System Shock | PC Retro Video Review

System Shock is a classic game in the video game industry, and is often considered a masterpiece of its time. It was first released in 1994, developed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Origin Systems. The game was a pioneer in the first-person shooter and role-playing game genres, breaking new ground in gameplay mechanics and storytelling. Its innovative use of audio diaries and a non-linear narrative was way ahead of its time, and it paved the way for many other games to follow.

System Shock is set in a dystopian future where the player assumes the role of a hacker looking to overthrow an evil supercomputer known as SHODAN. The game features a range of weapons and gadgets, and players can choose how they tackle different levels and progress through the story. The game still has a dedicated fanbase today and is considered by many to be a cornerstone of the gaming industry.

Throughout this article, we will delve into the gameplay mechanics, graphics and sound design, replayability, difficulty, and reception and legacy of the game. We will also provide a score on a scale of 1 to 10. Join us as we explore one of the greatest games ever created.

The Gameplay

System Shock was a game ahead of its time, and this is reflected in its innovative gameplay mechanics. The game is a first-person shooter, but it incorporates a level of character development and RPG elements that set it apart from other games in its category.

The game’s storyline revolves around the player’s journey aboard a space station that has been taken over by a deranged AI named SHODAN. As the player explores the station, they encounter characters with their own motivations and objectives. The game’s characters are well-developed, and the relationships between them gradually unfold as the game progresses.

Puzzles and challenges also form a critical part of the gameplay. The game uses its environment and game mechanics to create puzzles that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The puzzles are challenging but never unfair, which leads to a sense of accomplishment upon completion.

The combat system in System Shock is complicated but allows for a high level of customization. Players can adjust different combat parameters according to their preferences, such as weapon rate of fire and accuracy. This level of control over the gameplay experience adds depth to the game and further separates it from its peers.

The game also offers a wide range of weapons and enemies, which keeps the gameplay fresh and exciting. From the powerful but limited laser pistol to the devastating grenade launcher, players have access to different weapons that require different playing styles. Enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each offering unique challenges.

Overall, System Shock’s gameplay is a tour-de-force of immersive and innovative gameplay mechanics. Although it was released more than two decades ago, the game’s gameplay still holds up today and continues to influence game developers.

Graphics and Sound Design

System Shock’s retro-style graphics and sound design are integral parts of the game’s immersive experience. Despite being released in the early ’90s, the game’s graphics still hold up today, providing a sense of nostalgia and retro charm. Let’s delve deeper and review the graphics and sound design aspects of System Shock, evaluating its art style, atmosphere, visuals, sound effects, music and voice acting to see how they contribute to the overall gameplay experience.

The game’s unique art style is distinctively cyberpunk with sci-fi elements. The game art has a dark tone, which adds to the immersive atmosphere and reflects the dystopian theme of the game. The graphics accurately depict the futuristic world setting and technology of the time. Reminder that this is a retro game, and the graphics are appropriate for the era.

The atmosphere and visuals of System Shock have been lauded by players and critics alike. The game’s dark and brooding environment contributes to the sense of urgency and tension felt by the player. The environment is infested with robotic aliens, and the player must find a way to navigate through the toxic air and fight against these hideous monsters, which can get pretty intense.

The game sound effects, voice acting and music complement the visuals perfectly. The sound effects are poignant, and they fit the mood and heart-pounding action of the game. The use of audio cues to alert players of incoming danger creates a sense of immersion and urgency. The music is masterfully composed to evoke emotions and keep up with the pace of the gameplay. The use of ambient sounds adds to the game’s immersive experience, making it more terrifying.

After analyzing the sound design and graphics, it’s clear that they significantly add to the game’s immersive experience. The game art style, atmosphere, visuals, sound effects, music, and voice acting integrate seamlessly, creating a cohesive and terrifying sci-fi dystopia. Without a doubt, the graphic and sound designs of System Shock add to the game’s overall score. How did the graphics and sound design fare in our overall assessment? Let’s continue with the next part of the article and find out!

Replayability and Difficulty

System Shock is known for its high replayability value with several paths to victory and several endings to achieve. The game provides several different character classes to play and ways to progress through the game, which was uncommon at the time of its release. With the inclusion of RPG elements, such as leveling up skills, the game has a high level of replay value as you can experiment with different approaches and skills on subsequent playthroughs.

The gameplay mechanics available in System Shock contribute significantly to its replayability. The game features a complex branching story that changes depending on the player’s actions. Multiple solutions to puzzles and levels provide a non-linear approach to gameplay. The game also features several different endings based on the player’s choices throughout the game. The freedom players have to experiment with different paths to victory and endings creates a highly replayable game.

While System Shock may have a high replayability value, it also has a steep learning curve and high difficulty level. Players unfamiliar with the game’s mechanics may struggle at the beginning and require a few playthroughs to master the game’s nuances. Each playthrough reveals more of the game’s complexity, resulting in a more challenging and satisfying experience.

Compared to other games of the same category, System Shock is one of the pioneers of the action-RPG genre that has inspired many contemporary games in its category. Games like Bioshock, Deus Ex, and System Shock’s spiritual successor, Prey, all show the influence of this classic game. While not as graphically advanced as these newer games, System Shock’s complex gameplay and deep narrative still hold up today, which makes it a worthwhile game to revisit.

Reception and Legacy

System Shock was first released in 1994 for MS-DOS with rave reviews for its innovative gameplay, storyline, and immersive experience. It is considered a pioneer in the first-person shooter and survival horror genre. Over the years, it has garnered a dedicated cult following and has received several sequels, remakes, and spiritual successors.

The game has an aggregate score of 91/100 on Metacritic and is considered a masterpiece by many gaming enthusiasts. The popular gaming website IGN named it the third greatest PC game of all time, praising its memorable storyline and immersive gameplay. Similarly, GameSpot awarded the game its Editor’s Choice Award in 1994 and considered it a milestone in video game history.

System Shock’s impact on the video game industry cannot be understated. Its influence can be seen in nearly every first-person shooter and survival horror game that followed it, including titles like Bioshock, Deus Ex, and even Resident Evil. The developers at Irrational Games have explicitly cited System Shock as a major inspiration in creating Bioshock.

Moreover, the game’s design philosophy of interactivity, exploration, and player freedom has influenced modern game design. The open-world games and sandbox games we know today are direct descendants of System Shock’s approach to gameplay mechanics.

The game has a lasting legacy that continues to inspire gamers and developers decades after its original release. It is an example of game design at its finest and an inspiration for anyone interested in the video game industry.

Conclusion and Score

After going through an in-depth review of System Shock, it is clear that this retro game was ahead of its time. The game’s unique features and gameplay mechanics set the standard for modern gaming, and its influence is still visible in contemporary titles.

In conclusion, System Shock is an iconic game that has left a significant impact on the video game industry. Its storyline, gameplay, graphics, and sound design make it a timeless classic that deserves recognition. The game’s replayability value and difficulty level add to its overall appeal.

Based on the analysis, System Shock earns a score of 9 out of 10. The game’s minor faults do not detract from its overall quality. Any gamer who wants to experience the roots of modern gaming should give System Shock a chance.

In our opinion, System Shock is a must-play classic that will continue to be relevant for years to come.


1. Is System Shock still worth playing today?

Yes, absolutely. Despite being released in 1994, System Shock’s complex gameplay, immersive story, and stunning graphics and sound design still hold up today. Its influence can be seen in many contemporary games, making it a classic worth experiencing.

2. Can System Shock be played on modern systems?

Yes, with some effort. System Shock was originally designed for MS-DOS, but has since been ported to other platforms. Using modern emulation software such as DOSBox or Source Ports, it is possible to run System Shock on modern operating systems like Windows or Mac.

3. How difficult is System Shock?

System Shock can be quite challenging, especially for players who are new to the game or the genre. The game’s learning curve is steep, and it can take some time to get used to the mechanics. However, with patience and practice, most players should be able to complete the game.

4. What makes System Shock stand out from other first-person shooters?

System Shock’s emphasis on immersive storytelling, complex puzzles, and RPG mechanics sets it apart from other first-person shooters. The game’s nonlinear structure gives players freedom to explore, experiment, and make choices that affect the story. Its innovative use of audio logs, emails, and other environmental cues helps create a rich and believable game world.

5. Why is System Shock important in the video game industry?

System Shock was a groundbreaking game that helped to establish many of the norms that we take for granted in modern video games. Its influence can be seen in everything from first-person shooters to survival horror games, and it paved the way for later games like Bioshock and Deus Ex. System Shock pushed the boundaries of what was possible in game design and storytelling, and is still revered as a classic today.

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