System Shock

aka: Alien Commander
Moby ID: 681
DOS Specs
See Also

Description official descriptions

The year is 2072. A hacker from a Saturn colony breaks into computer system of TriOptimum Corporation and gets arrested. He is taken to the Citadel Station, where Edward Diego, a TriOptimum executive, offers to drop all charges against the hacker, as well as grant him a valuable neural implant, if he agrees to hack into SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network) , the artificial intelligence that controls the station. The hacker removes the AI's ethical constraints and undergoes the promised implant surgery, after which he is put into a six-month healing coma.

The hacker awakens into a horrifying reality: with her ethical restrictions removed, SHODAN took control over the station, reprogrammed all robots and machines to suit her needs, and disposed of the crew members by either transforming them into mutants and cyborgs, or killing them outright. Rebecca Lansing, a TriOptimum counter-terrorism consultant, contacts the hacker and informs him of an even more terrifying possible future: SHODAN's plan involves using the station's mining lasers to annihilate all life on Earth. The hacker must explore and traverse the desolate corridors and rooms of the large space station, fighting SHODAN's minions on his way to thwart her maniacal design.

System Shock is a first-person shooter with puzzle-solving and light role-playing elements. The gameplay incorporates gradual exploration of the Citadel's ten levels, interaction with the environment, problem-solving, fulfilling objectives, and combat.

On his way the hacker encounters numerous enemies - robots, cyborgs and mutants, all of which can be fought back with a variety of weapons. Some of the weapons use ammo, while other have infinite ammo and instead draw on electric energy. Some weapons are more effective on certain foes - e.g. the dart gun only works on organic enemies, while the magpulse is best used against robots. Once killed, the enemies can be searched for ammo and other items. The player can also find items in crates, cabinets, corpses or just lying around on the ground.

Apart from weapons and ammo, the player can find patches (such as medical patches, which replenish the hero's health; berserk patches, which temporarily increase his strength but cause hallucinations; detox patches, which remove the harmful effects of radiation and biohazard; etc.), grenades of various kinds (EMP grenades are effective against robots, gas grenades are good for mutants, land mines can be used to set traps, etc.), battery packs for replenishing electricity, first aid kits for restoring health, and others.

Thanks to the hacker's implant he is able to install various pieces of hardware into his body, such as a booster which makes him go faster, or a head lantern to bright up dark areas. As the player progresses in the game, higher versions of existing hardware are found, which are more effective and useful. However, most hardware uses up electric energy while it is active.

At some places in the game, the player has to find a wall-mounted "cyberjack" to go into cyberspace in order to find helpful data, remotely open doors or unlock sealed areas, or give himself clearance to access off-limits areas. Cyberspace is represented as a 3-D wireframe place, where the protagonist floats around freely in three dimensions, shoots hostile cyber-guards with phasers, and collects files represented as colorful cubes.

The story of System Shock is mostly told through e-mail messages the protagonist received, and electronic diaries (logs) left by various characters (as well as SHODAN herself), which are scattered around the space station. The game features separate adjustable difficulty settings for combat, mission objectives and puzzles. The CD version of the game includes full speech for e-mails and logs, as well as higher-resolution, more detailed graphics.


  • システムショック - Japanese spelling
  • 시스텡쇼크 - Korean spelling

Groups +



Credits (DOS version)

65 People · View all



Average score: 89% (based on 23 ratings)


Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 189 ratings with 22 reviews)

Outstanding game, truly remarkable for its time

The Good
I still find myself wishing I could play this game from my (misspent) youth. Immersive, tremendous storyline, controls, intelligent, and often truly creepy game. I've never played a better single-player game 17 years later.

The introduction to the game was incredible, the logs of (soon-to-be-dead) crew members was so well done. Atmospheric and central to the game. The sense of space and isolation was a core draw for the game as well. The sound, for the time, and music were also unprecedented and COOL. I recall the graphics being great, but I remember the sounds and music more.

And SHODAN, come on, what a super villain. That voice is STILL creepy and just evil.

The Bad
I never got all that much into the cyberspace aspects, which seemed somewhat dated even back then. Very minor complaint.

The Bottom Line
I WISH this game could somehow be re-made or something similar and as equally immersive come out on the market. In fact, I keep looking for the "next System Shock" but have yet to find it.

DOS · by Mark Gibson (1) · 2011

Lots of fun here

The Good
The 3-D RPG/Adventure genre is growing, but Looking Glass has pretty much pioneered the genre. A nice touch added in this game was the ability to squat and lean around corners.

The cyberspace part was also interesting, as its visuals broke up the game nicely.

**The Bad**
It was too slow, and I was let down by the uncreative use of "software upgrades" (i.e. now it does 2x the damage, instead of something cool.)

**The Bottom Line**
A great game if you have 80 hours to kill and like sci-fi.

DOS · by Tony Van (2804) · 2000

Cyber/Horror FPS-Adventure

The Good
GAMEPLAY: Deep, complex, comfortable, interesting level design, very morbid atmosphere. Tons of variety in guns, grenades, etc. If you could think Doom or Quake but with about ten times more ideas added, much much more depth and an actual storyline, a mystery, with adventure game item collection involved. [5/5]

GRAPHICS: For their time (1994, just after Doom) out of this world. About Duke Nukem 3D level, but with a more 'there' feel, but not as sharp. Tons of variety in colours, textures, etc. Very creepy, cold and hard electronic feel. Surreal. [5/5]

AUDIO: The voiceovers are somewhere from OK to quite amateurish, and this goes two ways -- realistic and cheesy. The soundtrack is very melodic and catchy, dark and moody. I love it, I think it's one of the better game soundtracks ever. [3.5/5]

PLOTLINE: Ah yes. As games go this is intelligent and sophisticated. Essentially you wake up in hell, or something close to it, and have to find out what's going on. Which turns out to be the AI you hacked earlier has gone psycho and has killed everyone on board your space station. Except you, because you're not supposed to be there. Thus, you must slay it. Hey, it works for a game! [4.5/5]

The Bad
SHODAN (the beserk A.I.) has a realistic voice (the sort you get when you ring the bank and the computer speaks back) but some real crappy dialogue.

The Bottom Line
A mix of FPS and adventure genres, dripping with a cold, hard atmosphere. Cyber-horror is all I can call it -- your haunted house is a haunted spaceship and your zombies are cyborgs. You solve a mystery and blast anything in your way with some truly mean, nasty weapons. A very dark, cold and morbid mood prevails the entire way. [4.5/5]

TRY THIS GAME IF YOU CAN -- IT'S GREAT! [] should have it -- you need DOS, or Win95/98/ME. For WinXP I'd suggest you get a copy of Virtual PC from Microsoft and install Win98 on it, then run the game through that. Trust me, it's worth your time!

DOS · by Tom White (12) · 2004

[ View all 22 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Video review DJP Mom (11318) Oct 21st, 2010
Finally completed Unicorn Lynx (180476) Oct 18th, 2008
Voices? Unicorn Lynx (180476) Apr 3rd, 2008


CD version

The CD-ROM version adds SVGA modes, full speech for e-mails and logs, slightly improved intro/end sequences and a few other adjustments and additions.

Ending (Spoiler!)

If you engage the mining laser BEFORE activating the station's shields, then you'll destroy earth! And guess what? Shodan sends you an e-mail thanking you and inviting you to a celebration! The e-mail also includes a nice picture of a city being incinerated, but unfortunately the game restarts afterwards, so no robo-party.


System Shock's engine was derived from that of Ultima Underworld, from 1992. Nonetheless it was more advanced that that of Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, featuring sloped surfaces, variable gravity, realistic physics, '2.75d' environments (with limited 'sector-on-sector', but otherwise 3D), functional camera viewscreens, weapon recoil, leaning and several other clever things.

References to the game

  • During the end-game sequence, you hack into another corporate computer to grab some data. The data is info on some powered battle armor, which made its way into Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri..
  • In the end sequence, the hacker breaks in the corporate network of a corp. called 'Tetracorp'. In System Shock 2, the name tetracorp is printed on a generic two-state switch. Kinda rough change of business..
  • It is hinted in the Wing Commander and Crusader games that they are set in the same universe as System Shock. For example, an article in a "newspaper" from the Crusader: No Remorse box mentions an artificial intelligence and the Citadel station.


  • The Hacker's employee number, 2-4601, is a reference to the inmate number of Jean Valjean, the protagonist in the novel Les Misérables.
  • There is a reference to the movie Soylent Green in the game (although it's spelled slightly different). In level 3, Maintenance, there is a relay panel in the northern section called "Soylant Green Filtration".


There were rumours of a possible sequel, soon after System Shock's release, but fans had to wait five years for System Shock 2.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #98 on the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #24 Top Game of All Time
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #15 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2000 - #43 in the "All-Time Top 50 Games Poll"
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1995 – Best Action-Adventure in 1994

Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Ashley Pomeroy, dasfatso, DreamWeaver, PCGamer77, Stefan Pieratzki and Zovni

Related Games

System Shock 2
Released 1999 on Windows, 2013 on Macintosh, 2014 on Linux
System Shock: Enhanced Edition
Released 2015 on Windows
Shell Shock
Released 1985 on Apple II
Future Shock
Released 1986 on Electron, Commodore 16, Plus/4, Commodore 64
Shock Wave
Released 1994 on 3DO
Creature Shock
Released 1994 on DOS, 1996 on SEGA Saturn, PlayStation...
Shock Troopers
Released 2011 on PSP, 2011 on PlayStation 3, 2016 on Windows...
Divine Shock
Released 2023 on Windows
Shock Troops
Released 2022 on Quest

Related Sites +

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by xroox.

PC-98, Macintosh added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto, MrFlibble, firefang9212, somato.

Game added January 6th, 2000. Last modified November 20th, 2023.