The System Shock remake arrives on consoles with its retro modern magic intact

The System Shock remake arrives on consoles with its retro modern magic intact

Nightdive’s 2023 System Shock remake was a revelation on PC last year, and now you can play it on console too – and you should! This re-envisioning of the original 1994 System Shock stands as one of the most engaging immersive sims I’ve ever played and took a spot on my personal GOTY collection. This is a game that does not hold your hand; it asks a lot of players but gives a lot in turn. The remake is now available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, and we’ve tested it on all platforms to see how well it runs on each, how it handles on a gamepad, and what, if anything, doesn’t make the cut from that spectacular PC release.

As I covered in my System Shock remake review, the original game is one of the earlier examples of a true immersive sim: a systems-driven game designed to offer players a series of problems to solve via a growing set of tools. The freedom on offer enabled a level of interactivity and player agency that was truly revolutionary back in the 90s. The 2023 remake retains this freedom while greatly improving the core mechanics – the shooting, movement, encounters, and general feel of playing the game are sublime.

Of course, both the original and the remake were designed with mouse and keyboard inputs in mind, given the complexity of the game and its PC lineage. The remake did offer some basic controller support on PC, but it was clear that the gamepad implementation was unfinished with some missing functionality. Thankfully, while I still prefer mouse and keyboard, controller support is now significantly smoother, making for an easily playable game without sacrificing the game’s intricate nature. The controls are fully remappable and cursor-driven actions like inventory management are surprisingly natural, with the thumbstick driving the cursor around. Some actions are a little fiddly, but the game plays well overall. Nightdive also continues their trend of offering keyboard and mouse support on their console releases, so you’re free to plug in PC peripherals if you prefer – even on last-gen machines.

Here’s John with the full video breakdown of System Shock’s arrival console, a year after the remake hit PC to critical acclaim. Watch on YouTube

When playing on Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, System Shock runs at 60fps with a target resolution of native 4K (3840×2160). Dynamic resolution scaling is used to scale back GPU workloads when needed, but image quality is typically excellent and the console releases retain the visual niceties of the original PC release. With so many versions to test, I wasn’t able to play through the game on every machine, but both top-end consoles seem to deliver a near-perfect 60fps experience with only rare hiccups.

Series S is similarly well catered for, with a slightly lower 1800p resolution and the same 60fps target. The frame-rate does fluctuate a tad more than the higher-end machines, but it’s still rare in the grand scheme of things. This is one of the best Series S conversions I’ve seen to date!

The game runs in a 120Hz container on PS5 if your display supports the higher refresh rate, though the game is still capped to 60fps – and the same is true on Series X/S. Having the 120Hz container widens the VRR window, so it’s a sensible approach, but performance is stable enough to make this an extremely minor upgrade. Perhaps this’ll make more sense on PlayStation 5 Pro?

For PS4, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S, expect a dynamic 1080p resolution at 30fps, just ahead of the original 2013 Xbox One which maxes out at 966p. Xbox One X can go as high as 4K, with that same 30fps limit, although again dynamic resolution scaling is in effect. Given that last-gen machines are hamstrung more by their CPU than their GPU, this 30fps cap makes sense. The only real complaint I have is over the PS4 Pro version, which potentially could have targeted a higher resolution than 1080p, but it still looks fine at this resolution to be honest.

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It also almost goes without saying that load times are significantly longer on last-gen consoles, thanks to their weaker CPUs and HDD storage, so respawning or moving between floors is a more noticeable interruption – for example, a seven-second load on PS5 becomes 48 seconds on Xbox One S.

Thankfully, visuals are excellent across the board and retain the visual language of the original PC version. As far as Unreal Engine 4 games are concerned, the results here are pretty good – and impressive for a porting team of just four people. I also appreciated the options menu, which includes toggles for motion blur and separate brightness and field of view sliders for the regular and cyberspace sections.

Surround sound support is also included on the console release – where you’re perhaps more likely to have a proper multi-speaker setup than on PC. This was my first time playing System Shock with surround sound, and it makes a huge difference in terms of immersion – highly recommended.

It’s nice to see full gamepad remapping on console – plus seamless mouse and keyboard support if you plug them in!

comparing PS5 and Xbox One S versions of System Shock

There’s surprisingly little difference between the PS5 and Xbox One S versions of the game, save for resolution (4K vs 1080p, both with DRS) and frame-rate (60fps vs 30fps).
Image credit: Nightdive Studios/Digital Foundry

The key here is that System Shock on console is just about the best conversion I could have hoped for. I did have concerns of how a PC-focused experience designed around mouse and keyboard would translate, but all those worries were unfounded. Everything I love about the original release is intact – and I think I’m even more enamoured with System Shock now than I was after finishing it on PC. While it’s technically a remake, it genuinely feels like a new game inspired by that original from 1994.

It’s also so refreshing to play a game that respects the player, requiring you to actually navigate, read logs and remember things rather than leading you along by the nose. That feeling of making your way through a new area for the first time, low on ammo and health, carefully rummaging through containers and offices in search of clues and supplies, using every tool in your inventory to bypass difficult foes – it’s amazing.

I recommend trying System Shock if you’re a fan of this kind of shooter, and thankfully every version of the game is is perfectly solid – so you ought to have a good time no matter where you’re playing it. That’s enough to earn a hearty Digital Foundry recommendation, so if you’ve read this far you ought to give it a try!

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