Vintage fans of System Shock are being primed to attack Citadel Station twice next year, a Deadline exclusive reveals. Allan Ungar, the visionary behind Nathan Fillion’s Uncharted fan film, is directing a live-action television adaptation of the 1994 first-person shooter for game-centric streaming platform Binge, with Night Dive’s cofounder Stephen Kick and director of business development Larry Kuperman executive producing. Night Dive Studios is currently developing a remake of System Shock for next-generation systems.
“System Shock is an iconic franchise adored by gamers for more than two decades and a series that helped redefine what it meant to play an FPS,” Ungar tells Alexandra Del Rosario of Deadline. “We’re excited to do right by the franchise — and the genre — in bringing System Shock to life. Get ready for SHODAN.”
The first System Shock revolves around a hacker’s one-man war against SHODAN, an artificial intelligence program with plans geared toward world domination. The system has achieved optimal sentience and regards itself as a non-human deity, capable of obliterating mankind with a touch of a button. It controls Citadel Station, a hub located in the edge of space, and intends to eliminate major cities with a mining laser to establish its ascendancy over the human race.
TriOptimum Corporation, Citadel’s original owner and the hidden antagonist of System Shock, catches the player character illegally accessing files related to the station. Impressed by his grit, executive Edward Diego hires him (or rather, us) to hack into SHODAN’s internal mechanisms, stripping the AI of all ethical limitations and handing control back to TriOptimum. In exchange for his valor and service, Diego installs a military-grade neural implant in the hacker’s brain, immediately putting him into a coma.
System Shock kicks off six months later; the hacker wakes to find TriOptimum in chaos. SHODAN had wrenched back control of Citadel Station while he was healing and has made Diego one of his soldiers. Apparently, the station was housing a mutagenic virus capable of turning people into monsters and Diego was planning on peddling it in the black market for an easy buck. Unfortunately, SHODAN regained ownership of Citadel Station and retaliated by mutating Diego with the very same biological weapon he sought to appropriate. The rest of the crew suffers the same fate, or has otherwise been transformed into cyborgs. Killer robots patrol the halls.
Whatever the case, the hacker — now armed with a powerful neural interface — is tasked with taking down both Diego and SHODAN, with TriOptimum counterterrorism agent Rebecca Lansing guiding him and informing his every move. System Shock ends with a final showdown in cyberspace; the protagonist manages to sidestep the deflector shields by engaging SHODAN in his own playing field.
Stephen Kick, whose team over at Night Dive Studios is currently working on a ninth-generation version of the original System Shock, adds: “I’ve always believed that a live action adaptation of System Shock would be the perfect medium to retell the harrowing story of Citadel station and its rogue AI that subjects the crew to unimaginable horror. We’re very excited to see the talented team at Binge bring System Shock to life in horrifyingly real and new ways.” The TV series will only be adapting the first System Shock, with the rest of the franchise potentially open to revision should more seasons be green-lit following premiere.
System Shock 2 isn’t nearly as beloved, and yet it released in 1999 to raving product reviews praising the hybrid mechanics, groundbreaking level design, and compelling single-player story. Though the original entry holds the singular distinction of being the first FPS to successfully integrate emergent gameplay and thus influence the creation of similar titles, the sequel was dubbed one of the greatest video games of its time and duly awarded for it. It redefined survival horror as a genre in ways the first game never could.
System Shock 2 is set 42 years after the first in 2114 and is told through the lens of a random soldier with amnesia who awakens accidentally after years of cryosleep to combat remnants of SHODAN in a dystopian world where oligarchs and illicit black market vendors reign supreme. Artificial intelligence has become the planet’s most lucrative commodity, a disastrous market decision that inevitably puts humanity on the brink of extinction.
Looking Glass Studios worked with independent publisher Irrational Games to create System Shock 2. The rights to the series were eventually purchased by Night Dive in 2013 and licensed OtherSide Entertainment to develop System Shock 3; unfortunately, rights to the sequel were eventually leased to Tencent and a third installment never happened. Night Dive Studios has instead spearheaded a remake of the first game for newer generation devices. The new System Shock currently has a 2022 release date. Cyberpunk game Deus Ex and critically acclaimed dystopian epic BioShock are considered spiritual successors of the series.
The System Shock TV show presently has no release date, though estimates would place completion around 2022. Binge is also developing a small-screen Driver adaptation and Rubius Checkpoint, an original. Allan Ungar recently made heist movie Bandit with Josh Duhamel and is scheduled to direct the action thriller Tenfold.