System Shock 1 Marathon Comparison Episode 6 FINAL
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 6/8/23 2:07 p.m.

System Shock Marathon Comparison & talkthrough Season 1: System Shock 1: Enhanced Edition


Act 1: Tourian de Force Ė Space Colony Citadel Central Control Room

Itís time for the final part of the System Shock 1 comparison to Marathon. Rebecca radios me once I make it to the Central Control Room and I get video mail messages of the Space Colony Citadelís final moments.

The entire level except the Central Control Room itself is covered in a pulsing Geigeresque metallic biological growth. I wonder if SHODAN was planning to cybernetically enhance the vegetable mutations of the Orange Death we saw in Beta Grove as well to serve as ďrootsĒ for her systems or if her hardware connections in the Space Colony Citadel are simply built like a fusion of metal and organic matter like the WAU and its Structure Gel in SOMA? Either way, Looking Glass were clearly cribbing from Alien.

As was said in past radio messages, SHODANís core is the hub of this level and to open the bulkheads into the Central Control Room proper, we need to enter each of the 3 spokes and do lockpicking puzzles -all of them hard wire puzzles- to open forcefield doors into a side computer room. Once in there, we need the Alien GemstoneÖ I mean Isolinear chipset Bianca was carrying. That means we have to find her corpse as she didnít survive either.

The first room is pretty much a Crystal Maze game except weíre the ball and the failure holes are replaced with Security 2 bots. I use a genius pill on the puzzle and a detox pill once itís solved to remove the side effects. Iíll use my logic probes on the latter two for quickness sake.

Thatís all thatís left of Bianca Schuler. SHODAN tortured her and killed her in I can imagine a particularly nasty way. I wonder what that way was given it left her detached skeleton.

Bianca could have just teleported out if she wanted? Then again, maybe she was under heavy guard and would be gunned down if she tried. The Isolinear Chipset looks like a Wonka Whippescrumpcious Fudgemallow Delight bar from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (i.e. the good one from 2005) or perhaps the real life versions of the bars they advertised on Nickelodeon all the time and brought back for a short time after a hiatus to promote the film.

I hate this section. Donít attack the mutated cyborg straight away and that forcefield opens as he walks along the walkway. The light bridges turn on segment by segment as you walk across like a leap of faith. The real shit bit is the maze full of autobombs. Turn on shields, Shadow the Hedgehog rocket skates and use a logic probe to solve the puzzle. The autobombs respawn in seconds and itís awful. Use the rear view mirror aug to catch them sneaking up on you.

The second and last physical body of a cortex reaver. We will encounter a couple of their virtual tuber forms in SHODANís domain.

Hey, look there! Itís the computer room! Thereís still one more forcefield door to remove and itís not far.

The final wire puzzle room. Compartments will open on the sides with security 2 bots and/or mutated cyborgs in them, each containing a button to open the next one. The last one raises the housing in the middle over the junction box and extends a light bridge to the alcove. 2 more compartments open when I cross revealing an ambush. I also find the final rear view mirror aug upgrade here extremely too late for it to be useful: an upgrade that adds wing mirrors to my MFDs.

BINGO! The computer room! Behind the computer in the opposite corner is the slot for the Isolinear Chipset. Inserting it stuns SHODAN and forces her to unlock the bulkheads into the main bridge area of the Central Control Room.

Act 2: Machine MotherBrain Ė Space Colony Citadel Central Control Room: SHODANís core

You may not recognise them straight away until you see the metal graduation poncho on their heads but those are the Cyborg Elite Guard from the box art. They hit hard but I hit harder. I also overdose on Berserk Pills for the drug trip of a lifetime while I fight.

This is the Central Control Room of the Space Colony Citadel. Presumably I was here once before to hack into SHODAN. Now I get to undo what I have done. That trippy rainbow thing in the centre is SHODANís core. You may also notice some extra VR helmets next to the cyberspace terminal on the left. Thatís a nice touch. Now for the final fight!

You want to fly into that upper ring (or lower depending on your orientation) or else youíll keep going around in circles. You get the fully upgraded pulser here so in case you havenít been playing the other cyberspace hacking games, you wonít softlock yourself out of beating the final boss. Lumi discovered this on her streams the same time that I did as sheíd been avoiding cyberspace when she could due to its difficulty.

See that clawed ice cream cone? Thatís SHODAN, as we saw her in the opening movie at the point she turned rampant. Not her iconic face as weíve been seeing throughout the game nor how she appears in the sequel, just this STUPID, PISSY, CONE. The boss fight itself is crap too apart from the music. SHODAN spins you around to prevent you aiming at her and slowly fills up your screen with her image: sheís got one final trick up her sleeve and thatís download herself into us, taking over our brain and using us as a physical avatar.

In Classic and possibly Portable unless you used a CPU fix (I think non KEX Enhanced had the same bug and a fix for it?), this would fill so quickly SHODAN would be near impossible to kill as it was tied to the CPU speed, which every computer nowadays is too fast for.

In System Shock Enhanced Edition, assuming you arenít playing on Steam Deck or using a mod or something to bring back Classic & Non KEX Use Modeís movement, the final boss is not only lame but itís just too easy. SHODAN doesnít try to defend herself other than throw off your aim and take you over. I think the remake was planning to fix this.

Presumably ďPlug & Play ManĒ as Looking Glass called him kept Trioptimum on speed dial in case they needed him as Rebecca and the rest were good to him. Also, hiring hackers after they get out of jail is a real thing that happens: governments and corporations do it all the time as they could use their skills, such as what happened to my ethical hacking teacher in college before he became a college lecturer. Heís worked security for several places over the years and passed on some of his talents to us (except learning how to cover our tracks for obvious reasons).

Hmm. Some people may recognise that armour from a mech game called Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri.

You sure this is New Atlanta and not Tokyo or Wembley? The hackerís apartment is a broom cupboard!

If this was Story Difficulty 3, Iíd be dead by now. The strategy guide explains how your score is tracked, with penalties for using pattern buffers and time passing. Dying on story difficulty 3 makes you lose time which is more of an issue than just a lower score. Set all difficulty levels to 3 and assuming you donít inevitably rage quit and actually beat the game, you get a 22,222,222 points bonus. Can you beat my high score? (thereís no high score table unlike older FPS games on DOS so itís hard to track them)

I saw that message a lot on System Shock Portable: it isnít the most stable way to play the game and it occasionally crashes. The DOS error screen says ďOur System has been Shocked! But remember to Salt the Fries!Ē Fun story behind that: Someone at Looking Glass made a late night run to McDonalds and brought back a huge order of food for everyoneís dinner. On the side of the carton including quotes read ďSALT THE FRIESĒ. Itís the System Shock equivalent to Frog Blast the Vent Core or Theyíre everywhere in both Marathon 1 & PID.

You may recognise the name: he went on to make Deus Ex alongside Doug Church. Warren & Doug wanted to make a cyberpunk game with a virus threat, corrupt corporations, AI, cyborgs & their augmentations as gameplay, naming your protagonist in a game with voice acting and cities full of inhabitants for years but System Shock was their way of making do with what they had at the time. The technology for something on the scale they wanted just wasnít there until Unreal came out.

Eric would later go on to replace Greg for the music in System Shock 2. Also, most of the audio staff and Terri are from the Boston based rock band Tribe, which had sadly split up.

No credits for the Japanese version I notice. Maybe this was added to that version specifically as it didnít exist yet.

Those arenít the same as the remastered tracks and the only place I can find them is youtube. So just like Marathon, Iím forced to download an MP3 version of the youtube videos just so I can listen to them. Unlike Mararthon whose games and assets (all of them CD tracks included) are freeware, the System Shock Mac Tracks are legit abandonware. Speaking of which:



The KEX part is new for this version of Enhanced.

Last polygon filled 6:05 PM Wednesday, September 14. Carnage ensued closely thereafter. Er, I mean sleep.

Act 3: Conclusion

So there you are. Letís summarise all the similarities to Marathon & PID we found along the way:

1. GUI and movement controls (PID)

2. Time limit (optional) to complete the game (PID)

3. Non-linear levels with separate exits we have to use to go back and forth between (PID)

4. Newest version of the game removes point & click based movement option (PID Aleph One)

5. Rampant AI with ambitions of godhood (Marathon)

6. Cyborg protagonist (Marathon)

7. Text terminals telling the story in the floppy disk version & Enhanced Edition (Marathon)

8. All NPCs are dead and we have to piece together what happened to them all (PID)

9. Status Screen for player progression (PID)

10. Cyberspace minigame accessed via special terminals (cut from Marathon)

11. Pattern Buffers (Marathon, technically PID as well if we assume save runes work the same way)

12. Attempts to give areas in the game an in-universe purpose (Marathon, VERY limited compared to System Shock)

13. We have to play levels in the opposite vertical location to where we need to go first. (PID)

14. Small, floor level enemies that hide just around corners, sneak up on us and explode (Marathon)

15. Invisible enemies who are tough to kill (PID, unless you also count camo Sípht on Total Carnage)

16. Lightsabre weapon (Marathon Eternal)

17. Acrobatics are required in an empty storage or industrial area (Marathon)

18. Switch puzzle in a hanger bay (Marathon)

19. Limited jetpack feature (Marathonís flamethrower)

20. Low gravity areas (Marathon, very limited in System Shock)

21. Multi step puzzles that may or may not require specific items (PID)

22. Radiation mechanic (PIDís gemstone & Marathonís major ouch sectors for pfhor jelly)

23. Stock sound effects (Both PID & Marathon have a lot such as elevators and projectile sounds, System shock has Koopaís roar in virus mutants as far as I know)

24. Night vision googles (Both again. Marathon has the VISR chip)

25. A mission objective where we must replace broken circuit boards (Marathon)

26. A mission objective that involves satellite dishes (Marathon)

27. A late game puzzle that requires we remember or write down a code we use in the lowest level of the game to set off a nuclear explosion and ascend to escape (PID)

28. A level where we navigate our way up a central shaft via side rooms in order to make it to the centre then the level exit. (Marathon)

29. Silver grey metallic biological growth inspired by Alien & Aliens that pulsates (Marathon)

30. A special late game item that is required to open the final door in the game before you can win it (PID)

31. Shitty, anticlimactic final boss fights (Both)

32. Final stats screen with a scoring system (PID)

33. Jokes and memes in the credits (Marathon)

34. CD quality music that shipped with a specific version of the game that you can only listen to at all today thanks to piracy (Marathon, though as the original trilogy is freeware by Bungieís blessing, anything else on the CDs containing Bungieís IP is fair game)

Thatís a big list compared to what Powerslave had. More than I was honestly expecting when I started this talkthrough series. System Shock 2 has its fair share too.

I now provide alternate opinions on the game with several youtube reviews. Sadly no Civvie this time as he hasnít gotten around to it yet. Maybe heís planning to do it after finishing season 2 of his Petty Thief series?

First off, Goth Gamer Nation patriarch Grimbeard I got into watching in 2021. I like his style: it reminds me of an angsty version of my own.

I like the utter roasting of bad takes in the negative reviews in the Bitter Recompense section. Thereís a lot of games I love where Iím more than eager to do the same.

Next up is the Marathon Man whoís starred here before, Mandalore. He has a System Shock 2 one as well Iíll show at the end of those write-ups.

He even namedrops Marathon, throwing some subtle shade at its level design. Honestly unlike Mandalore, I never got lost in most of Marathonís maps aside from the upper middle level of The Hard Stuff Rules, Aye Mak Sicur and several player WADs like late Eternal ones (both planks) and almost all of Rubicon, Siege of Nor Kor and EVIL in that order.

His coverage of the System Shock Remake demo at the end is based on an older demo of the game, likely the one you at time of writing can still get on GOG. The Steam version has a demo that is more up to date and way better, which is covered below.

Next is That Trav Guy. His one lasts about an hour so go grab some beer and popcorn for this one. Maybe fish & chips for tea if itís that time, but remember to Salt the Fries!

You know, for as big a Metroid fan as Trav is going by his other videos, Iím astonished he failed to recognise the Cyborg Enforcers as looking a lot like Samus Aran with the Varia Suit. Surely he of all people would be the first to see it?

Finally we finish off with a sneak peak at the remake, courtesy of Grimbeard again:

You can see the recycler I mentioned before: itís clearly based on the ones from Prey 2017 except unlike that game, it gives us coins for the vending machines instead of raw materials at different values per junk item type, which add up over time if youíre smart about what and how you recycle your waste. It reminds me of a point N click adventure game called Another Code R, which I had a magazine starter guide about but never got to play due to it being on the Wii. In that game, you could find recyclable metal trash around the holiday park and town in the game like drinks cans. Youíd put the garbage into a can crusher and it would give you tokens for gumball machines around the game world which was cool.

One last thing; if you want a good blind Letís Play of the game, look no further than streamer Onolumi who recently completed Enhanced Edition. Sheís currently playing through System Shock 2 as well.


Iím hoping sheíll play Marathon & Pathways into Darkness one day. Iím not the only person in her chat to request it either, and I provided her links to the games & what plugins sheíll need for the best possible Marathon experience.

And with that we end off this series for now. Iím gonna take a break for a bit at time of writing. Next up: System Shock 2!

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