Review: System Shock Pinball is one of the best licensed tables ever

system shock pinball

There was a time when licensed videogames were frowned upon as mere cash-in products with little to no quality attached to them. Games like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Spider-Man 2 changed all of that by providing some of the best gaming experiences of their respective console generations, and since then, things have been getting even better.

Zen Studios’ track record when it comes to licensing properties for new tables has been mostly good, with very few exceptions. I could list off the top of my head the ones that didn’t quite nail the landing on Pinball FX, like a couple of their more recent Star Trek tables. It’s much easier to imagine what did end up being of extremely high quality, and I’m glad to report that their new System Shock table is among them. In fact, it’s easily one of the best so far.

Recently released for both Pinball M and Pinball FX – it bears noting that the Steam version of the latter is not getting it due to some of the platform’s policies – System Shock’s table faithfully carries over the creepy vibe of the main game in one incredibly fun and atmospheric pinball table. 

system shock pinball
This table is gloomy and atmospheric, just like the game.

Everything is there, from SHODAN’s resonating voice ever pushing you forward to the many tight situations that you’ll find yourself in while skulking around the space station that serves as the setting for the adventure. The overall graphical treatment is spot on as well, as the table feels like something that could exist as an actual real life table, but with enough features that make use of its digital nature, such as the excellent HDR effects that help set the mood of this table.

Frankly, it’s very hard for me to imagine how one would go converting an FPS as atmospheric as this to any other format, even less when it comes to pinball, of all things, but Zen really did get it right. The missions, for instance, are an absolute blast to get through and are easily activated by hitting the right spots at the right time, and even for someone like me who could be considered a novice, they were tricky but quite manageable after a few tries.

All the challenges are lined up to resemble a tower, much like the original game, and the table itself is littered with secrets for you to discover. I particularly liked the minigame that is supposed to take place in cyberspace, which plays like an old school vector-based Arkanoid clone. There’s also a nice sense of progression that’s much akin to Zen’s own Epic Quest table, where you’re able to customize your improvised lair which retains its unique look from game to game.

system shock pinball

When compared to other tables within the initial run of Pinball M, System Shock Pinball rates among my favorites of that bunch. I’ll still side with The Thing over this one mainly because of my inherent love for the source material, but I can definitely see myself jumping back to this one often enough, especially because I REALLY want to “clear” it, as in, finishing all of its quests on one run, something that still eludes me after dozens of attempts so far. 

I’m positively surprised by the end product after such a short window between its announcement and release, less than a week apart from each other. Zen and Nightdive have done a terrific job keeping it all hush-hush and I couldn’t be happier with how System Shock Pinball has turned out. So much so that I’m anxious to see what’s next on their plate for both Pinball FX and Pinball M.

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