LGR – System Shock – DOS PC Game Review


[synthesized music] [typing] Looking back through PC gaming past, there are few games that set the bar so high that it almost seems like cheating. Today’s game is one of those games: System Shock. Developed by the legendary
Looking Glass Technologies and published by Origin Systems in 1994. Just look at this package. Man, isn’t it great? Not easy to find boxed, either. Yeah, just look at it. And while you’re at it,
look at this too because it’s curious. “A first-person fight to the
death in the depths of space.” Sounds more generic than a store-
branded variety of Coke called Mr. Tasty, but back in the day, the very
idea was still pretty exciting. And if the premise doesn’t get you excited, well, the people behind it might. You’ve got designer dudes like Warren Spector, Doug Church, Marc LeBlanc and Seamus Blackley, among many others, most famous at that point for their
work on the Ultima Underworld games. They used a completely new
3D game engine here, though, adding things like the ability to
lean and stand at different heights, sloped surfaces, light emitting objects and much more. Unfortunately, while the game sold moderately well and was a big hit with the critics, it ended up losing Looking Glass money in the end. Life’s just not fair, man. Screw you, Life! Inside the game box, you get
an install guide and reference card, an ad prodding you to spend more money
on the game by way of a strategy guide, and the manual, titled “Terminal Access.” [ grunts ] Yes, now this is a manual
I wouldn’t kick out of bed for eating crackers. Not only does it cover all the basics, but it gives you a guided tutorial, goes into some more story details and reveals all the sweet weaponry and
other junk you’ll come across in-game. And finally, you got the game itself
on nine 3½-inch floppy disks. Unless you didn’t, since you got the superior CD-ROM version, which IS totally the one to get since it features enhanced graphics and sound along with tons of spoken dialogue that is absolutely key in making
its world feel that much more alive. Or that much more dead,
as the case may be in System Shock. The game starts off with an absolutely stellar intro, showing off its cyberpunk story and aesthetic. [ female computer voice ]
“7 April 2-0-7-2.” “11:13 PM.” “Hacker begins unauthorized entry.” [ LGR VO ]
The plot up to this point is
that you’re a nameless hacker who has managed to hack into
the TriOptimum Corporate Network. Unfortunately, you’re not very
good at covering your tracks, and you get caught just seven minutes after
accessing some confidential information regarding the space station Citadel. But you’re given a chance at freedom from a TriOptimum guy named Edward Diego. All you have to do is go to the space station and disable the ethical constraints code of the station’s AI system, SHODAN. After you do this, you’re put into a coma to be given a military-grade neural implant that allows you to do even more awesome hacker stuff. Six months later, you wake up
in the Citadel’s medical bay, only to find out that turning off the ethical constraints of a super-powerful omnipresent artificial intelligence probably was not a good idea. After this, you’re given the main menu, which is pretty low on options since they’re only adjustable
once you’ve started a game. So, freaking start a game already! Enter your name and choose from a cool and
refreshing array of difficulty settings. I like this because you can tailor your game to exactly the way you want to play. For instance: like shooting dudes but don’t like messing around with logic puzzles? Just increase one option and lower the other. Simple. Once you get into the game, though,
you’ll want to check the actual options menu and crank up the graphics and
audio settings to something higher. Unless you have the floppy version,
and in that case you’re missing out and you have my condolences. The gameplay picks up with you as the hacker, having just awoken from your coma and having nothing but your wits and
fancy new neural interface at your disposal. So, naturally, you’ll start looking
around for things that look useful because weak people rarely
do well in dark sci-fi universes. In fact, if you die in System Shock, your body is collected and then turned into a cyborg, a slave of SHODAN. Not ideal. As you can see, the game takes
place from a first-person perspective with fully texture-mapped 3D environments to explore. You can either play with or
without a full heads-up display, move around with a keyboard or a mouse, and use the mouse cursor to
use things in the environment. So, yeah, it’s a bit more reminiscent
of Ultima Underworld than, say, Doom, which makes sense, seeing as
several of the team at Looking Glass came from Ultima Underworld to System Shock. And while we’re on this topic,
let me just say that initially it may be tempting to call
this a weak first-person shooter due to the strange controls and such, but that’s looking at it the wrong way. System Shock is more of an
advanced adventure game, with elements more commonly
seen in first-person shooters. Once you get used to using all the separate keys for running, jumping, leaning, crouching, looking up and down, strafing and whatever else, it really kind of becomes second nature. Not only is it surprisingly enjoyable
to control the hacker this way, but it’s almost unbelievable how
far ahead of its time this game was. Now this was released less than a year after Doom and yet it allows a degree of
freedom over your character in a first-person game that wasn’t
commonly seen again for years. Combine this with the story-driven narrative, the ability to progress almost
entirely at your own pace, add atmospheric soundtrack that evolves
depending on where you are and what you’re doing, and System Shock feels surprisingly modern. But, yeah, back to what was going on… Well, Citadel Station has seen better days, as evidenced by the evil robots,
the murderous mutants, the bodies everywhere and the
chilling voice messages left by people who are now nothing but paste on the walls. [male voice]
“I must be one of the last ones who hasn’t changed.” “SHODAN must have altered the healing
machine I installed in Alpha Quadrant.” “It does things to people now.” “I think I saw Beth yesterday, but…” “…she had so many implants, like, couldn’t be sure.” [LGR]
It’s up to you to figure out what’s going on, how to survive and what to do
to stop the source of all this: the station’s rogue artificial intelligence, SHODAN. If you’ve chosen a higher difficulty,
you only have seven hours to do this, which makes it as stressful as balls. Stress balls. To increase stress even more,
SHODAN seems to derive pleasure from dismissing you as nothing but an insect, a pathetic mere mortal that
has no chance of stopping her. [SHODAN]
“When my cyborgs bring you to
an electrified interrogation bench, I will have your secret… and you will–you will–
you will learn more about pain than you ever wanted to know.” [static] [LGR] I’ve got to say, it’s genuinely
unsettling to be lost in the darkness, low on ammo, hearing the sounds
of cyborgs in the distance, and then have SHODAN say
something creepy to top it all off. [SHODAN]
“…installation…” “…my fortress is nearly complete…” [distorted computer noises] [LGR] While sorting through audio logs,
emails and notes left by the former crew, you’ll collect quite a few items that
will help you along your journey if utilized properly. There are 16 weapons, some of
which fire different projectiles and work better against certain types of enemies. Some of these don’t use ammo at all but drain from your own energy meter, which can be recharged at
stations throughout each level. You’ve also got several different
types of grenades and explosives for taking down more challenging threats. Then you’ve got these things call dermal patches which do stuff like renew your health and energy, give you extra melee strength, or Berzerk Mode, remove radiation poisoning and other useful stuff. And you also get some hardware
to augment your abilities with, which cost energy but can
provide seriously huge advantages. Things like a shield system, environmental suit, head-mounted light and a system letting
you see and target enemies around you. And while all this helps, most of the time you’ll
just be wandering the labyrinthine passageways and corridors of each level of the space station, looking for clues as to what to do next, dispatching enemies in increasingly violent ways, and screwing up SHODAN’s plans one step at a time. For instance, one thing to keep
in mind is security and surveillance. So, one way to lessen SHODAN’s grip on an area is to smash up every video camera you see. Once the security level is low enough,
you’ll have access to new areas and stuff. Though sometimes you’ll just need
to solve a logic puzzle of some kind, like this grid puzzle where you must complete a circuit, or this wire puzzle that’s just a process of elimination. Another way of gaining access
to new areas is cyberspace. And this is really pretty spectacular, not to mention unexpected,
if you weren’t expecting it. Which is, uh — that makes sense. So there. Enter a cyberspace terminal and you’ll
find yourself in a surreal zero-G environment with full six degrees of freedom. In here, the goal is to stay alive
long enough to gather new software and unlock secured areas in the real world, among other things. It’s just basic navigation and shooting for the most part and the controls do take a little getting used to, but it’s pretty sweet that you get this break
from the normal routine every so often. It also provides you with some software to apply
to your neural interface outside of cyberspace, of which the most useful is a Pong clone. Okay, maybe not, but having
Pong on your HUD is still awesome and I don’t know why it hasn’t been done
in like every first-person game ever since. Yeah, can you tell I really like System Shock? Because I do. I really frigging do. Even for a game of its age,
it’s awesome how quickly I get immersed in its dark, cyberpunk world when I play it. I mean, Greg LoPiccolo’s adaptive music is phenomenal, the story’s incredibly engaging, there’s plenty of variety in the level designs, it has arguably just the right mixture
of adventure, exploration and action, and I love that it’s almost anachronistic in
how forward-thinking it was back in 1994. Everything about it screams
awesomeness as far as I’m concerned. Well, uh, almost everything… While you do get used to the control scheme,
it still feels a bit clunky, though I know that’s kind of a product of its time. Another thing that gets irksome is the
levels are a bit too maze-like at times, and I got turned around and lost
way more often than I’d like to admit, even with the in-game map at my disposal. Then there’s the ending of the game,
which one might say is a bit of a disappointment. Without spoiling anything, the final showdown isn’t exactly up to the standards
of the craziness leading up to it, but it’s a very minor complaint. What more can I say, really? Well, I guess I can say that
System Shock is one crazy good game, especially for its time. It is showing a little age nowadays, but in my eyes, it’s doing so quite well compared to many of its contemporaries. If you ever get a chance to grab a copy, by all means do so, insect. And I hope you have a pleasant stay on Citadel Station. [monster screams and laser blasts] [synthesized music]

100 comments

  • Florin

    System Shock have power with Roland Canvas SC-55 😀 , i like the intro.

    Reply
  • Jose Solis

    Would I be able to emulate this on anything besides a desktop or laptop

    Reply
  • 64BitFlamingo

    ay

    Reply
  • Koolcatcory

    What are those games at the end of the video

    Reply
  • Allen Childress

    How would you play the game with the floppy disks? I'm just curious; does each disk contain a few levels / areas of the game, or would they just install the game on your computer across multiple disks?

    Reply
  • davewave1982

    This game has inspired my next game to program.

    Reply
  • BU3 D

    This game absolutely deserves a remake. The controls on this were horrible.

    Reply
  • Pentazer

    FUCK, I love Looking Glass.

    Reply
  • Mister Bones

    Citadel Station? That server sucks!
    heh

    Reply
  • Squip

    After playing this game I am system shook

    Get it cuz I-

    I’ll leave now

    Reply
  • Hrnek Bezucha

    I.C.E. breaker?! Gibson refference yay!

    Reply
  • Hrnek Bezucha

    I didn't know it's that old.

    Reply
  • Sir Wowcoolith

    Need a new system shock for the next generation!

    Reply
  • The Lavian

    I never liked the look of this game, even when it first came out, however, I thought I'd just check if it's still true – it is.

    Reply
  • Dušan Holý - Piano

    GOG version with mouse looks is amazing and makes it fully playable today. From historical context, this is probably the best game ever. 10/10 game. So innovative, atmospheric, great story, great music, you can be RAMBO/thief kind of… re-play factor very high. Great memories.

    Reply
  • Smitty!

    Stressballs

    Reply
  • Saibot216

    I think it's also worth noting that the voice of Shodan, the composer, and I think the sound designer, were all members of the 90s rock band Tribe. 🙂

    Reply
  • Mary Jane

    coined yourself lazy game reviews, reviews are far from lazy

    Reply
  • Tyler

    Holy crap Portal IS System Shock

    Reply
  • Harrison

    Damn this game really was ahead of it's time. Even with the audio logs.

    Reply
  • ScopeDog

    I still don't know of any other shooter to date that allows you to glide thru virtual cyberspace like System Shock did.

    Reply
  • Jean Paul Gaudet

    whats the name of the music that plays at the end?

    Reply
  • Varik Valefor

    I remember being terrified while playing this as I was a kid. Ha. This is by far one of my favourite games[, and playing it still stresses me, but that's good in this case].

    Reply
  • jubuttib

    Seeing these reviews always makes me sad… Looking Glass is a great example of how making great games (creating new genres, redefining old ones, pushing the technology forward, generally getting better reviews than any other game released that year, etc.) doesn't necessarily mean you're successful. Almost everything they did was supremely well received by critics and were immensely impactful to gaming as a whole (their echoes still being found in games today), but generally made very little money and couldn't keep the company in business…

    Reply
  • Zipzeolocke

    yeah the ending might be lacking… But you neglected to say but wait there's more! You didn't mention system shock 2 surprisingly

    Reply
  • Kanser

    Wow, I would have loved this back in the day

    Reply
  • child of cascadia

    These 2 games were some of the best ever made…

    Reply
  • Launchpad McQuack

    It's been 5 years, when you doing SS2? 😀

    Reply
  • Grim's Retro Life Style

    This is by far one of my favorite games of all time

    Reply
  • S B

    This game has "Neuromancer" written all over it

    Reply
  • ipigs

    There is now an "enhanced" edition on STEAM. Just remember, the "E" key is your friend!

    Reply
  • Peter Todd

    Never mind Pong, what about the Wing Commander pastiche you could play on the HUD? That was my favorite.

    Reply
  • dudesome69

    I got this game at age of 12. Didn't know english very well aside from few adventure games and in the aftershock of Doom, I honestly thought this was a Doom like run and shoot game. After venturing aimlessly around the station and eventually got stuck to a certain level, I gave up. I honestly thought that getting to an elevator and to the next "level" was the point. Not until I received my copy of a local gaming magazine several months later I understood that there was certainly more than just run and shoot, I restarted the game. Oh boy was the gaming experience a whole lot better. This is one of the games that forced me to learn english even more and left unforgettable memories of pc gaming. This game set the par for future games.

    Reply
  • Judas Christ

    Well, you've certainly sold me. I'm definitely going to try it out now.

    Reply
  • Freedom within Boundaries

    Sounds like the plot of neuromancer!

    Reply
  • Jozinek

    I'd heard about this game a while back and I might consider buying it. But the looks of System Shock 2 are preferable to me than that of the first game. Nonetheless, I might check them both out.

    Reply
  • Brayden Pope

    Review DOOM

    Reply
  • Lonely Potato

    1:22 Made my day

    Reply
  • MetallMann Schneider

    Once you're a legend, the things are different.

    Reply
  • Gink Tingle

    LGR is a cerial killer. He ended a life

    Reply
  • Captain's Blog

    Going around bashing people over-taken by Technology (zombies) with a rod (crow bar) in Citadel Station (the Citadel). I think Gabe and team drew obvious inspiration from this.

    Reply
  • Peyton Bayne

    Please review arcanum of steamworks and magick obscura lgr

    Reply
  • Joshua C.

    Does the GOG version still work on vintage PCs?

    Reply
  • Starplatpete

    This game looks really cool…

    Reply
  • DeanRendar84

    knowing this existed makes me question is now even now? Like this is the first time modern times reality has happened? Or is that the story we just get conveniently told?

    Reply
  • matthew lemon

    That would make an awesome movie script. A mix between oblivion and elysium.

    Reply
  • Remington Gagnard

    as a 20 year old in 2018 System Shock is better than most games today, fantastic design; usually play with a seperate playlist the original midi tracks are kinda grating (the system shock 2 soundtrack is far superior). Eagerly awaiting SS3 but tbh kinda worried with how the remaster looks

    Reply
  • mcrsit

    Play the Enhanced Edition with Arachno Soundfont installed and get ready to experience pure awesomeness <3

    Reply
  • Drake Tungsten

    That looks just like the Craftsman screwdriver I have 1:24.

    Reply
  • Danny Hengel

    wasn't there an updated version of this that used polygons and had better graphics? I remember watching my friend take this game on as well as Deus Ex when we were kids but I remember there being a different version of this?

    Reply
  • The Traveller

    CD-ROM version is one of my favorite games

    Reply
  • Alex Rosas

    Strangely Shodan reminds me of The Master from Fallout 🤔

    Reply
  • Greg Kanvik

    This is pretty impressive! Did a lot more than I thought this era of games could do

    Reply
  • ylibniquah

    Why no review of the sequel? I know you have it, I’ve seen it on your shelves. 🤔

    Reply
  • ndarcy

    One of the best games ever, and I'm still in love with it after all these years.

    Reply
  • Marshallemmet

    The remake for this looks pretty good, I really hope the remake is just this game with good graphics and smoother easier controls

    Reply
  • o2bnparadise

    Has LGR ever reviewed Portal? That'd be awesome.

    Reply
  • Alex Knudtson

    ive seen all of these and now im rewatching

    Reply
  • Average Joe

    This game really channeled William Gibsons neuromancer. It was a great game in its time. I seem to remember this display only occurring in a small window. Maybe I just had a bad computer or this is a different version.

    Reply
  • Major JMF

    This is one of my favorite games and for me it’s the first 3D Metroid. It’s complex at first but makes total sense when you get used to it. It also has great puzzles and a great atmosphere and it holds up even today in my opinion

    Reply
  • ГАЛАКТИЧЕСКИЙ ЛИДЕР

    It's music, it's ideal!
    I very, very love System Shock!

    Reply
  • Jacob Rendall

    I just finished this game recently and oh my god the ending was soooooo bad lol but honestly everything leading up to it made it good

    Reply
  • Your Pal Kindred

    "What is it like… to be afraid?"

    Reply
  • only257

    Awesome played this game when I was 11 in 1995 at a boy's house my mom at the time cleaned people's house And it was on his computer couldn't beat it at the time👻

    Reply
  • Neurotic Arts

    brilliant

    Reply
  • dav ep

    You have a good voice. You should read SF stories for LibriVox.org.

    Reply
  • Mouzekiller83

    never played it.but feel curious about the timer on the top left. is there anyone who can tell me if you can chill playthrough the game or you have to "hurry"most of the time. before the timer runs out.

    Reply
  • Colton Norman

    System shock: the name of a lethal taser.

    Reply
  • J. F. D. Smit

    So System Shock is a mix of Doom and Stygian Abyss, with some Descent mixed in for upgrades? (That cyberspace – bit is actually a bit of genius). When looking at the game play (I have only played SS2, never SS), I saw Deus Ex (the Ion Storm Great, not the later wannabe's) in the execution.

    Reply
  • East of Udon

    just thrifted this game and Lo LGR has a great review of it

    Reply
  • Dave Chrery

    What an awesome game! Never got through it, though… Atmosphere was too good. Got the enhanced CD edition when it was originaly released back then, together with my best friend. We were like 15 back then and huge fans of the Ultima Underworld games. With the sci fi setting also appealing to us, this one was a must have! We met up in the evening and gave it a go, both having our own pair of headphones on… Which was the worst idea ever, as it later turned out… Aptly named "WORF" (upper case, of course), we boldly climbed out of the cryo tube on Citadel Stations medical ward… The game and atmosphere were stunning, the controls not to bad, when you were used to Underworld… But the thing turned out to be creepy as hell… The ambient sounds, defective doors opening and closing by themselves, the weird noises of the mutants and cyborgs… And Shodan… Always watching and taunting, while constantly seeming a step ahead of us… The story slowly unfolding around us becoming more tense and horrifying with every audio log discovered. I think it was in Level 3, when Shodan reprograms the regeneration chambers to turn you into a cyborg when you die, that it finally got the best of us. I swear, I never felt so scared, paranoid and alone in my life before, and after! Running low on life and ammo, neither of us had the guts to open the next door, through which suspicious noises could be heard… We decided to save and continue another time… I didn't sleep that night and we never continued the game beyond this point… WORF had crapped his pants that night, in epic fashion! Later I played though SysShock 2 and a lot of other scary games without ill effect… But whenever I try to get back to the original System Shock, I find that I simply… can't… That game has scared me for life! I still got the game disc and never regretted buying it, though… It was a great game, anyway! 😀

    Reply
  • Why Jay

    I wish System Shock 2 let you adjust different aspects of difficulty. Like hard combat and costly regeneration without the added cost to skills.

    Reply
  • robotmonkey

    If this game doesn't make you poop yourself at least once you're more Chuck Norris than Chuck Norris.

    Reply
  • The VERDE Channel

    I got hard just hearing about it.

    Reply
  • S1500

    I wish I could have beat this game. I got completely lost on the ship.

    Reply
  • burnt f1ames

    REMASTER IS COMING IN 2020 REEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    Reply
  • Alex Kempton

    Looks the people at Valve must have loved this game…

    Reply
  • Launchpad McQuack

    Man.. I was looking for System Shock 2. It's been 5 years; will you review it anytime soon? 😀

    Reply
  • zoli9876

    I can't resist nitpicking: not 6, but only 3 degrees of freedom (in cyberspace).

    Reply
  • A. Alt

    Played this last month and was not able to put it down

    Reply
  • Star Tower

    25 years into the future… Shodan and Ma- Ma-Max Headroom have had some hardcore cyber-s3x and unleashed their evil progeny into our phones and devices…

    Reply
  • Orellin Vvardengra

    I can’t believe I just now saw this. Going to have to find a copy.

    Reply
  • InGaming pc

    do System Shock 2

    Reply
  • Massah Teachah

    1:21 – 1:26 golden 🙌🏽

    Reply
  • Jacob Rendall

    You sound like the protagonist of system shock 2

    Reply
  • Albert Twangle

    Which is better System Shock 1 or System Shock 2

    Reply
  • Thomas

    1:20 I like how when they rereleased System Shock in a new engine they called it the Enhanced Edition, while the old CD version had a thing on the box calling it an "Enhanced Version."

    Reply
  • Mad_Scientist

    can we talk about the shield upgrade for a minute? it's probably one of the most epic things i've ever seen in a videogame. early on the actual protection doesn't really do justice to the visual effect, but later when you get the level 4 shield, you turn it on with that badass effect and start killing everything like a goddamn terminator. it's kinda genius how until then you can still switch the tiers when you find better ones for efficiency, very nice and in tone with the modularity and technical/realistic theme of the game.

    Reply
  • Malryth

    Great review. One of the games I missed back in the day. I did read about the scary, immersive nature of it based on the AI talking to you. Some games really scare you when you play them in a dark room…

    Reply
  • Евгений Федоровский

    One of the best games I've ever played. And this despite the fact that I went through it a couple of years ago. Just a head spinning from the realization of how many innovative ideas put into the 1994 game !!! Indeed, only graphics are outdated in the game, but the gameplay is as interesting as many new products.

    Thanks for the video and hello from 2019!

    Reply
  • 4thcoming

    System Shock 2 was great. Some good mods for this.

    Reply
  • Goric

    I'M TOTALLY LOOKING AT IT!!

    Reply
  • The Calendar

    Stygian Abyss and System Shock are the great grandparents of all modern RPGs. More recent games like Bioshock are unabashed updates on these old games, and even the name, "Bioshock", intentionally reflects that heritage. Even if old game graphics suck, the game concept is as good or better than modern games.

    Reply
  • Zen Sempai

    I still play this game often .. first game I ever bought $49.95 in a beautiful hard box with a embossed art cover ( I foolishly sold it prior to buying system shock 2 😅) . I also play terra nova and ultima underworld .
    Looking glass was so ahead of the curve, but that doesn’t always mean financial success . Evidence of forethought is the inclusion of resolutions that no pc can run at the time and Vr support. Both of which I recall many reviewers of the time found “ offensive “
    Memories ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  • Xale Retro-Gaming

    I don't stick to this game sorry… but maybe I will like the reboot… I gotta need a demo to be sure…

    Reply
  • chaos apiant

    When LGR took the phillips-head screw driver and stabbed the box of Life cereal, it was like a metaphor for the inner desire to fight back against life. It was very poignant and meaty and I liked the crumbly crumbly fuck I can't even take this seriously anymore what a happy meal!

    Reply
  • Plot Twist

    Where's System Shock 2?

    Reply
  • B U C C

    This game has not aged well. The blue launch menu on 64x operating systems needs to be accessed through the game files in order to even start the game, that and the controls are pure jank.

    Reply
  • Bob3D2000

    Cracking game. The level of interaction was incredible for a game of its time.

    Reply
  • FrankiE Martinez

    Review system shock 2 plz!!!

    Reply

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