System Shock 2 Review

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Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Looking Glass Studios

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB 3D video card, 250 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM

System Shock 2 is the sequel to the game in which a rogue Artificial Intelligence (AI) named SHODAN took control of Citadel Station, an orbital station owned by TriOptimum Corporation, and attempted to use it to destroy the earth. Years later, TriOptimum Corporation has developed a faster-than-light propulsion system, and built a prototype interstellar ship – the Von Braun. The UNN, a worldwide governing body, allows the maiden voyage to take place as long as TriOptimum tethers a UNN military vessel, the Rickenbacker, to the Von Braun. The main character is a UNN grunt, assigned to observe and protect this FTL experiment, after three years of uneventful assignments. Coming from one of the three branches of the UNN military, the grunt may have focused on combat, technical skills, or psychic powers. On the journey, the two ships discover a signal from a distant planet, previously thought uninhabited.

The game begins as the player awakens from a post-surgical cryogenic sleep in the Von Braun, to discover a brand-new military grade cybernetic implant and a mild case of amnesia. The Von Braun's AI XERXES is behaving strangely, the ship is malfunctioning, and dead crewmen litter the floor. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the crew discovered an ejected portion of the former Citadel station that was full of SHODAN's biological creations. These creatures have evolved into a hive-mind assemblage of creatures called The Many, that has incorporated XERXES. A shard of SHODAN's software survived, as well, and a reconstructed SHODAN looms large in the plot.

System Shock 2 strives to combine the action of a First-Person Shooter, the plot and character development of an RPG, and good, old-fashioned horror. A multiplayer element was added long after release in patch form.

Kyle Ackerman

This game is my favorite game on the PC. I played this into the wee hours of the morning with the sound cranked up and the lights turned down, unable to sleep, and sometimes legitimately startled out of my wits. Ammunition in this game is severely limited, and while many gamers have complained about this, I enjoyed it thoroughly. One of my favorite gaming moments was hiding behind a desk, completely out of bullets for my pistol. A crew member, controlled by an annelid member of The Many, could muster just enough control to moan "Run!... Run!" as it tried to hunt me down with a shotgun. I could only hope it would look for me elsewhere, so that I could sneak away. The player's character is customizable, so that players can develop the skills that most support their style of gameplay. The level design is clever, and fits the design of two interstellar ships very nicely. Most importantly, the game's plot, visuals, and especially sound mesh together to create moments of terror to be savored. The first cybernetic nanny and the rumbler at the basketball court both made me jump out of my seat. The game was so immersive that I kept trying to peer around corners physically, and my forehead touched the monitor more than once.

As much as I enjoyed it, the game was not without faults. In order to learn to use certain items I needed to run all over in order to locate chemicals to use in research. Monster respawn was frequent, and made visiting areas that I'd already cleared irritating. In fact, I killed so many of The Many's beasties, that I had to wonder just how much biomass it had brought into space. Lastly, when I played the endgame, to destroy The Many, you had to destroy three floating stars. It was a silly device, and more importantly, I only had two stars, so I couldn't complete the game. Only when I replayed System Shock 2 months later did I see the end game in which System Shock 2 pays excellent homage to its predecessor. In spite of its faults, this is a great game.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 1, 2001 10:00 PM.

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