How did you react to System Shock?

By Shamus
on Sep 10, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games

In my earlier post on art games, Juni asked, “Shamus… you don’t have System Shock on your list?”

I’m looking at the settings and I can’t find the option to enable trifiltering bump maps.
I’m looking at the settings and I can’t find the option to enable trifiltering bump maps.
In my mind there are three games that encompass the great “thinking person’s shooters”: System Shock, Deus Ex, and Thief. Two of those came from Looking Glass Studios. All three were designed or produced in some way by Warren Spector. Other people might include Hitman or Max Payne in that category, but this is my list and these games have a sort of kinship with one another.

My entire perception of the System Shock series is pretty warped, and I get the impression it didn’t resonate with other people the way it did for me. Thief and Deus Ex are worthy titles, but they pale in comparison to System Shock 2. But judging by comments people leave here (and the fact that Thief and Deus Ex live on) I’d guess that this relationship is inverted for most people.

In 1994, these sloped surfaces BLEW MY MIND.
In 1994, these sloped surfaces BLEW MY MIND.
And no, I don’t really see BioShock as System Shock 3. Max Payne was a great game, but I never would have accepted it as a sequel to Duke Nukem. This is actually another indication to me that the things I loved about the System Shock series were different from what everyone else loved. Anyone that can call BioShock a “spiritual successor” to System Shock has a radically different idea about what exactly was the “spirit” of the thing. For me the defining characteristics of System Shock were: Cyberpunk, RPG leveling, huge freeform non-linear gameworld, electronic soundtrack, pervasive solitude, and tightly controlled resource management.

The original System Shock has not aged well at all. The interface is grotesque by modern standards, and its eccentricities really detract from the experience. The story appealed to me on some deep personal level, but was it really all that great? Rogue AI gets loose, kills everyone. Lone survivor must fight the evil AI. It was certainly the right story at the right time. It constructed so as to not need dialog trees, or in-game cutscenes, or any of the other things games did poorly (if at all) in 1994. But the story itself isn’t exactly radical. I’ve begun to suspect that the best parts of the plot were the bits I was filling in myself as I played.

The ending cutscene / montage of the original game.  This is your reward for 60 hours of death and struggle. Savor it.
The ending cutscene / montage of the original game. This is your reward for 60 hours of death and struggle. Savor it.
System Shock 2 was far, far superior in terms of interface and gameplay, but the story suffered from a bad case of plot extension. The first game had wrapped things up and killed off the defining characters. The sequel tried to bring them back. It was a bit like how Fallout 3 kept waving old characters in our faces to establish its Fallout cred. The game dug up your nemesis, thus undoing your accomplishments in the first game. Then it let you kill her again. Then it undid your work again, leaving a cliffhanger that is never going to be resolved.

The franchise is in perpetual legal limbo, and given the success of BioShock I don’t see why anyone would go to the expense and trouble of rounding up the rights to the thing and bringing it back. And even if someone did, the story would suffer even more as Shodan becomes the Jason Voorhees of software bugs. Plot contrivances would make her unstoppable in the most dull and predictable way: Sequel fiat.

If the game did somehow emerge from the abyss, I’d hope for several things:

1) Keep the depth of System Shock 2. Resident Evil 4 proved you could have decent space-driven inventory management on a console. People even liked it. Stop assuming console gamers are drooling morons. They’re pretty much like PC gamers, except they have less buttons. Keep the leveling, the looting, the researching of items.

2) Reboot the story. Don’t cheapen the tale by gluing another extension onto System Shock 2.

3) Show Citadel station pre-disaster. Much like the start of Half-Life 2, let the player wander around and get to know the world and the controls before the shooting starts. Make Hacker silent like Gordon Freeman, so that the player is free to fill in their character as they see fit. The original story calls for Hacker to be a prisoner at this point, so going where you’re told and not speaking are perfectly appropriate. During this time have the player meet five or six key characters, and get a glimpse of a few others. That way the messages they find will have meaning. It will be more shocking to see the station ruined if they have seen it whole.

4) Big. Non-linear. Or don’t bother.

I know it seems like I’m incapable of shutting up about this game. I am afraid this is probably true. Really, I’d still be playing System Shock 2 right now if I could get the sucker to run.

Still, if you played the Great Three: Is System Shock the runt of the litter? Which one do you favor?

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  1. Dustin N. says:

    Sadly, I never had the chance to play the original System Shock. By the time I played SS2, System Shock was unplayable in whatever version of Windows I was running. I actually have a copy of the game on CD-ROM, but haven’t ever gotten it to run on a modern system (modern being WinXP). My first real experience with System Shock was reading your novel, Shamus, and can’t imagine the original game would do my expectations justice.

    Of the big three, the first one I played was Thief. System Shock 2 is one of the few games I have played through at least 4 or 5 times (had to pay through as all three classes). System Shock 2 has defined me (spoiled me?) as a gamer though. As a result, when I play through other games where resources are ‘scarce’ such as BioShock or Fallout 3, by the end of the game I am a walking ammunition bank. I remember ammo being so sparse in SS2 and having to make every shot count. Thief really was the same way too, but it didn’t really have the scare factor that SS2 had (has). There was a different kind of fear that Thief was playing on you, the fear of being caught or found. SS2 had the same fear, but with much more dire consequences. I still remember vividly sneaking around in the cargo bays where all the psionic monkeys were loose, hearing their calls and dreading every single step I took in that darkened warehouse. The only moment that had that same feel for me in Thief was when you were sneaking through the haunted Hammer Cathedral (a good moment, nonetheless).

    I’d rate SS2 at the top, followed by my reading of Free Radical, then Thief.

    P.S. Speaking of ammo in SS2, have ANY games since it used multiple ammunition types like it did? That made for some frantic gun-fights, after running out of armor piercing rounds and having to finish off a robotic foe using standard bullets. Frikkin’ genius!

    • Gilf says:

      I have both games, and System Shock 2 will actually run on my computer (albeit with no sound, so I dunno if you can call it ‘running’ when you don’t get to hear anything). I found that some people worked on some sort of old-Windows emulator, and that can make the first game run if you jump through enough hoops.

      Still, I played both games from the sadly disillusioned (but somehow still very ignorant) viewpoint of a 14-15 year old in the late 2000’s. The lack of graphics didn’t bother me any more than in Pokemon or even Angband. I found them exceptional, thought-provoking, and overall quite amazing. In fact, the second game showed me something I had never seen before in my 15 years of life: a limited and changing inventory in first-person. Seriously, this sort of thing is unthinkable to those of us raised on FF VII and Halo.

      I actually feel more privileged than Shamus on this one, simply because I have shittier things to compare it to. The longer the game industry runs, the more shit it will turn out (as the shit to awesome ratio stands somewhere at 5:1, at best), and the better the currently good stuff will seem. My only hope is that, with all the great ideas and all the things that could have been great, but failed miserably, I can put all of this to my advantage.

      A fresh mind is always welcome. A fresh game designer, with love for old and new alike, could hopefully produce something great. I may not be as intelligent or introspective as Shamus, nor will I claim to have anything remotely near his work ethic. But I damn well hope to see more improvement on older ideas, and I’m going to do my hardest to bring that about myself.

      There was no point in reading all of that, by the way. I just wanted to type out everything that came to mind while reading this. Welcome to my world: rambling thoughts, long and windy mental road, no meaningful destination. All aboard.

  2. Jericho says:

    System Shock 2 was a pretty awesome game, for the most part, though I had some issues with it. The alien stuff at the end was boring, I never even finished the game, though wandering the halls of the ship was great fun and very memorable.

    I wouldn’t really call it non-linear either, as you had too go through the floors in a certain order (unless my memory fails. It has been a few years).

    As for Bioshock, I actually like the Steampunk better, but maybe because the Cyberpunk feel seemed aged when I first played SS2 a few years ago.

    Still, SS2 was a great game.

    • Shamus says:

      Jerico: I was thinking of the original when I was making the case for non-linear. Once you got off of level 1, you really could move around on the ship. It was incredibly dangerous to do so, but the feedom is there.

      SS2 has a little freedom. Many levels form a loop, or a few loops, and you can take the loop in either direction. It’s not bad at creating the illusion of having lots of choices, although the second time through the game you realize you didn’t have quite as much freedom as you thought.

  3. Matt K says:

    I loved Deus Ex best but then again I played it first. What I loved best about it was the variety of ways an objective could be finished. Each level had multiple routes which catered to different play styles. Really that was the reason I played. I could swim in or sneak through the ducts or go in the front door and still miss a few other possibilites.

    What DE2 killed for me though was my love of picking up a nearby rocket launcher, firing and then dropping it again for my prefered weapons. My character had no skill with rockets (and no inventory room) but if I found a launcher I would atleast make use of it there and then. Oh and my prefered style was sniping with tranc darts with worked great in DE1 but by the end of 2 became impossible (without warning).

    SS2 I loved for the crampped “Oh Crap” feeling it had. I did more (like adding research or Psi powers) but Deus Ex had a level of polish on what it actually did. For me though these are games that have common features but do such totally different things that I can’t really compare them properly (especially with SS2 having more of a Metriod/Castlevania roaming option where DE1 was more free roaming but never returning).

    That said I wouldn’t classify either as art per se. All three have artistic points (as do all other gamnes, even say Violet Assasin) but I wouldn’t classify them as being works of art. For that I feel the game has to hit on all cylinders, the controls, the story, the visuals all have to mesh. Then again, I have a difficult time actually expressing the criteria I have for a game to be “art” but lets just say there are few games that merit. Not to knock any game because there are ones I love a lot that I would say aren’t art and one I never finished that I would say is art (Shadows of the Collosus).

    EDIT: I miss Firefox’s spell checker and I really loath IE6 but that’s what I’m stuck with at work so sorry for the spelling mistakes.

  4. I really enjoyed Shock 1, and rather disliked Shock 2. I guess with the latter I had higher expectations – I played both last year and expected the sequel to be on, say, Deus Ex-level standards. I was kind of disgusted to see psionics enter the mythology of the story, hacking was a joke by comparison to SS1’s pretty cool cyberspace, and the protagonist was a far more unidentifiable person.

    Shock’s story to me was about “undo what you have done” a la Sands of Time, which is a really cool story in my book. While System Shock 2 had better NPCs (SHODAN’s expansion a character in particular, as Rock Paper Shotgun has expounded upon before) the first game put a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as the player character – it’s kind of your fault Citadel is a hell.

    Finally, what you say about non-linearity resounds pretty well for me, because System Shock along with Riven are the only games I’ve played that really had me believe I was inhabiting a space. Their consistency and intraconnectedness make their worlds a lot more believable. Riven had you see the other islands you’ve been to and will go to – Shock had the architecture of the citadel mirroring higher and lower floors, giving you a sense of the ship you’re on. Games have kind of lost that sense of space, and that really disappoints me.

    Ben

  5. Picador says:

    I don’t know how much has been written about the kinship of these three games, but it always struck me as pretty extreme. I played SS2, DX, and Thief 1+2 all within a year or two of each other, and while I loved them all, I thought it was bizarre how much they had in common.

    Deus Ex is practically a System Shock remake, IMO: it seems like every level has some element lifted from SS, from the computer hacking to the open-ended play options to the genetically-engineered space monkeys who shoot psychic bolts from their heads (seriously). Thief and SS2 both involve a lot of hiding from zombies in dark corners. All three involve a cyborg protagonist (Garret’s eye, remember?) who gets caught up in a conflict between a “technology” faction and a “biology” faction and has to defeat one or both, and the themes of technology/biology, order/chaos, oppression/anarchy are pretty close the surface in all three.

    I haven’t played Bioshock (and probably won’t, given the DRM situation), but I don’t get the sense that it had anything to do with the parts of SS2 that I liked.

  6. lebkin says:

    So for someone who has never really played either, is it worth going back and playing System Shock 1 or 2? Will the age of the games ruin the experience or will I actually still be able to appreciate them? I do still enjoy revisiting Thief and Deus Ex, if that helps illustrate my mindset by comparison.

    • Shamus says:

      lebkin: Technologically, SS2 stands roughly on par with Deus Ex. Except: It’s a devil to get running.

      And of System Shock, I’m not sure what to say. It’s incredibly rare, and like I said, the interface is ridiculous. I can’t honestly predict how playable it will be to a newcomer. (Although you should have no problems getting it to run with DosBox.)

      • Gilf says:

        Thank you, I was trying to remember what it was that got System Shock to run for me. I think I’ll go find that again; you’ve given me quite the itch to revisit good ol’ Citadel Station.

  7. Matt K says:

    I highly recomend going back and playing SS2 there are a few web sites that detail how to get it to run on XP or above. If you have a multicore processor things are a little tougher in that you have to tell the program to run on only one processor (but really it’s just a right click in the taskbar and your good).

  8. Zerotime says:

    If they really were going to reboot the franchise, I’d like to see them use that Shamus Young guy’s take on the story. The training level could be where the protagonist breaks into TriOptimum’s HQ!

  9. Dev Null says:

    Actually, I think SS would be close to my favorite of the three. I waffle, because I played each franchise separately from one another, and played all the sequels for SS and Thief pretty much back-to-back with the originals, so its hard to compare them to one another, and hard to keep the sequels separate in my head. But I particularly remember the tight resource control; walking around with the damn wrench visibly flinching from shadows, because I knew I had to save the 3 rounds of ammo I had left for something _big_.

  10. ccesarano says:

    When System Shock 1 came out my mind was being blown away by Final Fantasy 4 and Secret of Mana actually having stories and the 3-D gameplay of StarFox. By time System Shock 2 was released my attention shifted to Final Fantasy 7, Wild Arms and Final Fantasy Tactics (pretty much three of the four last breaths of JRPG’s as a golden genre). Deus Ex and Thief also managed to pass me by. The extent of PC games I had managed to play were the DOS Lord of the Rings games, MechWarrior 2, Masters of Orion 2 and watching my brother play a plethora of other strategy games. I never had a computer that could play these games, so when he returned from College I used his during the summers.

    I’ve always felt a bit bad about this, because I’ve had friends speak endlessly about how great System Shock 2 is. Oddly enough, they didn’t discuss the gameplay so much as the story. I always felt that maybe if I had played SS2 before Bioshock I would have been disappointed as well.

    Reading this entry, I’m actually relieved. I think instead I’ve got a more clear view of what Bioshock is. This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone speak negatively about System Shock 2’s story, and from what I’ve read of the gameplay, I don’t think Bioshock really is supposed to be viewed on the same level.

    While I love the gameplay of Bioshock, that’s not why it is one of my top games of all time. For me, it is the sheer fact that so many meanings and ideas are wrapped around inside of it. Levine didn’t intend for it to be a counter-argument to objectivism, but it certainly shows that it’s an ideal that can easily become corrupted or fall apart due to everyone’s expectations. Characters such as Tennenbaum seem to represent the Maternal Instinct to me, that no matter how logical, rational and, let’s face it, anti-feminine a woman manages to be, she still succumbs to this instinct embedded in every female by nature. When I think of Bioshock, I think of it as literature that you can write a term paper on.

    So thanks for this, because it has reassured me that my love of the game isn’t simply due to missing out on its “predecessor”, but is a genuine love for what it tries to accomplish.

  11. Kyrionus says:

    I played Thief first, but SS2 has to win out overall… The ammo scarcity and the speed at which your guns just break and jam mid combat (which tends to result in a very quick death) made it so scary compared to any other game. I tend to be a bit of a klepto in games, finishing things like Baldur’s Gate with characters weighed down with potions and scrolls that I’m never likely to use just in case there’s a rainy day ahead, but I still found I didn’t seem to have enough bullets and just had to resort to smacking midwives with a wrench (that sentence sounds bad…)

    Ignoring the dated graphics/gameplay, System Shock 2 is probably one of my top games in general (beaten by Daggerfall and Baldur’s Gate)

  12. Groboclown says:

    I don’t have too much to say on this topic, other than Doug the Eagle has ruined these games for me.

    http://www.it-he.org

    I love it.

  13. Neil says:

    Im going to go out on a limb here and say I wasn’t really thrilled with Deus Ex. I never played it when it was current with the technology, but I started it a few months ago and wasn’t impressed.
    There where good things about it, the story looked like it was going places, the RPG style advancement and multiple victory paths were all pretty cool, and inventory management was fine. However, little gameplay issues were what killed the experience for me.
    The the controls and the immediate interface is “meh” at best. The graphics weren’t that bad, but things like the flashlight only shining on one polygon hurt immersion for me. Having to hold the crosshairs on your intended target and track them in order for a gunshot to do anything hurt immersion as well. Little niggling faults like that, when I had out started playing games that where well advanced from Deus Ex, made going back and playing it challenging, and I never tried to go past the first level.
    I think Shamus has said before that, although story is critical to a great game, gameplay is what ultimately makes or breaks any game. Having not grown up with games like Deus Ex, Fallout 1&2, Planescape: Torment, my tolerance for gameplay and interface issues isn’t low enough to let me enjoy these kinds of games for the first time today.

  14. Bauglir says:

    This is a fairly useful guide that I’ve found for running System Shock 2. http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=69958

    Hopefully it’s useful for you, if you haven’t already seen it.

  15. Lalaland says:

    I’d vote for SS2 above the others, I played SS1 on a 386SX 25Mhz 4MB RAM so the experience was ‘sub-optimal’ shall we say but still awesome. The control issues were shocking though with the lean interface in particular is just about the worst implementation I’ve ever had the misfortune to use.

    I preferred SS2 for it’s better sense of place with the audio logs (the first game I remember them in but I’m open to correction) really driving home the feeling that this was a place where people lived, worked and played. In particular the log that deals with how they ‘saved the children’ chilled me to the bone in a way that few games since have managed.

    Thief 1 was excellent but it’s uneven wobblings into zombie bashing (that awful graveyard level) really annoyed me. I don’t appreciate a game that makes a great sneak ’em up suddenly asking me to pretend it’s an FPS with holy water arrows. Thief 2 I’ve never played (my PC lapsed for want of funds around this time) and Thief 3 was clearly another game altogether from the first two. I don’t think I even finished the demo once entering the first house triggered a level load I knew it wasn’t the game I had known and loved.

    Deus Ex 1 is the closest game to SS for me in it’s concept of 3 ways to accomplish any task. I’ve always wondered why RPG/FPS games failed to follow it’s lead and impose more of penalty for randomly swapping weapon classes. To the extent that there are any differences between weapon classes these days they tend to fall into the good-> awesome range rather than DE1 awful -> good -> awesome range. DE2 I never played as the postage stamp level design and painful gimping of the skills system made it clear I’d only spend my whole time regretting that it wasn’t DE1.

    Haven’t played Bioshock much, maybe 10-15% of the game, and I don’t see myself going back but I’ve been told that it gets better further on so maybe I should. It’s not SS3, and to be fair it isn’t trying to be, but that’s the game I wanted to play and to compare it to any of these classics is to do BS and them a disservice. BS is a slightly fancy FPS, astonishing if CoD or Halo is your reference point not so much when you have had the privilege of playing these titles.

    PS: Has anyone tried the SS2 rebirth pack? System Shock 2 Rebirth

  16. Sven says:

    It’s interesting to me to go back and read about other people who liked System Shock 2 as much as I did. Back in those days there wasn’t an internet to jump on and see what everybody was playing, it felt more isolated. When I stumbled across System Shock I felt that I’d truly discovered a gaming treasure. The same with System Shock 2.

    To read that other people were digging the game as much as I was is… well, interesting.

  17. Hirvox says:

    System Shock’s interface was too elaborate (crawling, crouching and leaning in the same control and no mouselook?) and there were some misplaced tidbits of technical brilliance (like realistic throwing physics) or entire sections (cyberspace) that didn’t really contribute to the game..

    ..but the atmosphere and the setting were brilliant. Things were in place that you expected them to be, and different locations had a purpose. And yes, a lot of the atmosphere was due to not showing everything. A few bodies and an apocalyptic log and the player was busy imagining the carnage that had taken place. And most of all, the storytelling didn’t seem forced. You could ignore the story if you wanted to, but SHODAN’s plans were progressing in the meantime, with or without you. Add in an automap, a selection of toggleable cybernetic implants and a variety of weapons, and you had an adventure that could be approached the way you wanted to.

    So yes, seeing System Shock on a then-brand-new Pentium 90MHz certainly left an impact. Together with Civilization, X-Wing/TIE Fighter and Command & Conquer, it felt like PC gaming was moving ahead in strides.

    Years later, I found the CD version in a bargain bin. Even with the increased-resolution graphics, it looked ugly and the controls were as clumsy as ever.. but after I had explored half of the first level I remembered why it had made such a big impact back in the day. It showed what FPS games could be, even above and beyond Doom, a gigantic leap forward in it’s own right.

  18. Darius says:

    I really loved all of those games, they each had subtly different things that appealed to me. I really liked running around in the futuristic cities of Deus Ex. I enjoyed the feeling of agility and power in Thief as I would climb into the rafters and look down on the oblivious guards below. I think the best though were the claustrophobic and isolated feelings I got from System Shock. I loved that the whole thing was one big area, that I could go back to the earlier levels if I wanted to. It made me feel like I was choosing where to go, and forging my own destiny, rather than just following the path that the game designers had chosen. I liked foraging for sub optimal equipment, and carefully conserving my ammunition. I liked having Shodan come on the PA system and insult me. I liked the interesting mix of available skills. I liked having to make decisions on what equipment to carry. I liked agonzing over a locked door, wondering what was on the other side, and wondering if it was worth the resources to get in. I liked discovering with shock and horror the variuous atrocities committed by the aliens and Shodan. I loved the feeling of complete and total isolation, there was no outside world, no outside help, nothing but you and your enemies.

    So, yeah, I’m on the SS2 bandwagon. I would love to see a sequal to that game, or even a true spiritual successor.

  19. Nihil says:

    Thief was the most polished and had the best atmosphere and the most original and fascinating setting. The gameplay was the most limited (only stealth), and the plot was essentially linear despite finding room for interesting characters and situations. Of the three, it’s the most focused in its intent and design, and I would award it the top spot for that reason.

    Deus Ex, conversely, allowed for a tremendous number of branching player paths (EXCEPT FOR HAVING TO SIDE WITH ***** AT THE CRITICAL POINT ARRRGH I STILL CAN’T FORGIVE THAT), and crossed straight through genres in a way that hasn’t been done since: it can play equally as well as Doom or Thief or Hitman. However, the world was more interesting for the obsessive amount of detail put into it than for its plot or characterisation – it’s a pretty bog-standard Twenty Minutes Into The Future with a Big Evil Governporation and Cool Cyber Shit.

    System Shock 2 (didn’t play 1) is sort of a hybrid. It has a laudable emphasis on pant-shitting atmosphere, and it lets the player engage in plenty of different tricks and gameplay styles. Ultimately, however, I must give it the bronze medal because I don’t think it is the *best* at anything. Yes, it’s scary, but putting fear aside I looked around and saw a dull space-station; whereas Thief would charm me with style and Deus Ex would gorge me in surprises. Yes, I’ve got several ways to get through the baddies, but they don’t vary as much as Deus Ex’s and aren’t as well-developed as Thief (<3 moss arrows).

  20. M. says:

    I’m going to deviate from conventional wisdom here…

    I liked SS2 when I first played it, but I’m less and less happy with it in comparison to SS1 the more time passes. SS2 suffered badly in the “build a coherent world” department; it was really just a jumble of disconnected levels, in comparison with the tightly designed and consistently laid out Citadel Station. There was also very little feel of player freedom, as [SPOILER] railroaded you through the game from start to finish. The player’s goals were unfocused, compared to the wonderful “oh god this is all my fault, I have to fix it” feeling in the first game. And the ending was just terrible.

    The only problem with SS1 really is that by now the 3D graphics are so primitive it’s very hard to get into it. If you want to try it, I recommend SYSTEMSHOCK-Portable which handles all the annoying fiddly little details for you.

  21. Adam Greenbrier says:

    I haven’t played System Shock, but I adore System Shock 2. Freed from the context of the first game, the story of System Shock 2 is actually one of its strongest points. If you haven’t encountered the characters previously, it doesn’t ever feel like a forced resurrection of dead characters; instead, SHODAN becomes not a former enemy but a bitter ally that could turn on you at any moment. Between SHODAN’s mocking, the voice of the Many speaking through its minions, and the audio logs of the survivors, System Shock 2 has one of the best and creepiest stories I’ve yet encountered in a video game.

    However, if I had to choose which of the three you mentioned—Thief, Deus Ex, and System Shock—was a better game, I’d have to pick Thief. It isn’t the superior experience, but it suffers from fewer issues. In both System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, there are terribly imbalances in the weapons and stats. For example, System Shock 2 is extremely difficult until you get the assault rifle, and then it becomes a cake walk.

  22. Thirith says:

    I’m one of the people who prefer the original System Shock to its sequel. There was a freshness to it, whereas the second game in the series felt a bit like a retread. It’s still one of my favourite games, mind you, but I think that Citadel Station has stayed with me more than the Rickenbacker and the Von Braun.

    Similarly, Deus Ex is a great game, but it’s far from perfect. Thief did stealth better, Half-Life did the shooting better, the storyline became too much of a “every conspiracy and the kitchen sink” for my tastes. They could have improved individual gameplay elements such as stealth and shooting by fine-tuning them IMO. Perhaps it’s also that I preferred the single-minded focus of Thief to Deus Ex‘ trademark sandbox approach. Again, though, Deus Ex is one of my favourite games, it’s just not as high up in my personal list as the others.

    Thief took me a while to appreciate, but by now I’d probably say it’s my favourite of the titles you mention. System Shock comes second, and Deus Ex shares third place with SS2.

  23. DosFreak says:

    For System Shock 2 Use:

    SS2 Kolya SS2Tool v2.7
    http://www.strangebedfellows.de/index.php/topic,392

    As for System Shock there is “System Shock Portable” on the same site. I won’t link to it for obvious reasons.

    You can also just load up DOSBox itself and play SS just in it. Just remember to download the patch to unlock the higher resolutions.

  24. Michael says:

    I don’t remember why exactly I got Thief, but for whatever reason, I managed to acquire it when it first came out and LOVED it. The supernatural stuff toward the end of the game kinda was disappointing as I preferred more of the stealing-from-noblemen gameplay. When the sequel came out, I ADORED it! More of what I loved and the story kept getting better and better.

    Then Thief 3. I managed to score a chance to be an off-the-street tester for it before it came out (lived in Austin at the time near the now-defunct developer). I was… worried. The environments were SO much smaller. The options given to me were SO few compared to the second. I ended up getting it but never played it through.

    Maybe I’ll pick up the third and play it through one day, now that I have a PC that can better handle it. At the time, the cramped environments, the stupid load times… totally turned me off. I have high hopes for the recently announced 4th in the series.

    I unfortunately never got a chance to play System Shock in either of its incarnations. I enjoyed BioShock, but perhaps if I had played the SSs I would have felt differently? (shrug)

    Deus Ex was awesome. I loved it nearly as much as Thief. And again, the sequel just turned me off in nearly every way.

  25. SoldierHawk says:

    DosFreak, I appreciate the pointing in the right direction. Both these games came on my radar far to late to play (I usually avoid FPSes, and had no idea what SS actually WAS), so this may be my chance to experience them for the first time.

    Shamus, please don’t shut up about SS. I think we all have one special game/series we can’t shut up about, and that’s okay. As long as you bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the discussion every time (which you always seem to), I will happily read about the SS series until the end of time. Makes me happy when people like you talk about things they love, rather than things they hate. (Not that a good rant isn’t warranted and appreciated much of the time, but that’s my personal preference anyway.)

  26. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Hmmm…

    Batman, System Shock, Batman, System Shock…

    I only have time for one game this weekend, and I don’t think a 15 year old piece of history can compete with the Goddamn Batman.

  27. Trianglehead says:

    DOSBox : http://www.dosbox.com/ will run the original System Shock. I just started playing it, so will give you a report when I’ve had some time with the game. I did get a little put off by the first time I went into the VR environment, but that was more an issue with graphics and the confusing lack of a manual. There really wasn’t any in-game training for the thing so I was more or less wandering aimlessly. I’ll have to see if I can’t dig up a PDF copy of the original manual.

  28. TA says:

    Have you tried Dead Space? I’d posit that as a real successor to the System Shock series, at least in the sense that Painkiller was a much better Doom 3 than Doom 3 was.

  29. chabuhi says:

    Not to derail the discussion (and I hope I’m somewhat on-topic), but I have gotten sucked back into KOTOR (thank you, Steam, for discovering my impulse-control-destroying price-point!) and I’m feeling a lot of what you’re describing about System Shock.

    I never played those games because, as I recall, they were too much akin to other games I was playing at the time. It seems that if I had played them, I would have found out they were much different, but on the surface they seemed to similar and so I passed. Anyway …

    I’m finding with KOTOR that the things I loved so much on the first pass are now horribly muted by what I now find to be aggravating about the gameplay. It’s hard for me to put a finger on exactly what I find so annoying, but confinement comes to mind for starters. Maybe it’s the fairly flat (imo) dialog trees. I dunno.

    I think I’ve become so accustomed to what more modern games are offering that I no longer have the patience for what now seems to be a clunky interface and stale interaction.

    But that’s just me. I’d try System Shock, but your technical caveats have turned me off of it again. Plus, there’s an upcoming release that is sure to vacuum away whatever’s left of my free time and/or life.

  30. Hal says:

    I’m afraid I only ever played Deus Ex, so anything I write from here on out is just going to be a mash note for JC Denton.

    That being said, the biggest thing I loved about Deus Ex was just how rich the game world was. Everywhere you went, there was information flowing at you. There were newspapers, data cubes, email (if you took up hacking), books, conversations to overhear . . . all of which gave you the impression of a full, visceral, detailed world. It was even optional, too, so you could complete the game quite easily without spending all that time getting enmeshed. I don’t know why you would, though; I long for games these days that have that same level of immersion.

  31. Robyrt says:

    Dead Space is clearly cribbing an awful lot from System Shock, down to the audio logs. Unfortunately, they put you on rails the whole time, there’s no decent villain, and you hit the level cap at about 30% through the game.

  32. MuonDecay says:

    SS2 is… difficult to run on XP but it can be done. There are some user-made resources out there for making it run on windows XP.

    There are even user-made meshes and models out there to bring the monsters up to newer graphical standards (basically: more polygons and larger textures) without changing their aesthetic.

    I haven’t gotten it to work well yet but it’s one of my favorite games and I’ll keep trying.

    I’ve heard rumors it’s possible on Vista with a virtual machine running Windows 95 or 97 but I can’t confirm that because I’ve avoided Vista like the plague.

  33. Bret says:

    I got two running fine on Vista.

    Only had to switch to a single core for running the program. Dual core and SHODAN don’t get along.

  34. Gothmog says:

    System Shock 2. Best of the three by leaps and bounds.

  35. Heron says:

    I’ve only played Thief once, and I never finished Deus Ex, but System Shock 2 remains one of my favorite gaming memories, perhaps because it’s one I did finish. (I’ve been “borrowing” the CD from my friend Nick for like eight years now…)

    I’ve tried four or five times over the last three years to get SS2 to run again. I must have tried every patch out there, followed every set of directions… nothing seems to work. I guess the universe is conspiring against me so that I can’t play it again.

    Anyway, I never played the first System Shock, so I didn’t notice any “resurrected” characters, and as such I quite enjoyed the story. The atmosphere was extremely immersive, and as others have mentioned, I have many memories of crawling through some hallway with my wrench in my trembling hands, hoping I wouldn’t have to whip out my almost-broken, almost-out-of-ammo pistol.

    As for BioShock, I bought it on Steam, and played through maybe half of it. At the time, I was playing it on minimum settings (640×480, all graphics turned to lowest quality), and it still looked pretty awesome, but as the areas got more complex my computer stopped handling it as well, so I stopped playing in frustration. I’ve bought a new computer since then, so maybe I’ll try it again… *Ahem* Anyway, I wouldn’t call it a successor to System Shock 2; I don’t think they have much in common other than occupying the same game genre (more or less).

  36. B.J. says:

    Speaking of old Looking Glass games, just yesterday I was playing Terra Nova, a game where you play a power-armored space marine with regenerating health. Gee, where have I seen that before…?

  37. Western Infidels says:

    I loved Thief and Deus Ex. I picked up System Shock and System Shock 2 cheap on Ebay because so many people said they were amazing.

    As you point out, the SS1 interface is a problem. I thought that making do without mouse-look might be tricky, but I was wrong; it was impossible. I gave up on it after an hour or so.

    I really thought I’d like SS2, with its updated interface, but that didn’t work for me either. It was frustrating that enemies could spawn indefinitely but my supply of exquisitely delicate defensive gear was finite. As I recall, there was a lot of sneaking, but no visibility gem, which was key to making Thief something more than a trial-and-error sort of affair. Still, the atmosphere was terrific, the maps were interesting, and I continued to pursue it for a couple of levels.

    It was a tiny, stupid detail that led me to shut it down and (so far) never play again. I alerted an infected crew member and watched from a hiding place while he searched for me. And I noticed that his character animation looked strangely familiar. He moved exactly like a guard in Thief, one hand held high and wide, as if brandishing an invisible sword. Somehow, this tiny bit of recycling caused all that great atmosphere to come crashing down around me, and I realized I was sitting alone in the dark in front of a big CRT.

  38. krellen says:

    System Shock is the only one I’ve played, and that was for the first time about two years ago. I loved it.

    My favourite bit was the elevators. The Musak interlude from the tense zombie-and-monster action of the rest of the levels made the whole thing work so much better for me. It was just that one subtle little “not so long ago, everything was fine” thing that really made it click.

  39. Dustin N. says:

    @Western Infidels

    Bwahahaha! I never noticed that about the infected crew members, how they are pretty much re-skinned guards from Thief. Makes sense tho, as SS2 was built on the Dark engine, which is what powered Thief (and both games from from Looking Glass). The one hand held high though… I thought they held pipes as melee weapons.

    I think if I noticed that when playing SS2 the immersion would have been a bit broken for me too.

  40. Mark says:

    Never played any System Shocks. I might be betraying my console roots here, but I never saw what was so great about space-based inventory management even in full-bearded RPGs. Isn’t that what we have Tetris for?

    Then again, far more intricate management subsystems have been utterly inoffensive to me, so what do I know.

  41. RedClyde says:

    Still waiting for GOG to put System Shock up for sale…

  42. Kdansky says:

    I never played the original, but System Shock 2 was one of the games for me. #1 Torment, #2 SS2, #3 Deus Ex, I think.
    I found a demo on a CD in some magazine, was instantly hooked by that first tiny part and then spent countless hours with it. I loved the atmosphere, the story, the characters (mostly dead), the leveling system, the constant paranoia, the inventory management (going back through half the ship to get some chemicals to research stuff was not pointless at all, as you explored a lot of space with a new toolset, gathering up secrets and information along the way) just about everything. The story is incredible for video-game standards if you don’t know a thing about the first game, as it stands on its own feats. The only time I really felt betrayed by a video game character (well, not technically true but those who have played it know which scene I refer to).

    Bioshock pales in comparison. It has better graphics but none of the feel that made SS2 one of the best games ever, it also focuses on philosophy without ever getting past scratching at the surface of the topic, childishly at times. Dead Space improves in graphics as much as it is worse in controls (an utter mess on the PC, a mouse is not an analog stick!!) and mistakes “fear” for “startling” (first one: awesome. Second one: incredibly annoying) and Deus Ex 2 is just horrible all the way.

    I also loved Deus Ex, but for completely different reasons, such as meaningful choices, memorable characters, and the huge conspiracy plot.
    In the Thief series, I’ve only seen #3 which was quite bland. I also don’t like stealth games much, as one spends a lot of their time sitting in the shadows, waiting for some stupid guard to turn their back to the player. That is just boring.

  43. nille says:

    I re-play Deus Ex at least once a year. I like everything about the game – its look, characters, missons, level design, even the odd multiplayer mode.
    There are so many things to discover: Hidden paths/rooms, documents to read, emails, conversations etc. What amazes me the most is that the game allows for so many different play-styles (you can complete the main story and possibly any side-mission without even knocking anyone unconscious). There are, too, a lot of different outcomes for how you decide to act throughout the game (think of Sandra Renton).

    Never having played Shock 1 nor Bioshock, Shock 2 would be my second choice. I’d suggest to play Shock 2 cooperativly with a friend so that one can learn to hack and use psi-weapons and the other player can repair and specialize in projectile-based weapons.

    I’m recommending using the enhanced UTGLR with Deus Ex and a hi-res-texture-pack with Shock 2..

  44. Daemin says:

    Hi, long time reader, first time poster.

    I gotta say, having played all three, I rank them:

    1. System Shock 2

    2. Deus Ex
    3. Thief

    I was, frankly, bitterly disappointed by Bio Shock. I mean, its ok for a shooter, but its NOTHING like SS2.

    Yeah, ok, they got a bit of the confined, horror setting. I guess that’s why they called it a spiritual successor? But they threw away the RPG elements that made me love SS2 so much.

    I played SS2 several times, to get the feel of what kind of char I liked, what combination of stats and abilities and what not; what weapons I liked to use, etc. With Bio Shock, there really wasn’t a point. You could basically load up on everything by the end, or at least anything worth while.

    On top of the, no inventory? Really? What about the Game Pig? What about the stacks of chips and such you would stash in a convenient location, and then hauling ass back to it with a horde of things after you?

    What it comes down to is Bio Shock was just another shooter, but SS2 was something special.

  45. Bret says:

    I tried to play System Shock 2, but the thought of any gun I got breaking kinda ruined it for me.

    I just like being able to trust the metaphorical ground under my feet just bugged me enough to delay it until after a friend wanted the game back.

  46. WILL says:

    Just drop your expectation of System Shock Lite or SS3 and play Bioshock, damnit. It’s ten hours long and incredibly well written. You will enjoy it, I’m sure.

    Just… don’t fall into the hype like most people did. The game isn’t about meaningful choice and all that crap the PR guys threw around to sell the game, but it is still brilliant. In fact, I bought it a year after it came out and people had gotten over the hype, and was surprised by how fun I found it.

  47. Dan says:

    I am right there with you Shamus. I loved System Shock 2, recommended it to everyone, lament the lack of a sequel/prequel/reboot, and scoff at those who think that Bioshock was in some way similar (beyond the “Shock” part). I really enjoyed Thief and Deus Ex a lot, the latter more than the former, but never as much as SS2. I was really surprised by Shodan and how creepy the ship looked as I always ran into people right as they died. Nothing emphasizes how alone and helpless you are more than watching a woman being murdered on the other side of sound and bullet proof glass.

  48. Lanthanide says:

    I played a very small part of Thief 1, and the demo of Deus Ex, all of Thief 3, SS2 and Bioshock but none of SS1.

    SS2 was so good because of the tight resource constraints and the illusion that you could go anywhere, only if you did you might regret what was around the corner. However the game really was quite on-a-rail: you had to go from deck 2 to 1, to 3, to 4, to 5, and going back to the earlier decks was for the most part pointless. I did like the progression of Xerxes being the big-bad, to dealing-with-the-devil SHODAN while wondering just what The Many really was, until near the end when it became clear that SHODAN was correct that they had to be stopped, and then you find out you were just her pawn all along. I found the second time I played through, many years later when I’d had more experience with FPS games, I didn’t find it nearly as difficult or scary, but still fun.

    Big factors in SS2 difficulty:
    1. Respawning enemies – this wastes your ammo if you keep fighting them, so don’t, simply move on from one area as soon as you’re finished there (and know where you need to go). Infinite enemies vs finite and scarce resources really puts the pinch on the player.
    2. Weapons breaking down extremely quickly, in addition to not being able to repair them until you have something like lvl 2 modification skill, which cost a lot of cybermodules along with lots of nanites for the tools. So to defeat this, simply use melee weapons as much as possible. If you start the game knowing that you need to invest in the maintenance skill, and do so from the beginning, you’ll have a much easier time. If you play the game and get to deck 3 or 4 before you finally scrape together the cybermodules for it, you’ll have a much harder time.
    3. High cost of upgrades, with several paths not being worth the investment – only 1 crate in the game needs level 6 hacking, many of the psy abilities are useless (although I never played psi-ops), many of the heavier/alien weapons don’t appear until very late in the game and aren’t worth switching to from your fully-upgraded assault rifle. This means that on your first playthrough you will probably gimp your character through uninformed decisions, which ties together with #1 and #2 to help limit your resources in the face of an infinite enemy.

    I found that on my second play through, when I came to the body of the many I had so many nanites left that I just went to a vending machine and bought 200-300 biological and standard pistol/assault rifle rounds, and still had money left over that I couldn’t spend because the machines ran out of ammo.

    Really when you look at it, Bioshock has removed issues 1-3 for brand new players, while also dishing out far too many resources in general (by about lvl 3-4 you should feel comfortable with your arsenal). If analysed objectively, 1-3 really aren’t good game design, hence why new games these days seem to be ‘too easy’ and ‘consolised’ – simply because we remember the bad old days of having to walk 8 miles to school both ways uphill in the rain while wearing razorblades for shoes in the snow, and overcoming all of those challenges was fun.

    Also, if anyone is thinking about playing SS2, you *really* need to get the Reborn mod pack linked to above, it’ll make your game much more fun. I haven’t actually used it myself, but the before/after screenshots are a huge improvement (although I think the midwife looks a bit slutty).

  49. LintMan says:

    I avoided the Thief series because I always hated the stealth portions of various shooters I’ve played. (Though I’ve heard that Thief “does it right”).

    System Shock came out at a time when I had a crappy old PC with no CD-ROM and wasn’t really doing much “new” gaming, so I missed it. In 1999 when SS2 came out, I was becoming a hardcore Team Fortress Classic player and missed that one too. From the comments here about the tight resource management in the SS series, I’m probably better off having skipped them. That kind of thing hits an OCD chord in me and sucks the fun out as I end up replaying sections over and over to save a few bullets or health points.

    So anyway, of the three, I’ve only played Deus Ex, which I really liked. Unfortunately, it’s ranking with me has been retroactively diminished by the rather crappy console-icious Deus Ex 2, which made me start wondering why I liked the series so much in the first place.

  50. Miral says:

    I’ll second what Adam (#23) said in his first paragraph: SS2 was awesome, but I never played SS1.

    I did start playing Deus Ex (and I do have DX2), but couldn’t really get into it for some reason, so it’s on the Pile of Shame.

    I want to play Thief (I have 1-3), but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to like my graphics drivers. Apparently I have to downgrade them or something before it’ll work, which irritates me.

  51. Martin Annadale says:

    I love System Shock 2, Deus Ex and Thief. But the one I replayed the most and found the most memorable was System Shock 2. Its linear, with no choices regarding the plot, but it does everything else so well.

    Shamus has mentioned previously how Thief gave you multiple choices to defeat a single obstacle. System Shock 2 does the same thing, only with added choice in regards to your character upgrades. Also, if you play the game on Hard (like I think everyone should) the resources in the game is very well balanced and you learn not to be wasteful. On Impossible, its less well balanced, as you will basically rely on your Wrench to kill everything, saving ammo only for situations where the wrench is completely impractical.

    I’ve finished this game multiple times, and installed recently again, but can’t seem to get it to run on my duelcore. I felt like crying.

  52. RichVR says:

    For me:

    1. System Shock 2
    .
    .
    .
    2. Deus Ex
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    3. Thief

  53. Alkey says:

    I played SS1 the first time on a demo disk that came with a gamer magazine. I really liked it, but only saw it once in the store, in the bargain bin, when I didn’t have any money. I returned to it later, after reading Shamus’s book, finding it on an abadonware site. I found it still entertaining but didn’t get much past the first node.

    SS2 really stands apart for me from the other 3. I remember being scared in that creepy way in thief, sneaking around a graveyard full of undead. But SS2 made fear a part of the gameplay. I remember a moment when I was running down a corridor and turned a corner to find a zombie thing groaning in my face taking swipes at me. It was night time IRL and I had the lights out and the sound up, I jumped in my seat, my aim went wild and I wasted precious ammo firing up in the air in a panic. Then I had to load an earlier save because that was my last clip and I couldn’t afford to loose the ammo or health kits. I thought to myself I have to get my nerves under control, or I won’t get to the end. And it occurred to me that is exactly what the protagonists would be thinking too. It made me feel like I was in the game like no other before it or since. It struck a profound chord with me at the time.

  54. Collar says:

    I have really fond memories of System Shock, played it back when it came out (when I was a teenager) and it really just dug into my head. The atmosphere was definitely the defining part.

    Really, it’s amazing how it was both so ahead of it’s time and deeply rooted in it’s time as well, the controls are really unacceptable now days. If I picked up a game these days at random with those controls I’d never get out of the first room, back then I don’t even remember thinking about it, I expected to need to do a lot of learning for “involved” games.

  55. Rallion says:

    I’m really 100% with you on System Shock 2 being the ultimate game in the genre. Now, I never played System Shock 1. You might find this to be kind of weird, but my introduction to the series was actually your book, and I think that deeper take on it really boosted my enjoyment of SS2 a great deal. I like Thief, and I love the original Deus Ex, but in my mind System Shock 2 is far better than either of them.

    I also agree that while I thought Bioshock was excellent and clearly borrowed a lot of its best ideas from Shock 2, it didn’t really deserve it’s spiritual successor title. The audio logs were good, and the isolation was good. There was hacking in the game, yes. But it wasn’t the same thing at all. I may have enjoyed it even more if they hadn’t led me to expect something better.

    I also wanted to voice my agreement with your Shock 3 guidelines. Follow them, or don’t bother.

  56. Decius says:

    SS2 would be a great game- If it wasn’t titled System Shock 2. There were only a few characters from the original, and they could be replaced by off-the-shelf clones.

    It also had the complementary problem to Thief- In Theif, once you knock out or kill the relatively few gaurds in the level, there’s no danger left. SS2, with infintely respawning enemies, you never really clear out a safe zone.

    The true genius of SS and the Theif series is that the level design was based on “This is the floorplan for a space station/mansion. What can we do to make this interesting?” Rather than “This is the railroad we want to follow. How can we make this look like a spaceship?”

    Challenge 1- Complete Theif, on hard, without knocking out any humans. Undead, animals and abominations are all fair game to kill. If you manage to complete Cragscleft prison, you’re doing great. If you complete Cragscleft without even getting spotted, that’s amazing.

  57. AGrey says:

    I’ve played Deus Ex.

    I also played thief 3 and half of bioshock, but that’s as close as i can get to the other two.

    Deus Ex kicks ass

  58. VauFeyn says:

    I just finished playing System Shock on my Vista laptop. Wow. Using Dos Box, it ran well in a window. Pixellated as hell but you know, the game with all its merits made it STILL an awesome experience. I never knew how much of a truly great game I was missing since the last time I played SS … uh … 10 years ago.

    The conclusion of SS shows the Hacker tooling around the network of something called “TetraCorp”, which I assume is a reincarnation of Trioptimum….I can’t imagine how much money and face was lost for Triop after an entire space station and its staff was lost to a rogue AI.

    I want my Plasma Rifle back.

  59. Ben W. says:

    Shamus, I can vouch for DosFreak @ 25’s suggestions. System Shock Portable has worked fine up to starting the self-destruct sequence, while I work up the nerve to face what comes after. I’ve also had success using SS2Tool to get System Shock 2 running on a pair of XP machines so that I could play co-op at home.

    I’m not sure where I rate the System Shock games to each other since I played them out of order, but I’d definitely put either ahead the Thief or Deus Ex games.

  60. Tacoma says:

    I played all three:
    Thief (1 and 2),
    System Shock (2 only),
    Deux Ex (1 and 2).

    First off, Thief 2 was an excellent sequel to Thief 1.

    Uh. Spoilers ahead.

    In Thief 1 you killed off a big supernatural thing. In Thief 2 the world has changed as a result of your previous victory, but it’s not all good. You fight and succeed against what amounts to the opposite of the villain in Thief 1.

    The sequel kept everything I loved about the original, and added a ton of new great stuff. It was obvious that the third game would have been even better, but we’ll never know. I didn’t play Thief 3.

    System Shock 2 was a glorious game, and I loved it even though I’m not much of a survival horror type of guy. I think the fact that you could blast every monster because there was enough resources helped a lot. But their scarcity was fun to play with. Having a lot was never an assurance of safety because you’d blow through it easily if you were careless, so every new discovery of resources was important. The character leveling was lovely as well, excellently balanced, and rewarded exploration and accomplishment of objectives. You didn’t get XP for killing monsters so there was no grind. Grinding wasn’t even really possible. Then there was the researching, the inventory, the voice acting / logs, the mini-games, etc. It was all awesome.

    I never played System Shock 1. I remember playing Doom 1 with weird keyboard-only controls, but I can no longer deal with a non-WASD/mouse control scheme with customizable keys. I also never played Bioshock. I don’t want to upgrade my hardware yet and I’m -not fond- of DRM.

    Ah, Deus Ex. I played the first one before I played any of these others. I absolutely loved it. One of the first games I actually completed.
    But the sequel was a disaster. Deus Ex 2 had smaller areas, longer load times, less variety, fewer cyber-augmentations (both in the number of slots and the number of choices in total), simpler and lamer story, horrible and few side-quests, lack of inventory decision-making, only one type of ammunition shared by all weapons (rocket launcher to pistol), and many other grievances.

    Specifically, Liberty Island. In DX1 the whole island is one load-zone. You have to load a new area to get into the UNATCO HQ underneath. But the docks, the outside, the inside of the statue, are all just one zone.

    In DX2 the island is not only much smaller, but ice walls block line of sight and split the (smaller) island up into multiple load zones. The statue itself is destroyed and replaced by a hologram – you cannot go inside it.

    Finally, DX2’s plot featured choices that had no impact on the game. The two competing coffee houses in the game, which you can take sides with or ignore, turn out to be owned by the same company. The endgame features three or four possible endings, but you can get all four endings from a save point at the start of the last level. That is, your actions up to that point have no impact on the ending.

    Simply put, DX2 was a complete disaster and a waste of a CD. I had to upgrade my video card to play it, I was so excited by the prospect of the sequel, and it ended up worse in every way possible. The only way in which it was superior was in graphics. And that small success doesn’t make up for the multiple and severe failures.

    Based on my experiences with DX2 (a sequel made by a different studio), I’m hesitant to play Bioshock or Thief 3. I’ve heard they’re alright. But I read reviews that said DX2 was alright too.

  61. MintSkittle says:

    Not really sure you even care about what gaming magazines have to say about your favorite games, but I’ll post this here anyway. Game Informer just sent out its 200th issue, so they made a list of their top 200 games of all time.

    Now, I’ve been known to miss the obvious at time, but I’ve been over the list three times, and I can’t find System Shock anywhere on the list, so I’m gonna say it didn’t make it.

    Thief ranks in at 160: “Created by industry luminaries such as Warren Spector, Ken Levine, and Harvey Smith, Thief was a revelation for the stealth action genre. Making brilliant use of sound and shadows, the game gave players a host of options to take out the uncannily smart enemies.”

    System Shock 2 ranks in at 105: “Before Ken Levine created the underwater city of Rapture, he sowed the seeds of its ingenuity aboard the spaceship Von Braun. Fusing the first-person shooter with role-playing elements in an immersive sci-fi horror environment, System Shock 2’s tale of artificial intelligence gone awry served as the foundation for Bioshock’s creation years later.”

    Deus Ex ranks in at 48: “Few settings approach the cohesion and verisimilitude of Deus Ex’s near-future Earth. Fewer still have the gameplay chops to flesh out such a world into a compelling interactive experience. Each individual element of Deus Ex could have been a good game in its own right, from the stealthy (and/or explosive, depending on how you play) first-person action to the gripping, player-driven story. Taken as a whole, the game is an unquestioned masterpiece.”

    Look back at the SS2 text and read it again. I think you know where this is going.

    Bioshock ranks 27: “A simple request for aid over an old-time radio signal took on a whole new meaning in 2007’s atmospheric adventure, and Bioshock catapulted into the status of an instant classic. Brilliantly paced storytelling, vibrant environments, and mature philosophical themes meld to set a new standard in the medium. Frantic firefights with hulking Big Daddies and disturbing encounters with vulnerable Little Sisters framed a powerful and strikingly original gameplay model. Andrew Ryan’s dystopian vision may have been terribly flawed and misguided dream, but Bioshock promised a bright future for gaming.”

    Other listings that might interest you: X-com ranks 164, Unreal Tournament 2004 ranks 145, Team Fortress 2 ranks 118, Fallout ranks 117 (Fallout 2 didn’t make the list), Final Fantasy XII ranks 112, Morrowind ranks 101, Portal ranks 100, Silent Hill 2 ranks 95, Left 4 Dead ranks 82, Zork ranks 66, Fallout 3 ranks 65, Mass Effect ranks 58, KotOR ranks 54, Final Fantasy X ranks 43, Starcraft ranks 35, Ocarina of Time Ranks 20, WoW ranks 11.

    Oddities: CoD Modern Warfare 2 ranks 181. How a game that hasn’t even been on shelves for a month makes a best of every game ever list is beyond me. Fable ranks 151. If it’s anything like the second, it should never have made the list. I should note that Fable 2 didn’t make the list. Borderlands ranks 134. For all its problems, it is still fun, but not top 200. Oblivion ranks 30. It is my personal opinion that Oblivion should have been ranked well below Morrowind, but that’s me.

    The top ten is full of oldies with two exceptions. From 1 to 10: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Tetris, Grand Theft Auto 3, Half-Life 2, Doom, Metroid, Final Fantasy III/VI, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Ms. Pac-Man.

  62. Diego says:

    Download ready-to-run System Shock 1 with optional high-res graphics hereSS Portable runs off a usb stick even!
    I found SS 1 MUCH easier to play then 2 with it’s too hard to kill annoying enemies, constant “hub” backtracking, weapon degradation, money, blah blah. I liked it, it is spooky, but no comparison to 1.
    SS 1 is very easy to move about in IF YOU TAKE THE TIME to configure your hotkeys, movement etc. I can’t believe how many folks still do not realize that it has full-screen mode.

  63. george washington says:

    What level up system? There was none.

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