So, with the release of System Shock 2 on Steam, I figured I would play the game again after I had played it way back when in 2006. With the game on Steam, the install is quick, no-hassle, and easy. The previous way to install the game before Good Old Games (GoG.com), was to download and install a compatibility patch, and do other voodoo to get the game working on windows XP (yes the game is that old). With the install on Steam done, i dove right into a game.
Right away the game puts you in a movie explaining the back story of the second game, and the events of the previous game, System Shock 1, where the Hacker had stopped Shodan from taking over the world. In System Shock 2, there is a ship named the Von Braun, which is the first FTL-capable (Faster Than Light) starship with the U.N.N. Rickenbacker piggybacking. The game then puts you four years prior to the maiden voyage of the Von Braun, at a recruiting station for the OSA, the Navy, and the Marine Corps. After going through the description of all three, you pick one, and go through three scenes, each one appearing after you choose your specialty of the course you chose the first time. I personally chose Navy, because I like hacking/lockpicking (thank you Elder Scrolls) and I wanted to be prepared for weapon decay. This game has wicked weapon decay, the weapons decay quick after a couple of firefights, so you can’t rely on them completely, so a Melee weapon WILL be needed.
When you are first starting the game, you enter a four-year contract with whatever branch you entered (Navy, OSA, Marines), and enter training for a whole year after you choose whatever specialization you want. Each one depends on what branch you chose. After the third year, you are shown a cut-scene where your orders to be on the Von Braun are approved. After the scene, you are woken up inside a pod, with the voice of a Dr. Janice Polito telling you that things have gone to hell inside the ship, and you need to move quickly. I won’t give everything up, but the game is highly atmospheric, and a true horror survival game. The game doesn’t let up either, because you cannot keep an area clear of enemies, you have to be on your guard all the time or you will end up hurt, or dead, which sets up the atmosphere quite a bit. I found myself running away from enemies quite a lot, yelling “ohshitohshitohshit” the whole way. The Research system is quite interesting, and ahead of its time, requiring you to get chemicals to complete research of some items, which you can find in Chemical Storerooms. The higher your Research skill, the faster the research goes. Psi powers are also equally intuitive which consist of Defense, Offense, and a unique Psi pull power, which grabs items and brings them to you over a fixed distance based on how long you hold the left mouse button down. To get these powers you need to spend Cybernetic Modules, which is System Shock 2’s version of Experience points. You can find them on corpses, strewn on the floor, or given to you by Dr. Polito for completing a mission.
Many of the enemies you will face will also range from somewhat easy, to downright challenging. The Hybrid is your basic enemy, either pipe or shotgun wielding variants. Then you will run into the Cyborg Midwive, which is a freakish mix of robot and human forms. You also will run into Maintenance bots, Security bots, and the most powerful one, the Military bot. The Hybrids themselves have the Rumblers and Psi-Reavers. Roaming the halls will also be fast-moving Cyborg Assassins and little psi power wielding monkeys, which will be more annoying then threatening.
All in all, this game is very solid, but it’s rather hard to get into the game if you are a newbie gamer. It isn’t as easy, or hand-holding if you will, as newer games like its spiritual successor, Bioshock (which is a fantastic game in its own right). If you do stick it out, and play through the game, you are rewarded with a rightfully challenging and downright scary game that doesn’t get the recognition it rightfully deserves. The game is a showcase of the older 1990’s way of games, before all the Call of Duty’s out there coddled gamers with QuickTime events. The game will not hesitate to dropkick you into death.
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