System Shock 2

  • Posted on
  • by
  • in

After Doom and Quake, I pretty much left the PC and filled my FPS-itch with Marathon and its sequels on the Mac. In recent years, though, it became economical to build a cheap PC that could play late-90s/early '00s PC games just fine, and those games are often available in cheap bundles. So in between Wii sessions I've been fitting in some recent-retro-gaming. The hoopla over Bioshock got me interested in that development team's earlier games: System Shock and System Shock 2. I couldn't get SS to run past the first room, but SS2 ran just fine once I found a magical config file setting on a forum somewhere.

SS2 has two things going for it: it's got a good story that unrolls steadily through the whole game and it's almost frustratingly hard. I mean, your freakin' laser pistol falls apart every 10 times you shoot it!* It's also frightfully flexible in terms of how your character develops -- you can be a shoot-everything marine or a smarty-pants tech or a creepy-brain psionics guy, or you can try and mix and match skills from all three areas as get get "cyber" upgrades. I probably didn't take proper advantage of the subtleties of this system, and I'm sure that hurt me as I moved into the last section of the game (more on that in just a moment). The oddest part of the game is right at the beginning when you go through 3 years of training in the Space Navy**, where each year is represented by walking through a shuttle bay door, watching a loading screen, and then reading a little story about what happened on that tour of duty.

So in the last section of the game you go out into the big biomass that's glommed onto your spaceship*** and the game goes from hard to really-freaking-hard. Hard enough that I kinda stalled out on the game a few months ago. But I still wanted to see how the story ended, so last night I cheated. (I felt better about myself when, in the course of searching for these cheat codes, I read someone else's account of "I only made it through the end of the game by using cheat codes.") Even all god-moded up, there were some jumping puzzles and such that took me a while to get through.

FuzzyCo grade: B+

* I exaggerate. Slightly.
** Or whatever it was called.
*** Do I need to shout SPOILER for an eight year-old game?