Evil Avatar  

Go Back   Evil Avatar > Daily Gaming News > In-House Content

» Sponsored Links

» Recent Threads
Luigiís Mansion 3...
Last post by brandonjclark
Today 09:25 PM
2 Replies, 79 Views
Game & Movie Releases...
Last post by TheHulk
Today 07:13 PM
3 Replies, 301 Views
The King's Man Teaser...
Last post by Kreigmstr
Today 03:44 PM
11 Replies, 694 Views
Spider-Man Swings into...
Last post by LostToys
Today 11:04 AM
6 Replies, 532 Views
Borderlands 3 So Happy...
Last post by BenSkywlkr
Today 08:12 AM
11 Replies, 607 Views
First look at Roach in...
Last post by shadow763
Today 05:36 AM
4 Replies, 605 Views
Gears 5 Versus...
Last post by Evil Avatar
Yesterday 05:43 PM
1 Replies, 321 Views
Weekend Headbanger -...
Last post by BeardedSonOfNel
Yesterday 05:59 AM
17 Replies, 848 Views
Thread Tools
Old 08-21-2007, 06:30 AM   #1
Fear the Screaming Moist
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 2,915
[Soft Reset] - System Shock 2 - PC

Since its release in August of 1999, System Shock 2 has remained at the top of many PC game Best Of lists. It is incredibly innovative in its execution and design as well as an influence behind many of the FPS titles we play today. It took a genre flooded by Doom clones and turned it on its head. Introducing the RPG elements of classes, skills and player determined character statistics into a FPS was considered by many an act of heresy. FPS were about running and gunning, not moving quietly down corridors, researching technology and being scared out of your wits by nothing more than the atmosphere of the level you were in. System Shock 2, along with Thief, slowed down the FPS arena and helped reinvent it.


In case the rock you live under doesn’t get the Intertron, System Shock 2 is a science fiction title that takes place in the year 2114, forty-two years after the events in System Shock. While it is a direct sequel, System Shock 2 does not require you to play its predecessor as the game will fill you in on the details of the first game through cut scenes and gameplay elements.

After some brief training and class selection, you are shuttled aboard the space vessel UNN Von Braun on its maiden voyage of faster-than-light travel. Accompanying the Von Braun is the military vessel, Rickenbacker. The story kicks into gear as you awake from cryo-sleep five months early and, of course, everything has gone to hell. You find that during your sleep, a Dr. Janice Polito has augmented your already formidable skills with experimental cybernetic enhancements. Following the audio guidance of Dr. Polito and recordings on PDAs scattered about the ship, you are immediately tossed into action and must not only survive but figure out what has happened to both ships and their crews.

Graphics & Sound

System Shock 2 was built solely on the Dark Engine so the character models and animations will be very familiar to those who have played Thief (the first game to use the Dark Engine). There are various mods you can install to upgrade the graphics beyond its very geometric characters but the game is best played in its raw, original state. System Shock 2 has more visceral quality to it when played with the designer’s graphical vision. One thing the Dark Engine does very well, even with blocky models, is convey absolute terror in the faces of its characters. The pained looks of shock, revulsion and encompassing terror on the bodies and NPCs you meet is some of the best work I’ve ever seen in any title. The environments of the Von Braun and the Rickenbacker are incredibly detailed and really immerse you in the claustrophobic atmosphere of space travel.

Much like the 2001 horror FPS, Clive Barker’s Undying, System Shock 2 drowns you in audio terror. The crackling, despair filled audio logs that help unfold the story, the cries and mutterings of The Many as they search for you and the bass rumble of the ship constantly reinforce that you are alone and surrounded by a malevolent presence.


As with any PC title, you can custom configure your key bindings to whatever suits you best but there are many more keys here to configure than your average shooter. Inventory, weapon cycle, weapon setting (single fire, three round burst, etc.) psionic power (although if you don’t specialize or even use these skills you can ignore binding keys for them), reload, ammo type (armor piercing, anti-personal or standard), various health hypos (health, radiation, psi boost, etc.) are all keys you will have to become very familiar with.

Many of those actions can be taken inside the Multi Function Display or MFD. The MFD is your inventory screen and you need to remember one thing: when you pull up your inventory screen in System Shock 2 the game does not pause. There were many times I either died or took severe damage because I was fiddling around in my inventory. One of The Many would happen to come shambling around a corner and unloaded a shotgun in my face. While on the subject of inventory, the MFD uses a drag and drop feature marred only by the lack of an auto organize button. The size of your inventory is also affected by your Strength. So you Navy or Psionic folks might have to worry more about inventory management than the brawny Marines.

You also have the ability to lean left/right and forward (thank you, Thief!), crouch toggle, jump and creep. Leaning forward is one action that is overlooked by most designers when building a FPS (here’s your hint to put it back in, developers!). I also find myself rarely using the creep function as crouching does the same thing and presents a smaller target to your enemy during a fire fight.

Items you can interact with in the game are always highlighted by light green brackets when you are close enough and looking at them. If it is something you can use in inventory it will be automatically put there (if you have the room) but if it is just scenery it will hover in front of you waiting for you to drop it or move it.


The player, that’s you, starts out as a recruit on his (sorry ladies, you gotta play a man in this one) first day at the UNN (United National Nominate) Recruiting Center. You have the option of choosing from three main classes (here begin the RPG elements): Marines (weapon focused), Navy (technical skills) or OSA (psionic powers). Once you choose your main class you set out on a three year tour of duty with yearly assignments at different outposts in order to hone your skills. As you stand in front of four, one year choices for each of your tour’s posts you will be given an audio description of the area you are headed to as well as a text representation of which skills are improved. Make this choice three times and you now have your starting skill set for the game.

Don’t worry if you weren’t able to bump up a skill as much as you would like in the training. During the course of the entire game you will find, and be given, cybernetic modules that allow you to upgrade your Stats, Tech, Combat and Psi skills. It is basically a Choose Your Own Adventure type of RPG. Did you start out as a Marine but want to up your psionic skills enough to gain a Psycho-Reflective Aura? No problem! Just add points to the psi skills and you’ll be there in no time. Tired of losing too many nanites (in-game currency) as you try to hack open a box? Dump some cyber modules into the hack skill and you’ll soon be saving money!

One of the few complaints some gamers have with System Shock 2 is the aspect of weapon degradation. Much like real life, your weapons deteriorate with use except for your ever present melee weapon, the monkey wrench. Some people complained that the weapons degraded too fast which prompted Looking Glass to release a patch that allowed scaling of the weardown or even turning it off altogether. I’ve never had a problem with it, though, as it’s an RPG element I enjoy. Every weapon has a status represented by the numbers 1-10, with 10 being the best. As you use it, the number will go down. There are repair modules you find and can buy at vending machines that will repair your armaments. What amount each module repairs depends on your Maintenance skill while your ability to fix broken or jammed weapons depends on your repair skill. There are also software upgrades you can find that give bonuses to Repair (as well Hack, Research and Modify) but they will not help you meet any minimum skill requirements. I’ve found in numerous play throughs that the Repair skill is rather unnecessary. You will find or buy enough repair kits to keep your weapons in working condition. That should not stop you from picking up and unloading every weapon you find as ammo can run out quickly if you try and run’n’gun.

Don’t be fooled by talk of “ammo” and “unloading” as there are Energy and Exotic (organic) weapons to be found around the Von Braun and Rickenbacker. Just remember, you’ll have to meet basic skill requirements to use them, though. And, of course, if you are completely focused on Psionic powers, handheld weapons are but a piddling tool of the weak minded.

Speaking of Psionics, it is one area of the game that demands total dedication to completely master it. There are five Psionic Tiers each with eight skills for a total of forty powers. For those willing, however, this skill tree is devastating. Basic pyrokinesis and shields to fantastic charm and teleportation abilities add almost god-like powers to your arsenal. You don’t have to master the entire tree; however, as even using a few skills can reduce weapon kickback, regenerate health or show the location of useful items nearby.

On the technical side of things, the most useful skill to have is Hack. Hacking can do everything from opening locked storage rooms and making the vendor machines sell you items at lower prices to shutting off surveillance cameras and remote sentry guns. With upgrades, you can hack quicker (as the game doesn’t pause during the hacking process) and have a better chance of not screwing it up and setting off ship wide alarms. There are a few auto hack tools called ICE Picks scattered throughout the game but they are so few and far between you’re better off upping your skill with cyber modules.

You can also put skill points into Modify (changing the nature of your weapons for less recoil, bigger magazine capacity, etc.), and Research. The Research skill is beneficial because when you kill the mutations of The Many, the biological entity that has taken over the ship and the one you are fighting for your life against, they will sometimes drop bits of their carcass. You can pick up those bits and, using chemicals found in different store rooms throughout the ship, research them and gain killing bonuses. Research will also be needed when you find Exotic weapons as you’ll need to figure out what they are.

Those are really the basics of the skills and even though I’ve written a lot on them, I have only scratched the surface. The basic idea is this: through the skills and cyber modules you can customize gameplay to suit your desires. This results in an amazing replay value.

I’ve mentioned The Many several times without going into detail. The Many is the biological entity that has taken over the Von Braun and Rickenbacker. Think of it as a hive mind, if you will. Much like the Alien species that Sigourney Weaver is fond of killing, The Many start out as egg born creatures. When they hatch and take over a human victim they don’t kill them; they mutate them into whatever form is needed by The Many. The most prolific front line soldier you’ll fight is the Hybrid. Wielding pipes and shotguns, these zombie like creatures roam the ship’s halls, groaning and muttering to themselves. One of the creepiest and twisted PC game monsters I’ve ever come up against is the Cyborg Midwife. I won’t tell you how they come about but when you hear, down a hallway, “Mommy is hungry!” be afraid…be very afraid.

The Many are also assisted by Xerxes, the shipboard AI. Why is that bad guys, be they human or computer, always sound all the more sinister with an English accent? Perhaps the Brits feel the same way about an American accent, I suppose. Anyway, Xerxes is responsible for running the security cameras and sentry guns that are constantly keeping a look out for you. He’s also the reason you are running all over the ship trying to override his commands that keep certain doors locked, elevators not working or hatches sealed.

One of the great gameplay features of System Shock 2 is the fact that it’s not linear. By that, I mean you aren’t running from Point A to Point B to Point C. Since you are in a space craft you will do a lot of doubling back, going to rooms that were previously locked, picking up chemicals from the various store rooms, going back to Medical for that vending machine that had a perfect price on Med Hypos. It is a very rare occurrence that you could not run from practically the last room of the storyline all the way back to the very first room you started the game in. A bit of warning, though: don’t think you will always be alone in rooms you previously thought empty.

There are loading zones between decks and certain sections of the ship but otherwise the areas you explore are large. You won’t be stopped by a loading screen every time you open a door although, at some point in the game, you will welcome those screens as a short break in the constant terror and paranoia.

Gunny’s Recommendation

Irrational and Looking Glass Studios managed to completely and perfectly achieve a state of claustrophobic, interstellar horror within the confines of your PC monitor and speakers. There is no other game that so completely engulfs you in the knowledge that you are alone, you will be alone and, if you’re not careful, you will die alone. I’ve yet to find a game on PC or console, other than System Shock 2, which completely captures the frenetic, terrifying and unknown horror that was achieved on the big screen in the movie, Alien. There are times where you may feel like Ripley aboard the Nostromo during your stint on the Von Braun. Only you aren’t fighting one alien; you’re fighting the mutated remnants of your crew mates, the twisted mind of Xerxes and an organic monstrosity almost impossible to comprehend.


Where to Buy It

eBay is probably your best source with prices ranging from $9.99 to $31.99 and Half.com is running prices of $38.99 and up. Pick your poison.

Fun Factor

Five out of Five putrescent, bleeding Evil Eyes

Official Site
There is no official System Shock 2 site anymore but the link above is your best resource with links to many other fan sites.


GunnyMo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 06:39 AM   #2
Banned - Am not!
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 2,360
Awesome review once again Gunny!

I love how you remind us of the old before we get into the new. Now I have an urge to play System Shock 2 after I'm done with Bioshock.
NoName is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 06:45 AM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Reading, UK
Posts: 31
Excellent work giving an in depth review without any spoilers for anyone who hasn't played it yet.

It's still one of my all-time top-5 games. And I'm not sure what the other 4 are.
"It's magic, we don't have to explain it."
- JoeQ. The man who killed Spider-Man.

MungMung is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 06:48 AM   #4
Evil Dead
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 471
This should be on steam along with SS1.
LarsenNET is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 06:50 AM   #5
buxom, flying monkey-cows
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: cincinnati
Posts: 520
Fantastic work, sir. Having never really been much of a PC gamer this is one of those games that I always regretted missing. Between your review and the GF always telling me how great this game is, I will have to find this and play it.
nnanji is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 06:52 AM   #6
By Baldur's Butt-Light!
Spigot's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Oh Canada!
Posts: 9,267
I've started SS2 several times but have never played it to completion.

Something I am going to remedy as soon as possible this fall/winter.
"This computer is so slow that I'm having framerate issues with Dwarf Fortress!"
- Me at my in-laws.

PSN: Spigotsan
Gamertag: Guboo
Spigot is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 06:58 AM   #7
Evil Dead
Blog's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,557
Great review, Gunny. I just finished yet another play through last week in anticipation of BioShock. I'd highly recommend this game to anyone who likes a bit of depth in their FPS games.
Blog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 07:00 AM   #8
Natural 20's only!
Telefrog's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Lakewood, WA
Posts: 4,918
Very cool. It was one of the scariest and effective games I've ever played.
Congratulations. You're boned.
GamerTag: Telefrog
ZuneCard: Telefrog
Telefrog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 07:05 AM   #9
Fear the Screaming Moist
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 2,915
Wow, thanks for the great response! Heh, I've never sweat over a review like I did this one. There's so much in the game that I wanted to cover as much as possible without giving away anything and yet not miss anything. lol I have to give props to Kef for helping out with the final edit.

I still think that my great grandma thought I was working at a porn shop until I told her it was security. - re: to working at Wackenhut Security cppcrusader

Humbled beyond words.
GunnyMo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 07:06 AM   #10
Fear the Screaming Moist
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 2,915
Originally Posted by nnanji View Post
Fantastic work, sir. Having never really been much of a PC gamer this is one of those games that I always regretted missing. Between your review and the GF always telling me how great this game is, I will have to find this and play it.
I have a copy, you dingus.

Oh, and you may come over today and watch me play BioShock.
I still think that my great grandma thought I was working at a porn shop until I told her it was security. - re: to working at Wackenhut Security cppcrusader

Humbled beyond words.
GunnyMo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 07:10 AM   #11
Evil Dead
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: East Bay, CA
Posts: 3,196
This review reminds me that I've never played through the game as a really (really) psi-ops heavy player. I should try that someday.
Live: digitalErich / Wii: 2546-4001-2340-7949 / PS3: digitalErich / Steam: digitalErich
digitalErich is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 07:45 AM   #12
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: DeBary, FL
Posts: 1,880
Gunny! You should have played it with the enhanced texture & model packs installed. It really helps the game entirely... Unless you were going with a straight original version review.
Voodoo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 08:14 AM   #13
Posts: n/a
Well timed that man, well timed I say!
  Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 08:16 AM   #14
Evil Dead
Scramble's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Bendigo, Aus
Posts: 558
Brilliant review Gunny! 1up will be recruiting you in no time :P
I did notice you forgot to mention one of the best aspects of this game.....


I've only ever played it 2-player, but believe me, it really adds to the atmosphere when you have someone else around helping you out. And the urgency when your friend goes ahead into another room, runs back out and yells "SHIT! HYBRIDS!", really, really nerve wracking!
Gamertag: Scrambl3
R.I.P Xbox 360#1. 6/9/07

PS3 Network:Pocklegreuse
Scramble is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 08:20 AM   #15
is actually Simon Pegg.
UWCrash's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 209
Great review!

If someone ever had the gall to ask me what my favorite game was, I'd say SS2 hands down. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know exactly where ever one of those screenshots was take.
That's not a plan, it's a Looney Tune.

Gamertag: UW Crash
PS3 ID: UWCrash
UWCrash is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 10:22 AM   #16
Robot Chlamydia
PathMaster's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Adirondacks
Posts: 1,467
I really need to install and play this.
PathMaster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 10:38 AM   #17
Adam Blue
Adam Blue's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Bedford, Tx
Posts: 3,079
Playing the Bioshock demo, it really didn't have the SS2 feel to it. Maybe it's not supposed to, but it's what I was expecting.

BTW, nice review Gunny.
Gamer Tag: Adam Blue | PSN ID: Bluegamer | XFire/Steam ID: adamblue
Adam Blue is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 12:12 PM   #18
kid cabelgo
cuttin' muffins!
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Sacramento
Posts: 864
Great review. I actually just finished playing through the game myself. It's one of my favorite games of all times, and I've played it a dozen times, but for some reason I've never finished it. I always got to a point where I ran out of ammo and just got so scared that I couldn't go back to it. Finally beat it this time though. What an amazing game.
Gamertag: kid cabelgo
My Halo 3 Profile

Originally Posted by Dr.Finger
The machive is filled with dugs.
kid cabelgo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 02:47 PM   #19
Occasional Lurker
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Posts: 1,463
Might be a good place to link to all the mods and patches that are currently available. Sadly, due to gross incompetence, I wasn't able to find any.

Great game, I just remember having my ass handed to me at one point and moving on to something else instead. I think that the game will see a bit of a resurgence thanks to BioShock, and hopefully EA will actually put together a worthwhile sequel.
Philonious is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2007, 04:06 PM   #20
Citizen Erased
Dread Lord
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Hobart, Australia
Posts: 50
Originally Posted by Voodoo View Post
Gunny! You should have played it with the enhanced texture & model packs installed. It really helps the game entirely... Unless you were going with a straight original version review.
I hear this mentioned a fair bit, but when I last replayed SS2 (probably 2-3 years ago) I installed some enhanced graphics packs and ended up removing them pretty quickly because I found the new models look out of place compared to the environment. I don't know if much has changed since then (or if there were environment texture packs out that I missed), but just because you can make some aspects of the game look better doesn't
mean you have to or that it's better to do so.
Citizen Erased is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 11:43 PM.