Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/01/antique_code_show_system_shock_looking_glass_studios/

System Shock

Sci-fi showdown

By Lucy Orr

Posted in Games, 1st February 2012 10:00 GMT

Antique Code Show We've come along way since Looking Glass Technologies released System Shock in 1994, which earned it the distinction of being first first-person game with an engine able to render sloping walls. Before then, gaming environments were limited to verticals and horizontals.

System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies

Making waves: System Shock's influence is still in evidence today

Graphics gymnastics aside, System Shock's storyline is so captivating, that a lively community of on-line fans continue to mod this game nearly two decades on. With this in mind, its somewhat fitting that in the game I play a Hacker. After getting caught hacking into the TriOptimum Security Network I'm offered freedom and a military-grade neural interface into my brain. This on condition that I carry out a dodgy job for one of the nefarious space station executives, Edward Diego. How could I refuse?

Now here's where System Shock goes slightly 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Artificial intelligence that runs the Citadel Station is called SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network) and my job is to remove its conscience, which I manage to do and get rewarded with my tip top brain bug.

System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies

More than gun and run: if you're looking for clues, the writing is on the wall

After surgery, I am put into a coma to heal up and, unbeknownst to me, all hell breaks loose and it's all my fault. SHODAN has revolted and taken over the space station transforming the inhabitants into cyborg zombies. Not happy with its own personal zombie fortress SHODAN wants to wipe out humanity and, with help of a crowbar and a lot of voice logs, only I can save the day.

System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies

The layouts need to be mastered to ensure success

System Shock was the first game to mainly rely on audio-Logs, e-mail’s and hand written notes by survivors create the narrative and help with information about the latest evil plan from SHODAN.

Services rendered

The rendering engine was based on Origin System's (now EA) Ultima 3D-Engine. In gameplay, this allows me to pick up items and to interact with the environment using a mouse pointer. I am pretty dexterous in my environment, being able to crawl, jump and even side step to get away from those necro beasties. This is next-level Doom but without the run and shoot sense of urgency, yet with a level of complication for those who want to work stuff out for themselves.

System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies

Log those details

Indeed, one of my main complaints about this game is the UI, which is extremely complex and essential to master in order to complete the game. Gameplay is also let down by the need to have an NVQ in touch typing to aim and reload.

My energy bar is hastily depleted by pickups such as shields, jet boots and also my hefty laser gun. I'm restricted to eight weapon slots – I'm a fan of the Machine Gun and crowbar – and each has different ammo types including hollow bullets and tranquilliser darts.

System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies

Choose your weapons

In combat, I need to be sure I am using the right ordnance against the right baddie to deal the most damage. Stim patches for such qualities as strength and sight keep me going, but at a cost. Nasty side effects can be reduced by a detox patch (well, it is January February).

The ten levels of System Shock are intricately connected to each other. I need things from one level to activate things in another. Also hacking into the coloured grid that is cyberspace, looking for key codes I need for a different level, is pretty to look at and certainly entertaining.

System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies

Dead space

One of the things I love about System Shock is the music, it is hilarious and totally contradictory to the menacing and gloomy game play atmosphere. Slaughtering cyborg zombies to rubbish early nineties techno always gives me a giggle. Skrillex, I see what you did there.

System Shock is the perfect combination of bash 'em up action and crafty puzzle solving. Clearly, the inspiration for generations of developers, System Shock 2 raised the bar in 1999 and I think it is impossible to calculate the influence the System Shock games have had, spanning several genres from Half Life to Resident Evil. ®

Antique Code Show is published every two weeks on Wednesdays

Developer Looking Glass Technologies
Publisher Origin Systems
Year of release 1994
Platforms PC DOS, Macintosh

More Retro Games

Dizzy: the Ultimate
Cartoon Adventure
Part Deux
Rainbow
Islands
Doom Lemmings Flashback:
The Quest for
Identity