System Shock

A landmark first-person RPG shooter, if there ever was such a genre.

It is 2072 and something went terribly wrong on the Citadel, a high-tech orbital research facility. SHODAN, the computer security system, has disastrously malfunctioned. The crew has been infected by a viral mutagen. Robots and computer systems go inexplicably haywire. Panic and riots begin erupting throughout the base. When a military transport is sent to sort things out, the space station’s defense weapons destroy it.


The interface is pretty crowded, but the controls are surprisingly dynamic for a 1994 game.

A short time later, SHODAN announces its intention to control all life aboard the Citadel. Robots take over the station and start slaughtering any remaining survivors. A brief distress message is heard, then all contact stops. The massacre of the Citadel’s crew appears complete, if not for a lone crewmember who wakes up from an induced coma in the wake of the carnage – you. A lot more than Ultima Underworld in space, System Shock is a complete evocation of a hellish future world, where you are part man and part machine. As the only human left on the Citadel, you must hunt and kill the mutants and robots, disable SHODAN’s security, and unravel its plans and secrets.

At first, all you have to protect yourself is a metal bar, but you soon pick up all manner of high-tech weapons. Slowly, you piece together the last days and hours of the Citadel by reading the e-mail of the final survivors. In order to progress through the eight levels of Citadel, you have to get past locked doors by solving puzzles, killing almost anything that moves, picking up more neural enhancements, and, in the game’s most unique segment, exploring Cyberspace.

The implant provides you with a view enhanced by bio-monitors, multi-function displays, energy and health indicators, and numerous attachments that allow you to jack into cyberspace, map the base, auto-read electronic messages and logs, and generally start kicking ass and taking down names. As you go along you find other attachments: some give you a 360-degree view of your surroundings, others enhance your vision, and so on.

5_1On each level, you can jack into the computers and explore SHODAN’s world. Unlike the texture maps of the rest of the game, Cyberspace is composed of simple polygons, resembling nothing so much as Spectre VR. Once you’re in, you have a limited amount of time to explore Cyberspace and grab things that help you out. The game controls allow you to move in any direction, and is really a revolution in player control. You float around a lot in Cyberspace, but outside of it you can jump, crouch, crawl on your stomach, look up or down, and lean to either side.

Monitors track your health, vital signs, and power levels, and new and more complex enhancements can be plugged into your neural implant to help you in your quest. The graphics, though often dark, are nicely done, and there’s a wide range of locations and creatures. Every level is full of rooms, hidden passageways, and tight places to discover and explore. Mutants charge out of the shadows, assassin robots stalk quietly through the corridors, and security drones emerge around every corner.


Recovering from death is no big deal in 2072.

Hovering over it all is the godlike presence of SHODAN, who looks like a creature from H.R. Giger’s paintings. SHODAN ignores you at first, but when you destroy a crucial security station, it begins stalking you in earnest. The atmosphere is thick with danger and despair. You pick up logs and e-mails from the last survivors, who made a valiant and tragic stand against SHODAN. Their final messages are scrawled in blood on the walls; their mutilated corpses litter the floors. You have to solve puzzles to get through certain doors, and slowly chip away at SHODAN’s security systems in order to erode its iron grip on the station.

There’s so much that’s unique and entertaining in System Shock that it’s hard to know where to begin. The game world is stark and fully-developed, and the story consistently delivered. Numerous configuration settings mean you can set the game for as much or as little combat as you desire, make the story more elaborate, or increase the difficulty of puzzles. There are so many options that no matter what kind of game you’re looking for, you’ll find something in System Shock to delight you.

System Requirements: 486/33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, MS-DOS 5.0

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