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Night Dive's System Shock remake looks charmingly retro in new alpha footage

It looks like Night Dive’s System Shock remake is finally back on track, after a messy engine switch, a cancelled change in art direction and a delay until 2020. Below, we get our first video peek at the ‘adventure alpha’ version of the immersive sim revival, currently going out to some higher-tier Kickstarter backers. We also get a little peek at the remake’s design methodology and a look at some deliciously animated doors in its latest public Kickstarter update.

The alpha footage is fascinating to me because it reveals how they’re going about recapturing the feel of the original game – by using the old levels as a template. Rather than use grey-boxed prototype spaces, they’re porting over System Shock environments verbatim, chunky 90s textures and all, then gradually enhancing them. While in some scenes (such as the medical bay areas shown) it looks great, later areas are an amusing mash-up of retro and modern assets. Especially those high-tech doors – just look at these!

Also worth a look is the September development update. More snazzy doors on show, plus a few environmental items. They also reveal that in the final version of the game, you’ll be able to switch between the modern remake look of the game and the original 90s retro assets wherever possible. This does imply that they’re going to be leaving the general level geometry mostly untouched – an odd decision, but System Shock was always a strange beast.

While we wait on the remake, (Night Dive reckon it’s going to be at least another full year and a bit until they’re done here) now’s as good a time as any to play the original again. Night Dive recently ported the original DOS System Shock to a fresh Windows/Mac/Linux engine, adding new features like support for the high-res Mac version’s art, and integrated mod support. Plus, full mouselook, widescreen support and all controls rebindable. If you’ve played the game to death there’s even a fan-made expansion available in the new version’s mod format. SHODAN lives!

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Dominic Tarason

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