I picked System Shock out of a bargain bin at KayBee Toys shortly after getting a computer in ’96 or ’97. I paid around $10 for it. I had no idea how big of a bargain I was getting. I had never heard of System Shock before picking it out of that bargain bin. I had not seen any magazine ads, commercials, or reviews. I knew nothing about the game beyond what I was seeing on the box cover.
After loading it onto my hard drive (my version took several 3.5 floppies, but it was later released on one CD-Rom), I discovered that it was a first-person shooter. That was not entirely unique; Doom had already stormed the nation by that time. But it was unusual. First-person 3-D shooters were not the everyday games they are today.
It was also extraordinary, extraordinary in so many ways. Here’s just a few of the extraordinary and downright incredible aspects of System Shock:
• Immersive Environment – the game is set on a huge space station, and you really feel like you are exploring that station.
• Huge Map – just exploring the nine levels of the space station is an immense task, not to mention accomplishing any of the many goals of the game.
• Constant Tension – enemies attack without warning, often from behind, so that you are always on edge.
• Multiple Play Modes – you explore and fight, you hack cyberspace, you solve problems
• Great Storyline – you are a hacker in a cyberpunk future who is caught, taken to a space station, asked to do a hack, then put into a coma to heal after receiving a brain implant. When you awake, you discover that the computer running the space station (Shodan) has gone crazy, killed everybody, turned some into cyborg and others into zombies, and is trying to blow up the Earth with a giant laser.
• Great Villian – Shodan is freaky. When she speaks to you over the space station intercom…eerie.
• Great Cinematic Scenes – the opening scene is awesome, and the death scene (what you see when you die) is terrifying.
• All Sorts Of Weapons, Upgrades, Stimulants, Etc – you won’t come anywhere close to using them all.
There is too much good to say about System Shock. There is too much to say about System Shock period. And there is very little bad to say about it. It is undeniably one of the greatest games ever, not just because it was ahead of its time (which it was) but also because it is one of the best of all time.
Note: System Shock would have one direct sequel, System Shock 2, and two “spiritual” sequels: Deus Ex and BioShock.