They finally did it! They enhanced System Shock

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Classic cyberpunk shooter ‘System Shock’ gets revamped on GOG.com.

Online store GOG, which specializes in selling digital, DRM-free (digital rights management) versions of PC gaming classics, announced today that the original System Shock is available on its site via a new Enhanced Edition. Before BioShock, before DOS gaming latecomers got hip to Irrational’s oeuvre and spilled tubs of ink over System Shock 2, there was simply System Shock.

When System Shock released in 1994; the First Person Shooter/RPG hybrid paved the way for quite a few different franchises that have released over the years; System Shock was the eventual precursor to the Bioshock franchise, and other series such as Half-Life and Deus Ex cited System Shock as a portion of inspiration to those respective franchises. It was groundbreaking for combining first-person shooter action with role-playing game mechanics, a combination we see today games such as Fallout and Destiny. The Enhanced Edition ups resolution support from 640×480 to 1024×768, with a native widescreen mode of 854×480, plus it adds remappable keys, bug fixes and mouselook mode. The most notable changes are listed here – “System Shock: Enhanced Edition now comes with official support for resolutions up to 1024×768 (compared to the original 640×480), and a native 854×480 widescreen mode.

There’s less sneaking around and figuring out ways to use enemies’ strengths against them, but more wire-frame cyberspace sequences and some delightfully weird features like rocket boots. You can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark before Casablanca and get yourself into a strange but kind of cool archetypal feedback loop when you finally circle back to the inspirational material. You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you.

I remember crawling through its Citadel space station’s involuted galleries—graffiti on sapphire floor-to-ceiling tile, busy Borg-like textures on sloped three-dimensional surfaces (the simple miracle of not-faked 3D in a first-person game!)—passing through hexagonal doorways and trapezoidal crawlways. You could look up, and not just kinda-sorta, like in Doom, but fully vertical, admiring the way, say, that a multilevel ceiling might converge in a cluster of orthogonal turns and recessed alcoves. Glowing wall panels were stippled with crisscross patterns that shimmered parabolically as your perspective changed (an aesthetic unto itself that I miss sometimes).

Its lack of realtime light sourcing gave it a perpetually dim, 1970s sci-fi flick ambience that ironically complemented its simple but grim 256-color palette. You had all that self-augmentation bizarreness, like the implants that let you do indoor barrel rolls, a flight-sim-inspired premise based on actual rules of inertia (indoor physics!). And then you had its inspired, completely unexpected take on cyberspace: convoluted digital chutes you zipped along like surfing wireframe waterslides, trying to solve quirky geometric puzzles.

What mutant two-dimensional sprites lack in creepy kinetic fluidity, they more than make up for in jerking, twitching freakishness—like the stop-motion surreality of a Quay Brothers film, and just as indelible.

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