A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step
The original System Shock gave you objectives that had you foiling SHODAN's (the
evil computer A.I. villain) latest plans at every turn. SHODAN powers up a laser to
destroy earth, you rush to stop it. She prepares to drop biological weapons from orbit,
you rush to jettison them into space. She tries to transmit herself into earth computers,
you blow the goddamn transmitter up. The goals made you feel like you were DOING
In System Shock 2, 90% of the objectives you receive involve some object obstructing
your progress to the next deck, usually in the form of a broken elevator or structural
damage to the ship: reroute the power to open this door, get this elevator working, make
your way around this hull breech, unblock the elevator, fix this broken machinery to get
something working. Instead of foiling devious plots in order to save the world, your
character plays a futuristic maintenance man. They seriously should have included a
psychotic plumber class; all you do is go around fixing stuff and beating things with a
wrench. Not until the late game do you start getting objectives that don't involve
wondering around fixing broken parts of the ship like some kind of high school janitor.
Don't be mistaken that the objectives will start becoming more fun though. Once you
make it to the second haunted spaceship (tethered to the one you start off in) is
where the retardation truly begins. Right off the bat they hit you with an easter egg
hunt, literally. Your objective is to find a bunch of eggs scattered around in the most
remote places of the ship. Later you have to make your way through reverse gravity levels.
Why is the gravity reversed on this one level? Who knows. On from there it's hunting
switches to extend bridges (didn't I already do this in Half Life?), then comes the
most dreaded of features in a FPS, jumping puzzles. Those are something that should stay
in the 2D sidescroller genre; they occasionally work in 3rd person games, but never
in a FPS. If you look down you'll see that your character's feet and legs
are invisible. How the hell am I supposed to gauge jumps when I can't even see my
feet? An end sequence that involves you jumping through crushing pillars and leaping
platform to platform suspended above a bottomless abyss is straight out of something like
Super Mario Brothers. Most people thought the end of Half Life on Xeen was the most
retarded part of the game, here the designers deemed it worthy enough to do all over
|These guys carrying
pipes aren't monsters, they're rival plumbers trying to move in on my lucrative
ship-fixing business. My wrench, your face. Let's rumble!|
As if the goals themselves weren't mundane or ludicrous enough, the pace at which
you complete them is beyond slow to the point where you progress backwards. For
every step forward you take, the game pushes you two steps back. For example the very
first objective in the game is to take the elevator from the first deck up to the fourth.
So you make your way to the elevator, oops it's out of power, better head down to
engineering to reroute the circuits. Oops the door leading to engineering is locked,
better go to the crew quarters and find the guy who had the code. Oops the circuit to the
crew quarters door is out of power, better find a recharger station. Ok I've restored
power to the door and made it to the crew quarters. Oops the guy with the code isn't
here, better look for him at sickbay. Okay got the code and heading to engineering to
reroute the power to the elevator WHICH WAS THE VERY FIRST OBJECTIVE IN THE GAME. Oops the
corridor leading to the power station is flooded with radiation, better go to the controls
to purge it. Oops the door to the purge controls is locked, have to go get the key in the
command center, which is also locked so let's head on down to find the person with
the key in cargo bay 2. Oops cargo bay 2 is locked, better go find the key in cargo bay 1.
Okay got the key to cargo bay 2 where I found the key to the command station where I found
the key to the purge controls, let's purge that radiation! Huh? The computer locked
out the purge command? Oh for the love of fuck, guess I'll go find some circuit
boards to override the lockout. Okay overrode the lockout, purged the radiation, went to
the power station and turned the power back on to the elevator so now I can finally go
ride it up to deck 4 WHICH WAS THE VERY FIRST OBJECTIVE IN THE GAME. Oh great the elevator
is blocked on deck 3 better get out and clear an entire deck to unblock it. Now
that that's done with you can finally get to deck 4 WHICH WAS THE VERY FIRST
OBJECTIVE IN THE GAME. That's 5 hours spent fixing an elevator to move up two floors.
ARE WE SHITTING OUR PANTS IN TERROR YET?!!!
Bad and Ugly, but Also Some Good
This game does manage to do some things right, which is quite frustrating because you
can see how this really could have been a classic hallmark game. For starters the
atmosphere is quite well done; it really does feel like a haunted spaceship: bodies
lay strewn about, words are written out on the walls in blood, the ship's haywire
computer makes routine announcements over the intercom for crewmembers to report to
designated areas in an attempt to draw out any survivors, and as previously mentioned you
come across several audio logs left behind by the crew. The audio logs deserve special
mention as they do a fantastic job of fleshing out events and story. Early logs you find
will have crewmembers going about everyday routines. Later on reports of ship wide
glitches and missing crewmembers illustrate how the takeover came to be until finally you
start listening to final will and testaments as the last few survivors are overrun with
some resorting to suicide in order to escape the horror (funny how all the logs just
happen to be in chronological order from earliest to latest along the route the player
travels). The plight of the now dead crew is further brought to life by the sudden
appearances of their ghosts playing out the last moments of their lives. I actually jumped
and shot at them when I first saw one.
There are also a few good points to be said about the enemies. Early on it's truly
a fright to have a roaming enemy spot you (chanting "I seeeeee yoooooooou") and
give chase. You can duck into a room and hide behind a bulkhead thinking you're safe,
only to hear the door open and footsteps come to within a few feet of your hiding place
("come oooooout"). One of the enemies, the cyborg, also deserves a special
mention as by far the most disturbing and just plain wrong creature ever to grace a
PC game; you'll feel glad about bashing its head in due to its horribly evil nature
However both these highlights are brought down over the course of the game. The enemies
spout the same four scripted lines every time you see them, and you'll be hearing
those a lot because the variety of enemies is very much lacking. Sure there are around 10
different types of enemies, but 80% of them are the same basic zombie you've seen
since the very beginning. The enemy AI never goes beyond "run straight at player and
attack", with the robotic assassin being the sole exception (though you only run into
about 4 of them total throughout the entire game). Respawned enemies teleporting in right
next to you eliminates any sort of ambiance and makes the whole thing feel like
you're playing Quake.
Even the narrative, brought through by the audio logs and ghosts, comes crashing down
when the end game setting is revealed to be the single most retarded concept imaginable.
Not to give it away (although you seriously should stop playing long before then anyways)
but it draws from the most unpopular and criticized elements of the original system shock,
a game which was made 5 years prior so there's really no excuse for not learning from
The ghosts are frightening at first, but after awhile you can't help but get the
feeling that they're nothing more than built in player hints like that talking
paperclip in Microsoft word. You'll come across a locked door and a ghost will appear
saying, "Gee, I need a key to open this door! Where could the key be?" or run
into a high radiation area and have a ghost inform you that yes, you DO need
anti-radiation items for this part.
|"Hi! We're ghosts!
Did you know that you can hit F1 at any time to bring up the help menu?"|
The end movie (which is available as a video avi file in the movie directory so you can
watch it without even playing the game) is also a letdown and features one of the lamest
attempts ever at leaving an opening for a sequel, no matter how illogical it is.
Durr so do you Recommend it?
You've probably heard from every other review out there that this is the scariest
game ever made and will figure that I'm wrong since my opinion is outnumbered by
about 5,000 to 1. Keep in mind though that most reviewers are busy, impulsive creatures
struggling under a deadline so that they can whore themselves out to another publisher as
quickly as possible and most likely only played this game for a few hours before reviewing
it. I can entirely understand thinking this is the greatest horror game ever if all
you've experienced is the first couple hours, but don't be fooled. This WILL
turn into a major disappointment and frustration. You'll probably go ahead and play
it anyways out of curiosity and the fact that the price is down to about ten bucks by now.
So go ahead and try it, but stop once you encounter your first cyborg about 5 hours into
the game. At that point you've experienced all that System Shock 2 has to offer.
It's all downhill from there as the initial "wow" factor wears off and
frustration sets in. You WILL be tempted to play past that point. As a word of warning
against this though, think of playing this game as having unprotected sex and the 5 hour
mark being the point of orgasm. The experience so far has been thrilling and dangerous and
you really feel like continuing to plug away, but for your own good you need to just pull
out and walk away. Your life is going to made miserable down the road if you don't.
|Here's a cyborg, now uninstall the game already.|
To satisfy your need for good horror games, pick up the Silent Hill games and
"Fatal Frame" for the Playstation, both of which are the best the genre has to
offer. If you like to keep things PC and it HAS to be a first person shooter, then pick up
the original "Aliens vs. Predator" and play as the marine, or try
"Thief" (which coincidently uses the same engine as SS2, with much better
results) and "Clive Barker's Undying". Any of these is a lot better (not to
mention scarier) than playing a tiring FPS/RPG that doesn't let you pick your nose
without the proper upgrades.
THE FINAL MOMENTS OF FABIO'S SYSTEM SHOCK 2 EXPERIENCE AUDIO LOG
Fabio- Holy crap I'm in a heap of trouble, better find a weapon and quick.
Game- YOU HAVE FOUND A PISTOL!
Fabio- Great! Let's whip that sucker out!
Game- FUCK YOU STANDARD WEAPON SKILL 1 NEEDED!
Fabio- I thought I was a soldier? Well, here are some upgrade modules I guess. Now I can use it.
Game- OH NO, MONSTERS!
Fabio- Ahhhh!!! *BLAM* *BLAM* *BLAM* *click* huh?
Game- FUCK YOU YOUR PISTOL IS BROKEN! SPEND UPGRADES ON REPAIR SKILL PLEASE!
Fabio- Nah I'm good, I have this backup pistol.
Game- HERE ARE SOME SPAWNED ENEMIES TO MUNCH ON!
Fabio- *BLAM* *BLAM* Well great, now that's broken too.
Game- YES BUT AT LEAST THAT WAS THE LAST OF THEM, SPEND UPGRADES ON REPAIR SKILL PLEASE!
Fabio- Oops my mistake it still works.
Game- HERE ARE SOME MORE SPAWNED ENEMIES TO MUNCH ON!
Fabio- Ok now it's definitely broken.
Game- DECK IS CLEAR NOW FOR SURE, SPEND UPGRADES ON REPAIR SKILL PLEASE!
Fabio- Geez fine, but you've only given me one repair kit so far.
Game- THAT IS GOOD FOR FIVE MORE SHOTS WHICH YOU WILL NOW SPEND ON THESE SPAWNED ENEMIES
Fabio- Christ is there ANY weapon that doesn't degrade?
Game- I CAN SELL YOU A SHINY NEW
LIGHTSABER LASER RAPIER FOR THE LOW LOW PRICE OF 12,480 UPGRADE MODULES!
(ten hours later)
Fabio- Ok I've saved up enough modules, now gimme the energy sword.
Game- YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE LATE GAME WITH ENEMIES NEARLY IMMUNE TO ENERGY WEAPONS! NOW PLEASE GO PICK UP SOME EGGS FROM THE STORE
Fabio- Oh for the love of fuck, screw this. Just have my character shoot himself.
Game- YOUR PISTOL IS BROKEN