On August 11, 1999, the world was given one of the best science-fiction horror games to ever grace the industry, and one that would eventually spawn the likes of Bioshock, Prey, SOMA, and many more. I’m a few days late, but it would be inappropriate to not wish this game a happy belated birthday – and an important one at that. So, grab your cocktails and greasy, drunk food and celebrate System Shock 2’s 21st birthday!
Jointly developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios, System Shock 2 continues to inspire many games in the genre. Serving mostly as a survival horror with then-innovative RPG elements, System Shock 2 allows players to craft their own character in Psi Disciplines/Powers – broken down into a five tier model.
In the beginning, the game offers the choice of a career path, as you are a member of the Unified National Nominate – a futuristic military organization. Marines begin with bonuses to weapons, where Navy Officers are trained in hacking and repairing, while O.S.A. Agents are allotted a set of Psionic Powers/Disciplines, or abilities that the player uses both offensively and defensively. These Powers require the player to carry a Psi Amp – or a small, metal device serving as a vector for your powers. Presenting a massive explorable environment that is the UNN Rickenbacker, with over 13 weapons separated into four distinguishable classes, System Shock 2 was light years ahead of its time.
Its story bleeds inspiration from Ridley Scott’s Alien, while also offering up its own horrific twist that is the malevolent, sentient A.I. SHODAN – the game’s most memorable asset. Both persuasive and sporadic, SHODAN destroyed the Citadel Station from the previous game, and is back to spread the alien infection of The Many – a biological hive mind created by a mutagenic virus that evolves at an accelerated rate, and grants those infected by it with telepathic mind control and genetic modification abilities. The lore of these parasitic annelids is extensive and rather complex, much like the Flood from the Halo universe. The Many also happened to spawn a legendary quote also…
“Do you not trust the feelings of the flesh? Our biology yearns to join with yours.” – The Many
While graphically dated, System Shock 2 and its predecessor have since been remastered for modern specs, with an entire remake of the first game from developer Nightdive Studios coming soon for both PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. A next gen console release plan has yet to be announced, but a playable and regularly updated Med lab alpha demo is available right now on Steam for everyone who backs the remake, which was funded on July 28, 2016. The community responded immediately, now standing strong with over 21,625 backers who raised a total of $1,350,700 on Kickstarter. As an early adopter, I can say with absolute certainty that Nightdive Studios will deliver a faithful remake, serving as both a nostalgic trip in both visual aesthetic and gameplay, while also a modernization of the cult classic.
System Shock 2 is a scary, unpredictable and incredibly rewarding experience that every gamer should try at least once. In celebration of its 21st birthday, I raise my drink of choice to you!