Change the name, and I suspect Nightdive's remake of System Shock could pass for an entirely new game in 2022. There are a few telltale signs it has roots in a 1994 PC game, like the hotbar on the bottom of the HUD packed with gear and the grid-based inventory. The pipe hacking minigame is perhaps a dead giveaway. The pump action on the pulse rifle's reload animation, on the other hand, makes System Shock look like a wholly new shooter, as does the electricity that arcs off a cyborg's head as it explodes in a grisly headshot. This is a handsome game, falling somewhere in between a new big budget shooter and a pixel-meets polygon throwback like Prodeus.
It's been a long road to get to this point from the 2016 Kickstarter, but System Shock is now "pretty much complete," in the words of Nightdive's Larry Kuperman, and headed into its final months of polish leading up to a release later this year. "Every level's here, every enemy is in place, every weapon is in place," Kuperman told me in a demo at this year's Game Developers Conference. It's playable from start-to-finish and going through QA now.
"Bug fixing is that last foray into the depths of hell" before it's truly done, Kuperman said.
The System Shock remake's six year journey included a 2018 U-turn, when Nightdive decided it was changing too much from the original game. "We tried to stay very true to canon. That was something that was really important to us, that our core audience who are fans of System Shock can look at this and go 'yes, this is what I was looking for. It's the game that I know, but with polish.'"
Where Nightdive touched System Shock's design, the changes have been minor: streamlining the number of grenades into a multi-function grenade, for example. "Every person on the team has invested hours and hours into how the original gameplay worked, but we also want to make sure this has a modern feel," Kuperman said. That meant adding touches like multiple reload animations for each weapon and messages that flicker across the screens of Citadel Station's CRT monitors.
Nightdive plans to release a beta build to Kickstarter backers when it's stable and has gone through a thorough QA process. For now, let's look at some weapons in beautiful gif form.
Classic pistol, nothin' fancy, but look at how viscous that blood splatter is. This game might get messy.
Excellent pump action on the shotgun, but I especially like how it re-chambers.
The pulse rifle has an even slicker pump motion than the shotgun, right? I like how your hands tilt it upright, as if you need gravity's help to prime this thing for the next shot. But it's the particle effect from the explosion that ends up stealing the show.
There are a lot of lightsaber wannabes out there, but I like how the laser rapier beam bends as you swing it. Fencing in the System Shock universe must be high risk.