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.
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.