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System Shock 2 (PC) by Brian and James Puckett

Looking Glass Studios

Overrall Score - 9

One of the top ten of all time is back.

           You probably have already heard this before. System Shock 2 OWNS. It is among the best 3D shooters/RPG's ever. It is one of the best PC games ever. I will go out on a limb and say that, after the patches, it is as good as Half Life, if you only compare single player modes.

           This is THE scariest game ever. If you were scared by Resident Evil, stay away, the zombies of RE popping through a door or window now and then donít hold a candle to the monsters of System Shock 2 stalking you through the dark corridors of abandoned spacecraft that falls apart all around you. And the psychic power blasting monkeys are pretty damned nasty, too.

            In SS2 you play a soldier from one of the three military factions: OSA, Navy, or Marines. The OSA are powerful psionicists, the Navy guys are the jacks-of-all-trades, and the marines are, well, grunts. On your fourth year of training, you are assigned to the first faster-than-light spaceship, the Von Braun, a joint effort between the UNN and Trioptimum.  Five months later, and 67 trillion miles from earth, you awake from cryo-sleep to find a cybernetic interface implanted in you, most of your memory gone, and almost everyone on the ship dead.  Fortunately, a Dr. Polito is alive on Deck 4, and can guide you through your task of finding out what exactly has happened.

            System Shock 2 combines action, role-playing, and puzzle-solving into a beautifully horrific game.  It's one of the few games where, even though you can save anywhere you want, you are actually afraid to die.

            The graphics are great.  They're not incredible, running on the somewhat weak Dark Engine last seen in "Thief", but the level design and ambience more than makes up for it.  The lighting is also exceptionally good, and it creates an atmosphere of technological chaos. The graphics do have some nasty faults though. The enemies are trademark Looking Glass models: Oddly shaped heads, knobby hands, and really, really odd movement animations. You also get some crappy low-res cutscenes. Why game manufacturers blow all that money for rendered cutscenes only to have them more pixilated than old .mpegís makes no sense to us. Get with the picture folks.

            The sound for the game was well done, but unfortunately it uses the inferior EAX API and not A3D, which makes it easy to distinguish sounds from the sides, but not from anywhere else. The voice-overs are standard video game fare: nice in places, bad in other, need work overall. The music is well done, but at times the throbbing techno beats seems inappropriate.

            The controls for the game, once customized, are incredible.  I wish all good RPGs were this easy to control.  Combat plays like a perfect blend of Quake and Metal Gear. Being able to lean around corners is something that ALL first person shooters in development need to implement now. I canít say how many times I have peeked around my monitor when I desperately needed to look around a corner, which System Shock 2 makes incredibly easy.

The way the role-playing elements affect combat are something I wish to see more of. Weapons break, security systems can be hacked, and those worms you see swimming around in each other on the floor can actually be used as ammo for some weapons. Using weapons, items, and objects requires skills, which are learned while earning cyberunits to get upgrades during the game. The skills work well, but it gets a little annoying when you canít use a gun just because you donít have the skill. Any idiot can bust a few caps out of a 9mm, he might just not hit anything. The guns also degrade far too quickly, if real guns would fall apart that fast the world would be a much better place. Fortunately this has been fixed via patches, which makes the game much more enjoyable for the somewhat less hardcore players.

            The plot is complex and intriguing, the atmosphere is eerie and immersive, and no sooner do you get used to nothing happening than something jumps out at you and scares the... well, just don't play much before bed if you plan on sleeping well at night.

            The original was wonderful, and the sequel is even better.  It seems System Shock 2 has a place in the top ten games of all time, and we can only hope to see more down the line. You are really missing out if you donít buy this game.

            On a side note, when you're in training, and you begin your third year, before you do anything else, walk up to the window to your left and just watch for a minute.

Trust us on this one.



Copyright stuff: The phrase "World Gamer's Front" as well as this site and all of the content contained within is copyright 1999 James Puckett, unless it is a copyright already held by someone else. Authors other than James Puckett retain the copyright to their work.