System Shock: Enhanced Edition

Game review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
System Shock: Enhanced Edition Game Poster Image
Violent space action classic returns with light polish.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive messages

Basic good-vs.-evil story; message is surviving against extreme odds.

Positive role models & representations

You're a hacker trying to clear your record, atone for hacking jobs. You may be morally gray, but not much known about you, your motives apart from escaping.

Ease of play

Controls can be complex, slower to respond; better with controller, but you still need to use keyboard, on-screen tips. Game comes with guides, but still a learning curve.

Violence

Players use weapons such as laser swords, pipes, guns, lasers against mutants, robots, cyborgs. Some blood, corpses, decapitated heads shown, but pixelated visuals reduce impact.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that System Shock: Enhanced Edition is a downloadable sci-fi survival horror game set in space. Players fight their way through mutants, robots, cyborgs, and other threats with a variety of weapons, including lead pipes, guns, and lasers. Though there's some blood and players do stumble across corpses or decapitated heads, the impact of the violence is limited due to the pixelated graphics. Players may find themselves frustrated with the controls, which haven't been adjusted in any way from its release 21 years ago. Even with tips, there's a steep learning curve with this game due to the sheer amount of information on-screen.

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What's it about?

SYSTEM SHOCK: ENHANCED EDITION is a re-release of the classic sci-fi survival horror action game. Players take on the role of a nameless hacker that's sent to a space station after being caught hacking into a multinational corporation's systems. Awaking after a long cryogenic sleep, you discover that the space station has become an extremely hazardous location: Mutants roam the halls hunting people, while cyborgs and robots mercilessly destroy anything in their way. Even worse, the station's AI computer, SHODAN, has seemingly gone rogue and threatens all humanity. It's up to the player not only to escape the station but also to prevent SHODAN from succeeding. The enhanced edition comes with both the classic game and a version with higher resolution support, as well as customizable controls, bonus hint guides, and the soundtrack.

Is it any good?

This classic survival horror action game has received a few cosmetic tweaks, and it's still loads of fun more than two decades after its release. System Shock: Enhanced Edition has returned to bring a new generation of players to Citadel Station to face off against one of gaming's most notorious villains. SHODAN and the twisted creatures on her station are just as unrelenting now as they were in 1994 when they initially terrified players. System Shock was unique because players never interacted with another human being; instead, you received information from logs and emails from deceased station members, which increased the sense of isolation. It forced players to interact with the concept of cyberspace in virtual mazes to unlock doors or gain additional info. Plus, it was creepy -- even now, the sound of skittering or clicking as you wander the abandoned halls of Citadel is enough to make your hair stand on end. It's the mix of action, puzzles, and atmosphere that makes System Shock an incredible game experience.

The Enhanced Edition delivers this gameplay with a boosted resolution and wide-screen presentation, as well as fixing a number of bugs that plagued the original. But it also brings some of the items that complicated the original in the first place. The controls are still quite clunky, especially after 21 years of improvements that make navigation of a 3-D space much more natural and realistic. You'll still feel like a lumbering tank moving through each level instead of an agile person running for your life. This also plays into the second issue with the game, which is that the learning curve is still very high. You're presented with a ton of information on the screen related to your inventory, your health status, your objectives, and soon. Sometimes, knowing what to do and when to do it can be a challenge by itself. These are relatively minor issues compared with how excellent the gameplay is, and if you're a fan of games such as Bioshock, Deus Ex, or Half-Life, you owe their creation and success to System Shock, which you can experience all over again. Do yourself a favor and get your hands dirty on Citadel Station, hacker.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games such as System Shock: Enhanced Edition. Is the violence OK because you're fighting unrealistic enemies? Is it OK because the graphics don't show a lot of gore compared to today's games? Or is it unacceptable because of the combat?

  • Talk about re-released titles. Do you like playing classic games? Should these be remade for new audiences, or should they stay in their original form?

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