical layout echoed the abstract cyber world. That’s what made it memorable.

    The more you apply modern design techniques, the more you tend towards making something that looks like what everyone else who applies modern design techniques would make.

    • Use Your Stick says:

      Interestingly I sort of got the feeling while playing that a lot of effort went into making the citadel feel like it made some sense; Even though a lot of the time from a gameplay perspective it really doesn’t. To the point where it was a little ridiculous how many times I ended up walking into things like rooms that served no purpose beyond being someones private office or an executive suite. Or be searching endlessly on the word of an audio log for “a broom closet with supplies in it”, only to find that apparently a broom closet in the future is a room covered floor to ceiling in stips of grating.

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    FesterSilently says:

    So…when are we getting a proper System Shock 2 overhaul like this ‘un, eh? :)

  5. Shazbut says:

    I very much appreciate the work that is going into this. Keep it up, guys!

  6. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I’m fine with this – the original still holds up, so I don’t really need it in higher resolution with fancy lighting, which is what the original plan was. I don’t know if t his remake will turn out any good, especially if they get rid of some of the weird claustrophobic stuff that made the original very compelling, but I’m not mourning the loss of the other sort of remake.

  7. YummyBananas says:

    Needs more neon!

    Well, I’ve got to admit that my reaction to this reboot/remake went from “OH MY GOD, this looks so incredibly familiar yet fresh, I need this NOW!” to “Oh, ok, it seems they decided to give it a new spin on art direction and game design, let’s see how things work out…”, and then rapidly to “Oh boy, I don’t recognise this at all.” along the course of development.
    Thing is, I can totally see where they are coming from when they talk about “modernising” and “reimagining” Citadel station, but we’re still talking about System Shock here, so I don’t know, maybe try to at least keep the (garish) colour palette of the original to match the feeling of playing the old 90s System Shock? You know, kinda like “Stranger Things” did it?

    If this keeps going the generic dark sci-fi space station route I would be really sad to give this game a pass. Such a pity.

    • Baines says:

      It does look very generic. The Citadel stood out in part for looking different, with its sometimes weird design choices. You’d see those pointlessly slanted walls and wonder “Why?” Now everything looks like generic same-color corridor and lobby space.

      Not to mention that the environments are still overly glossy/shiny. I know some consider shader tweaking to be a last minute issue, but such graphics effects affect the creation and use of all graphics assets, and I’ve the worrying belief that the devs just want everything to be overly glossy like a just-waxed office lobby.

    • emertonom says:

      What I remember as being striking about the original System Shock, in terms of its setting, was that it avoided a lot of the tired tropes of horror settings. Rather than being run-down, dark, and disordered, Citadel was bright and functional; it had been only a matter of days since the humans were in charge and running things normally. But the function of everything had been retooled to fit a different design. The emergency cloning stations worked, but had been repurposed for converting humans into cyborgs. The cameras were online and reporting directly to Shodan. It wasn’t decay and darkness that were horrifying; it was the bright efficiency of an inhuman order. There were a few places still blood-spattered, or laser-burned, or with gouges in the metal, showing the remnants of a struggle, or because of simple irrelevance to the machine order, but these were the exceptions rather than the rule. The zombie enemies came across as sort of an afterthought, in fact; Shodan had experimented with that, and then just sort of wandered away from the idea and left them to scrounge and gradually die out because they weren’t enough of a threat to be worth taking the energy to kill off.

      That’s not the feeling I get from the new hospital level. This is the ravaged hospital of any generic horror game, with the lights out and blood spatters everywhere and zombies around every corner. It’s part of what made Dead Space a poor homage to System Shock, which makes it all the more frustrating to see this team repeating those mistakes.

      So, yeah, it really does need more neon–and indeed lighting of every kind.

      It’s possible my memory is just wrong, I guess. But that’s at least how I recall System Shock. A little like the bit in A Wrinkle in Time where they visit a planet where all the citizens are controlled by a giant brain called Central Central Intelligence: everything is clean and bright, and the horror is in the sublimation of the self to a new and terrible order. It’s a trope as well, but it’s underexplored compared to the “rotting buildings” trope.

      • Use Your Stick says:

        That does sound cool. I don’t remember it really being present in the original to quite the degree you’ve described. Though that is likely my missing the context of things like a healing pod not working in my frantic desperation to get it back to normal.
        That said I’d be very interested if the remake were leaning into that kind of theme as you described it. Would certainly be unique if nothing else.

      • Caiman says:

        I replayed System Shock a couple of years ago, and I’m not sure I’d describe it as bright and inviting. It had an aesthetic you don’t often see, perhaps a result of the way light panels were portrayed as dark towards the corners, and scenery elements were etched out in panels of light and dark. I agree about the fact it didn’t feel like a run down place, though. The lack of extensive blood decals and the like might have been a result of the limited resolution of the textures, because the place felt oppressive. Still effective 15 years later.

        I wouldn’t say that Dead Space made a mistake in the way it portrayed the Ishimura, because it wasn’t trying to be Citadel Station. Its homage was more subtle, but it was first and foremost a haunted house game. Prey is a better comparison, and a better homage (it’s basically System Shock 3 without Shodan) and it manages it without resorting to most of the environmental tropes you mention.

        Still, I’m disappointed with the new art direction with this project, mainly because it just doesn’t look like the same place. The original Unity prototype was instantly recognisable as Citadel Station. It’s difficult to draw conclusions from a handful of screenshots and some footage, and System Shock is more than its graphics, so we’ll see.

  8. Echelon5 says:

    I’m worried that they’re stretching their budget too thin. It was only 1.5 mil, with a little more after the KS was over. I’d hate for them to run out of money and the project to stall because they decided to attempt to make AAA tier game.

    • PancreaticDefect says:

      As a backer, this is a concern I very much share.

      • gunrodent says:

        As a non-backer, this is very much the reason I did not back. Remember when Black Mesa: Source released their teaser video almost 10 years ago? Yeah, it is not done yet. Change of ambition level several times. I feared this, and now they will be delayed. Hope it is not going to turn all Project Zomboid / Black Mesa on us. And I definitely liked the old style better.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Yes, that is a tight budget and it would be easy for them to hit a financial brick wall through even minimal scope creep. After KS and the taxman and physical rewards took their cut you’re probably looking at less than $1m and having made a game myself for that budget I know it doesn’t go as far as you’d hope

    • tomimt says:

      They at least have something concrete to show, unlike some other KS projects. And they are making progress as well.

      I wasn’t a backer on this, so I’m not really in the loop on how this one is faring. When they had their KS, I did try the demo and I liked it quite a bit. The retro aesthetics were quite pleasing, but I must say this new iteration looks fantastic.

      I do hope SS remake and Underworld Ascendant both get released at some point and that they both will be good games. I eyed them both back when they were on KS, and while not ending backing them, I’ve been hoping good progress for both.

  9. Vanderdecken says:

    That shatter tech looked amazing. Just knocking the last one over…

  10. ZIGS says:

    Are they fucking serious with that motion blur? The guy was moving the camera slower than a snail with rheumatism and the entire screen became smeared in vaseline!

    • Chromatose says:

      That’s actually Unreal Engine 4’s default post-process motion blur. I agree it looks goddamn awful, however given what stage of development the game is at, I expect it will change further down the line.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        If nothing else, postprocess effects are absurdly easy to change in UE4, it would be trivial to mod it out.

        • Use Your Stick says:

          My guess would be it was enabled by accident maybe? Probably when setting it up for recording, the box got checked whilst reenabling things that’d been turned off whilst someone worked on the level.

    • Seyda Neen says:

      The video is also interlaced, which is a strange decision and doesn’t help at all.

  11. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Great game, would buy again.

  12. zulnam says:

    I like these dev videos, but i can already see a few stereotypical design choices that will hopefully be ironed out, such as:
    – dismembered limbs flying all over the place. They’re not ping pong balls guys;
    – frozen bodies shattering into dozens of pieces at the smallest impact, like when he shot the zombie’s leg and the rest of the body fell; it’s a thick block of ice covering organic matter, no sheet of glass.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Tuning physics values is a ‘last few weeks of development’ point. Given that the gun that he was using didn’t even have textures, I wouldn’t worry about it right now.

    • DopeyJoe says:

      very good points. Freeze anything into a block of ice, shoot part of it, and it will likely chunk off and sit there. Depending on the weapon, of course.

    • Baines says:

      I’d guess the “shatter” issue comes from the common science experiment of dipping objects into liquid nitrogen, then shattering them.

      Because people see a thin hollow rubber ball shatter when it is dropped on the ground, or a Koosh ball turn brittle, they expect everything frozen in such a manner to become equally brittle. Then you add the Hollywood effect, where a shot from a pistol can launch an adult backwards five feet and cars explode from the lightest collision, and you now have people instantly being transformed completely into solid ice within two seconds of exposure to a brief “cloud” of super-cooled gas, which is then easily shattered with the slightest application of force.

  13. Stardog says:

    Looks terrible compared to the demo. Budget Prey.

    They were supposed to remake SS1.

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    subdog says:

    I see they now call it a “Reboot” instead of a “Remake”

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      Yeah, that bothers me. I didn’t back the project for a variety of reasons, so what I care about doesn’t really matter and I get that, but I was really hoping to get a modern engine remake of SS1. The lack of cyberspace is a bit telling, I think.

      This is alright, I guess, but it isn’t what I would have been signing up for so I’m glad I didn’t back it. I hope it turns out well regardless, but my interest in it is definitely reduced.

  15. Psychomorph says:

    Shame, the demo looked spot on. And that coming from someone who didn’t play the original (so, no fanboy here). Demo just looked awesome, unique and immersive.

    The new direction looks good, but not as exciting. Real shame.

    Always this catering to the lowest common denominator. Always ruins games.

    • Sandepande says:

      I don’t think so. My belief is that they simply wanted to get to design stuff, and not just 3D-ify the original.

      That’s what I’d do, if I was in their shoes.

      I did like the look of the remake, but it seems they’ve got the gist of the game figured out, and that is what matters the most. It isn’t always about the graphics…

      • Psychomorph says:

        It always isn’t always about the graphics. I’m sure game will be good regardless. It’s just that I find the previous look to be more exciting, something I was looking for to experience, but the new look seems generic. So for me that’s just one minus of hopefully not too many, but a minus nonetheless.

        It’s good though, I’m still excited.

        The irony though, Underworld Ascendant has a very unique art style and most are critical of it (I don’t like it either), but the developers argument is that they want to set the game apart from the generic looking competitors.

        Then here, with SS1 rebootmake, you have a developer who kind of nailed the art style with overwhelming positive reactions, yet they thought it’s best to go generic and come up with something people accuse of being a Prey copy…

        Why do such things happen? :(

  16. fenriz says:

    i needed like 15 seconds of video to formulate my opinion and judge these guys

    everything they may ever describe, physics, weapons and cute way to kill and freeze, is all pointless unless there’s “futile” interaction. You pick up a log, you pick up keys, you pick up ammo; but you also have to be able to open futile windows, activate futile machines, pick up futile components, examine futile books, discern what’s important and what isn’t, that’s when you use intelligence. That’s what makes the difference between a childish arcade game where you’re spoonfed your adventure and what freedom you think you have picking things up and throwing them like an ape is just they rewarding you with bananas, and a simulation for grown ups.

    • fenriz says:

      by knowing how much you can interact you know whether they’re true to a game like System Shock and most pearls in the 90’s, which allowed this degree of interactivity

  17. fuzziest says:

    Not digging this. I really liked the demo and thought it had an interesting style, but I think they are overreaching here.

    They had money to make an offbeat remake that was more stylized than realistic. Now that they are aiming for Prey their budget is a tiny amount of money. I’ll be surprised if they can get this to release or if they do without cutting most of SS1’s content.

  18. Gordon Shock says:

    Must….resist…not clicking….don’t want to spoil….

  19. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    Well, I for one am glad they dumped the retro crunchypixel aesthetic. I saw no point in remaking a 20+ year old game, with all the advancements in technology that have happened in 20+ years, just to make it look like it was 20+ years old. I played the demo and decided I was not at all interested. Now I am again. That concept art is preeeeeety.

    • Psychomorph says:

      The pixel aesthetics was an option. The demo from 2016 looks very photorealistic, like Alien Isolation only more faithful to the original look.

      I assume it was too good, as in, demanding to create. So that is why they probably went for a simpler looking design.

  20. Megatron says:

    Disappointing. This isn’t what I wanted. An updated and shiny version of the original is all I was looking for, which the demo absolutely delivered and I was massively stoked for. Now…not so much.

    If the devs wanted to design something original in the universe couldn’t they simply wait to do System Shock 3 as planned?

  21. RaymondQSmuckles says:

    .
    .
    .
    .
    disappointed

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    Earl-Grey says:

    This looks ace.
    Keep at it and good luck.

  23. fish99 says:

    Mixed feelings, I mean it looks alright in a kinda budget way but the aesthetic reminds me way more of SS2 or even Doom 3, whereas I was hoping to get a chance to finally play (a non-clunky version of) System Shock (with cyber space).

  24. ropeladder says:

    I get that shattering enemies is supposed to be “realistic” in the sense that you have things like “cold temperature” that cause “freezing” to happen to enemies, and that’s fun because it goes beyond the absolute minimum of cause and effect exhibited in most virtual worlds, but now that it’s 2017 can we maybe think a bit about how silly the whole thing is? Is it even possible for a previously living being to shatter at any temperature? How cold would something spraying on you have to be in order for you to actually stop moving instead of, say, getting hurt and moving out of the way?

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