Day 148 – System Shock

I’m back from my holiday and raring to get on with System Shock. Before I start, I’ve noticed that Mobygames have added a couple of games to the Origin list (Longbow + its expansion pack). I’ve picked these up for a few quid each and sure enough they were developed by Origin although there is barely any mention of it in the packaging. The fact that you have to call Origin support if you have a problem is something of a giveaway, so I’ll be adding these to the list putting it up to a total of 62 games. I’m unsure whether Longbow 2 or any of the other Jane’s simulations should be on the list also but they are not down as Origin games for the moment so I’ll leave them unless I hear otherwise. Full blown simulations are definitely not my thing so I’m not going to go out of my way looking for them. I’m not 100% convinced they even count as Origin titles when they aren’t marketed as such either.

While I was on holiday I got started on the Final Fantasy remake on my PSP. While its somewhat mindless and repetitive, it is also strangely addictive so I might be a bit slow starting off on System Shock until I get it finished. Its the sort of game that you can watch a movie at the same time as playing it making it ideal over Xmas for a portable system like the PSP when I’m getting rid of hangovers. I don’t expect it will take that much longer to complete and I can give System Shock my full attention.

System Shock is often vaunted as one of or even the best game of all time yet I never got around to playing it much. I’ve wanted to give it another go for some time but hardware requirements were always a problem. I’m going to be playing the CD version of System Shock – this was released some time after the original and added full speech, enhanced cutscenes and best of all SVGA support. This is the first game on the list with SVGA support although its going to be more or less standard from here on out. There are a few resolution options but I’ll be using the maximum of 640×480. In the CVS version of Dosbox this runs extremely smoothly.

System Shock is another game from the Ultima Underworld team and uses an enhanced version of the same engine as those two games. This was the final outing for this engine – why it never got licensed out and used more often I’ll never know.

The introduction is the best in any Origin game to date. It’s dark, stylish, atmospheric and has a tale to tell rather than just being an excuse for some fancy graphics. In System Shock, I am a hacker who broke into the Trioptimum security system and got caught. To avoid prosecution, I take on a job from a guy called Edward Diego to hack into the Citadel space stations A.I. (Shodan) and am even rewarded with a neural interface for my trouble. As part of the job I remove the moral constraints from Shodan and it re-examines it priorities and draws new conclusions. I don’t get to find out what these are as I am stuck into stasis for 6 months on the station while recovering from having my neural interface fitted. Suffice to say it doesn’t sound good. The game starts with me waking up after my six month recovery onboard the station.

This sets the scene without actually telling me much about what is going on. No doubt it will all become clear during the game.


Before I start the game I can tailor it to suit myself by adjusting the various levels of difficulty – this system is detailed and its very unusual to be able to tailor a games difficulty in various areas like this. I’ve no idea what to expect at this stage so I’m just going to leave these all at normal.

On starting, I’m faced with a myriad of buttons and panels + a little inset saying what they all are.


The first thing I do is switch to SVGA mode.

I can then go to full screen and all the buttons move to the edge of the screen making the game still fully playable in this mode without having to switch backwards and forwards all the time. Transparent panels pop up as required, in the manner you might expect in a more modern game. It’s a bit less user friendly in full screen as I need to learn what the buttons do or try them all one at a time but its nothing that won’t become second nature by the time I’ve been playing for an hour or two.

Movement around the world is done in Underworld style with the mouse. This system works extremely well. I gather there are no characters to talk to in this game however so there is no conversation interface. This is one of the reasons why I never got around to playing this game at the time but I may not miss it too much.

The game starts with a bit of a tutorial section. I pick up a whole collection of objects on prompting including my first weapon – a crowbar.

Instead of conversations, there are a series of logs, e-mails and the like which I can collect as I travel around the station. I suppose this is similar to later games like Doom 3 although I’m hoping for a bit more depth here. I’m half expecting System Shock to end up being more FPS than RPG but I won’t mind that too much as long as the plot is up to scratch.

I get a message from Rebecca Lansing as soon as I pick up my data reader hardware. She is a counter-terrorist advisor to Trioptimum and I am the only person on the station she is able to contact. There has been some sort of incident with Shodan and the mining laser is charging to attack earth. She wants me to shut off the laser and then get to the bridge to turn off Shodan. Some guy called D’arcy may be able to help if I find his office on this level.

I find a log to myself made just before stasis with a keycode and details of where a few useful things may be found.

Graphically things look promising. The SVGA is a huge improvement for this sort of full 3D game – I wish they had re-released the Underworlds with the new engine. The music is also excellent and adjusts well to the pace of the game.

I open the door and face my first enemies – a couple of security bots. They die after after 2 or 3 hits so are not a serious problem. There doesn’t appear to be the aiming system used in Underworld. Its just a case of swinging with no power build up or the like. Its a typical FPS melee weapon.

There are security cameras on the walls. I can bash these to reduce the level security. I’m guessing that this stops the bots on the level from being able to find me. I only reduce security by 2% so there must be a lot of them around.

Thats all I had time for and I’ve barely got started. It all looks very promising and I’ve been hooked right from the start. It appears to play just like a modern FPS only with more world interaction.  I’m impressed and at first glance its the most polished product yet from Origin and really points the way towards the way games still look and play today.

I’ve got further than this into the game before now so there must be something that put me off at some point. I think it was either the overall difficulty/complexity making it inaccessible or specifically the cyberspace sections which I don’t honestly remember anything about apart from them being disorienting

6 thoughts on “Day 148 – System Shock

  1. Hey you are back. And with System shock 🙂

    First things first. I’m not totally sure, but I think Longbow 2 was also an origin game (I think it appears on wikipedia as an origin game too).

    About System Shock, you are gonna have problems if you play it as an underworld game. I suggest you learn the keyboard commands for movement.

    Z.X.C move you around(shift pressed to move faster), while Q,W,E let you move your character a bit to the side to look through corridos without exposing youself.

    R,F,D and T,G,B are for crouching and looking up and down and all that.

    TAB changes your weapon quickly, and backspace closes all MFDs on the screen.

    I usually use both the keyboard and mouse at the same time, depending on the situation.

    This game is indeed more FPS than RPG, but it’s really an enjoyable FPS.

    The Cameras control level security making some doors, energy stations, keypads and so on not working because shodan. The more Cameras you destroy the less control Shodan has over the level.

    I hope you like this game 🙂 good luck on your survival in the station 🙂

  2. I don’t trust that Wikipedia list as there is a load of stuff missing from it but I suppose I’ll have to add Longbow 2 to my to-do list. As long as I can turn the realism down the Longbow games should still be fun. I remember liking Comanche – Maximum Overkill at the time so if it plays anything like that it should be ok.
    Those controls sound a bit strange although I can imagine them working well if I can get used to them. I’m so used to using the mouse in Underworld I just ignored the keyboard option here but I suppose in an FPS the keyboard could work a lot better. Turning with the keyboard would be odd – I’ve not done that since the early days of Wolfenstein/Doom. I’ll give it a go next time and see how it goes.

  3. I do use the mouse to run because it’s better than using the keyboard controls + the shift key, but to move the characters body into different stances it’s better to use the keyboard than the mouse, cos you loose time using that doll thing on the screen to change positions. The best way is a combination of both. Of course you should try and see what gets more confortable to you. I did play the game 2 times, the first time I was playing it as an underworld and the controls didn’t work that well that way, the second time, after watching a youtube playthrough, I learned the new controls and was a more enjoyable experience.

    Those controls are not the standard fps controls which I think are the WASD for movement.

  4. That was me with the Longbows at Moby. I was cleaning up the developers of all the Jane’s games and did some research: Andy Hollis joined Origin in 1994 or so and built a simulation team. They made Longbow and its add-on. Later they spun off a new team in Baltimore (which was also considered to be part of Origin for some time, they made Jane’s F-15 and F/A-18). I’m pretty sure Longbow 2 is also an Origin game. I haven’t submitted a correction yet, though, because the credits confused me a bit: they have both people from Origin/Austin and some who also worked with the Baltimore team.

    Anyway, if you check out the credits of the Longbows you’ll find many Origin people who worked on Ultimas and Wing Commanders and whatnot. I never really considered them to be ‘real’ Origin games, though.

    • Thanks for the info – it clears things up a bit. It never occurred to me starting out on this blog that there would be grey areas as to what constituted an Origin game. I’ll just have to use my discretion by the looks of it. On that basis, I agree with you that they aren’t really Origin games but I’ve bought Longbow + Flashpoint Korea now so I’ll at least give them a go. I’ll carry on with the series if I enjoy them and give them a miss otherwise.

  5. Best FPS ??? ever. I hesitate to say RPG. It’s right up there with UW2 though. UW2 with audio logs rather than game-halting character interactions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *