System Shock remake gets a final demo today ahead of summer launch

It won't be long now. When the retro game rescue crew at Nightdive first launched the Kickstarter campaign to remake System Shock in 2016, the studio ambitiously thought it could be finished in a year and a half. That didn't happen, and early in 2018, the game far from done, they made the dramatic move of restarting from scratch, after straying too far from the original idea of a faithful remake.

Three more years in, it's nearly finished: Pre-orders are available starting Thursday, and Nightdive's head of business development Larry Kuperman told me the launch isn't far off. The plan is for System Shock to be out this summer. A new demo, available for everyone to download today, represents a game that's finally almost at the finish line.

The goal of the demo is to present a "feature-complete version of the game," says CEO Stephen Kick, so players "understand exactly what they'll be getting if they preorder." Kick walked me through what the demo includes that we haven't already seen from Nightdive's remake so far.

"Those features include a dismemberment system, so you'll be able to blow apart the mutants and cyborgs that are onboard Citadel Station," he said. "The lighting is now fully real-time so you'll be able to destroy the lights. We wanted to make it as immersive as possible. One of the other really big features that's available for the first time is cyberspace. You can go into cyberspace, fight the various enemies that are there, and unlock doors that are in the real world that are protected by SHODAN in virtual reality."

The demo also has new voice acting, more detailed environments, and dynamic music that will change out sections of a track rather than run on a loop. It's more advanced than the original game's, and the new soundtrack will definitely have its own vibe, too.

"The original had a dynamic system that would change based on whether you were in combat or exploring. We have that, we've recreated that, but the tone of the music has definitely changed," said Kick. "When you're exploring it's a lot more atmospheric, and not so much like you're in a '90s rave."

But don't worry—parts of the System Shock remake's soundtrack will still be danceable. Artist Evelyn Mansell pointed out that cyberspace is pretty ravey.

System Shock remake

Cyberspace in System Shock (Image credit: Nightdive Studio)

When Nightdive rebooted its remake back in 2018, its goal was to refocus on creating a game faithful to the original. That remains the goal, but Mansell explained that balancing the enemies and weapons was an important change. 

"Certain weapons were hugely preferred over everything else, and a lot of enemies you'd end up killing incredibly quickly," said Mansell. "We're trying to make the combat a bit more meaningful, rather than just trying to blast the enemies as quickly as you can. There is not a huge amount of variation in how you play when it's built that way. Something that we really value is making sure that the player has a choice in how they tackle the game, so we're trying to make sure however they choose to play it, there are ways they can work in their own playstyle and have fun playing the game however they like."

The demo is available starting today at 1 pm EST, but if you don't want to wait, you can watch Nightdive stream the game with Alienware starting at 11 am EST. They'll also be giving away copies of Nightdive's System Shock: Enhanced Edition, a version of the original game that plays nice with modern PCs.

Pre-orders also come with an incentive: Drop $45 on Steam, GOG, or the Epic Games store, and you'll get Nightdive's upcoming System Shock 2: Enhanced Edition for free. 

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).