Sunday, October 01, 2006

System Shock 2 Complete

This past Saturday morning, I finished off System Shock 2. Since I haven't played through it since college, I don't know how many times I've gone through the game, but I think it's somewhere around eight times.

Released in August of 1999, System Shock 2 is still a great and addictive game today, which is another reason I'm looking forward to BioShock, to see if Irrational Games can once more create that magic.

System Shock 2 is an FPS/RPG focused on horror/survival. You are a soldier serving aboard Earth's first faster-than-light vessel, the Van Braun, and you awake from cryo with cybernetic implants through out your body and no recollection of what's happened since you boarded the vessel. You quickly come to learn that things aren't good at all, and that the Van Braun has been taken over by some kind of alien force.

Hybrids (Zombies) now roam the halls of the ship wielding pipes and Shotguns, lab Monkeys run loose with psionic abilities, and the ship's AI, Xerxes, has been corrupted and is attempted to defeat you at every turn.

In the beginning of the game, you can choose to be a Marine (combat focused), a Navy recruit (tech focused), or an OSA operative (psionic focused), and as the game progresses in true RPG fashion, you can enhance the stats and skills of your character and purchase items from Replicators. For this play through, I joined the navy and focused on Hacking computer equipment and security systems, while also becoming an expert in Standard weapons with a medium prificancy in Energy weapons.

Right from the start you're contacted by Dr. Polito, another survivor, and she sends you on a series of missions to weaken the enemy and attempt to meet up with her. As you traverse the several decks of the Van Braun, you come across PDAs where you can listen to crew logs, find security codes, etc. Your PDA also tracks your own objectives, but your menu screen (viewed in real time) also tracks your inventory, stats, Items being Researched, your Nanites (money) and Cyber Modules (used to upgrade stats and skills). The game is very in-depth without being too overwhelming.

There are different ammo types that work best on certain kinds of enemies, your weapons can be modified and enhanced, and they also break down with use and need to be maintained. You can learn Psi skills to attack foes with your mind, become invisible, resist toxins, etc. The many different ways that you can approach the game simply adds to the shear fun and replay value.

It also features some of the best atmosphere I've seen in a PC game, with moody lighting and excellent use of sound. The horrors on the Van Braun walk around mumbling and talking with themselves, if you smack a wrench against the wall they'll come running to investigate, and every quiet moment fills the player with a sense of dread.

System Shock 2 is not a long game if you know where you're going. On Hard, it took me around 12 or so hours to complete, but what a joy it was to play through. It has a deep, evolving story with a fair amount of twists and turns to keep the player on his/her toes.

If you can find System Shock 2 in the bargain bin and don't mind tinkering with some work-around for a Windows XP system, I highly recommend you experience this classic, as most regular FPSes of today still have yet to surpass it's quality, mood, and attention to detail.

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