January 2012 Archives
Many gamers, and most game writers, aren't aware of System Shock 2, and certainly haven't played it. That's OK, even though several of FI's staff still think it's the best game of all time. How can that be when those self-same folk call BioShock the best game of all time? Simple. BioShock was the same game. Rather than a futuristic setting with two space vessels (System Shock 2), there was an undersea dystopia (BioShock). Instead of a warring AI and alien hive mind (System Shock 2), there were competing industrialists (BioShock). BioShock had far better graphics, more refined systems and better writing, but System Shock 2 was a lot scarier. Cyber-nannies aside, System Shock 2 was scarier because ammunition was scarce. You could run out of supplies and be forced to flee and duck under a counter, hoping enemies would wander away. You couldn't clear out a level and wander empty hallways, because enemies were constantly bred and born to hunt you down. System Shock 2's horror came from the dearth of resources.
Gamers expecting Rise of the Triad-like play wanted to spray unlimited bullets at the alien constructs and criticized the lack of ammo as a serious design flaw. Here at FI, we loved it. It made the game what it was, and was the most important thing missing from BioShock. Because BioShock was so fast and loose with supplies, it was an amazing experience that occasionally seemed more like an objectivist firing range.
System Shock 2 was released in 1999. So, while not explicit, 1999 Mode is a promise to return that edgy, frightening quality to BioShock infinite, in exactly the right way – as an option. Just as Fallout: New Vegas made tracking food and water intake optional, 1999 Mode will be a choice. We're excited, since we expect it will be a choice between edge-of-the-seat terror and a well-scripted shooter.