Zero Punctuation: System Shock 2

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I just finished this game for the first time last night. Talk about uncanny coincidence. I'd played it a few times before but, as Yahtzee said, it's a tough game to beat. My final build was a tech specialist with plenty of points in modify, maintain, hack, and repair. I focused on energy weapons first and standard weapons second. No psi at all, as it doesn't take much to make the game easy. Even with it's shoddy third act and not-so-simple UI, it's still in the top five of my favorite games.

For me, the game started being hilarious almost from the start. After the tutorials, you have to choose whether to join the Navy, the Space Marines, or the Psychonauts, and after that what assignments to spend your three years of training on. This is how you create your initial characer build. Except instead of doing it with point-and-click menus like a sensible game, it has you walk through three very small and completely desolate buildings into one of three corridors, at which point it fades out, plays a completely superfluous prerendered cutscene of a generic spacecraft taking off, and fades in on the next one. What the hell was the point of all that? It's like they were trying to do a Vault 101 thing ages before they had any of the necessary technology to actually pull off the immersion.

Again, I have to ask, has anyone else got ZP with the audio out of sync with the video lately? The new ones appear to be particularly notorious, because I rewatched some old ones and most are perfect. Anyone else got this?

I remember this game. I remember the horrific cyber zombie monsters and all the horrific sounds they made.

I only started playing System Shock 2 a few days ago as the first part of what I hope will be a full playthrough of what I, and many others, like to call the "Shock Trilogy".

So far, I think I'm in LOVE! Yes, the game can cause some confusion when you're only just learning your way around the mechanics. Yes, the graphics are very outdated by today's standards (but if you're like me, graphics don't matter all that much to you anyways). Yes, this can be a very difficult game at times.

However, none of that is very bothersome to me, because this game has nearly everything that I appreciate in any game: lots of depth, a strong atmosphere, a well-presented narrative, I find it impossible for me to NOT love this game.

OuendanCyrus:
A better game than Infinite imo, I always see SS2 as Deus Ex but with horror replacing the stealth focus.

I agree. SS2 and Deus Ex have similar approach combining RPG with FPS.

I don't like Bioshock Infiinite's approach. Bioshock series, with each new game, becomes closer and closer to action FPS side, and neglecting storytelling RPG side more and more.

HAHAHA, he LITEREALLY used an FTL starship! XD Well played, yatzee!

Also, this game is going on my steam wishlist. Hopefully my best buddy will get it for me as a belated birthday gift after I got him Spec ops by surprise.

AH, I love Yahtzee's retro reviews of the games of yore. This was back when it was STANDARD for games to have imagination and depth and still be mature, when true maturity in games was just starting out. Not even the Bioshocks have the kind of complexity that SS2 had.

And where the tits is Yahtzee's retro of Thief? I looked thru Zero Punctuation's whole archive front to back and STILL couldn't find it!

Man, right as I get to working on SS2 for my "shock" retrospective, Yahtzee comes out of nowhere with something infinitely better and more entertaining. I guess that's why he gets to do it for a living. I definitely have more praise for it and feel it aged better than he thinks (keybinds notwithstanding), but I'm not as funny as him. Or at all.

In Demon's Souls: 'Pause to look at the inventory? What dreck is this? My character is vulnerable. So terrible!'
In System Shock: 'Pause to look at the inventory? This is amazing. My character is vulnerable. So atmospheric.'

The_State:
I just finished this game for the first time last night. Talk about uncanny coincidence. I'd played it a few times before but, as Yahtzee said, it's a tough game to beat. My final build was a tech specialist with plenty of points in modify, maintain, hack, and repair. I focused on energy weapons first and standard weapons second. No psi at all, as it doesn't take much to make the game easy. Even with it's shoddy third act and not-so-simple UI, it's still in the top five of my favorite games.

Recently I finished the game on hard difficulty (2nd hardest difficulty) with a similar build to your character and actually found the game to be overall easy (with the exception of one boss fight.)

I did go standard weapons first though, putting some points into energy, heavy and exotic later in the game to use the first tier weapons of each class to create a sort of Combat Engineer class. No psi powers at all.

Putting points into the modify weapons skill seemed to make the biggest difference as the extra damage weapons do will save you a ton of ammo.

With exception to the aged graphics and dumb AI, this game is pretty good and is definitely worth a play. The story is interesting and the upgrade system offers a lot of depth to craft a character that fits your play style. My character started off as a tech, but gradually became more combat oriented. Its also quite a long game too.

Darth_Payn:
And where the tits is Yahtzee's retro of Thief? I looked thru Zero Punctuation's whole archive front to back and STILL couldn't find it!

Here you go: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/544-Thief-The-Dark-Project

OT: Good episode as usual. I always enjoy ZP retro reviews, wish he would do more as they're more often about games I'm interested in than the recent releases are. Never played SS2 though, after this ep still on the fence about it. Probably wouldn't get it on Steam like Yahtzee since it comes with some extra stuff on GOG that Steam doesn't have IIRC.

Leveling up bum scratching? Are you a newb?

teebeeohh:

octafish:

teebeeohh:

just out of curiosity, how exactly would system shock 2 turn you off gaming?

Probably because just about everything after JA2, SS2, and PS:T has been a bit of a disappointment? That is how I feel, but I maintain some hope.

hm
i really don't get that logic, everything since my childhood has been a disappointment, as a kid afternoons after school would last forever and everything i did that was cool was SUPER DUPER AMAZING OVER THE TOP AWESOMESAUCE. Sure, my life was also enriched by a lot of things but those usually come with a nasty helping of new problems.

and what is PS:T? i really have no idea and you can't google that because all it gives you is pacific standard time. thanks ogoogle.

I didn't play these games as a child though. I was in my mid twenties. Sure I look at Sid Meier's Pirates! through eyes misted with nostalgia as the best game ever, SS2 stands up as the genuinely one of the deepest and most memorable gaming experiences in my life. Imagine the disappointment I felt when I played Bioshock.

Was poking around when I found this

image

Yeah, this doesn't look complicated in the slightest.

I guess I can smugly say then how I did beat System Shock 2, and got treated to that AWFUL ending.

I'm the only person in existence who think's that first System Shock was superior to second, especialy considering the release date... should I go to see a doctor?

Nice review. One thing though: When System Shock 2 was released, its interface was considered pretty fantastic and people didn't get confused when a game used more than the standard FPS controls. I still think the interface works extremely well for the time it was designed in (just like the first System Shock has absolutely amazing interface designs for the time it was made in) and it still works fairly well after a few minutes of getting used to it.

As for the game itself, IMO System Shock 2 beats Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite by miles. Not only is the story in both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite very derivative of System Shock 2, but from a gameplay perspective Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite just removed too much of the RPG elements that made System Shock 1 and 2 stand out. They're both just shooters. Bioshock Infinite at least has your choices in upgrades be persistent again and gets a bit of an RPG flavor back that way, but Bioshock 1 is really just a straight FPS. It's sad to see that the supposed "spiritual successor to System Shock 2" ended up being nothing but a normal FPS gameplay-wise.

erttheking:
Was poking around when I found this

image

Yeah, this doesn't look complicated in the slightest.

Ignore the inventory and you're left with not much more than what today's FPSs have on screen. Are people really that scared of an inventory?

Love this game, still play it every now and then.
I use xpadder to play it with an xbox controller and never had any issues control wise. Well expect for that weird ini file key rebind glich, Yay for all the fun getting old games to work :P

Funniest ZP in a long while...I loved all the bits where you put RPG points in random pointless things.

I actually finished System Shock 1. On a monochrome monitor. A monitor that couldn't show the color red, which made the VR sections even more fun, what with the invisible walls and all. I was still enjoying the hell out of that game, it was one of my favorites, just alongside Dune, Monkey Island and Alone in the Dark(*). While my friends were going nuts over that phenomenal Doom game, especially after we figured out that we could actually connect our PCs if we fiddle long enough with those cables and network ports, I was totally immersed in my struggle against Shodan.

So yes, I know that game aged terribly, but I still don't like how dismissive everyone usually is about that first game. For me it's still the definite "shock" game, and while each game after that one brought many improvements, polish, whatever, for me none achieved that level of immersion and engagement the first game did.

Edit: (*)And Star Control 2! Can't believe I forgot that one.

baba44713:
I actually finished System Shock 1. On a monochrome monitor. A monitor that couldn't show the color red, which made the VR sections even more fun, what with the invisible walls and all. I was still enjoying the hell out of that game, it was one of my favorites, just alongside Dune, Monkey Island and Alone in the Dark(*). While my friends were going nuts over that phenomenal Doom game, especially after we figured out that we could actually connect our PCs if we fiddle long enough with those cables and network ports, I was totally immersed in my struggle against Shodan.

So yes, I know that game aged terribly, but I still don't like how dismissive everyone usually is about that first game. For me it's still the definite "shock" game, and while each game after that one brought many improvements, polish, whatever, for me none achieved that level of immersion and engagement the first game did.

Edit: (*)And Star Control 2! Can't believe I forgot that one.

You Might want to check this out if you haven't already:

http://www.systemshock.org/index.php?topic=211.0

I have a feeling you will like what you see :)

a game i once had but every time i started a new game, the game crashed.
im glad its out on steam now but i wait till its 75% off.

A better game than the shock series hands down, sure the skill system is harsh but not to the point its to hard to play mind you I always played with weapon entropy off.

As for Dues ex, the mini cross bow dose not use the aim system so learn to use physics to do head shots with it.. and get every tranq dart you can ^0^

Mr.Tea:

RyQ_TMC:
I'm gonna be "that guy" and say that GOG.com had SS2 before Steam. I'm guessing implementing the DRM took that extra month or so longer.

Magmarock:
But GOG released System shock 2 ages before Steam and if it wasn't for the guys at GOG going through all the legal trouble, Steam wouldn't have it either.

emissary666:
It's already been mentioned twice, but GOG did all the hard work and had SS2 months before Steam. I was disappointed when I saw that SS2 was now on Steam as well and am disappointed in Yahtzee for crediting Steam.

Look, I love CDPR as much as anyone but it was a dude named Stephen Kick, of a small company called Night Dive Studios, who secured the rights to distribute SS2. With CDPR having been trying to get those rights since they launched GOG.com (and SS2 has always been the most requested game there), they were just the logical choice for Kick to deal with and make the distribution of SS2 happen.

The always excellent Rock Paper Shotgun on the subject.

Presumably his deal with CDPR wasn't meant to be forever exclusive (and they aren't that kind of assholes anyway, which is why we love them), so he took a similar deal to Valve and now SS2 is on their front page, getting more of the attention it deserves.

I think I actually heard about Night Dive, but GOG still deserves the distribution credit, not Steam.

And what techno music!

Med Sci 1 by Eric Brosius
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bL7I_eWryI

First of all: I have fond memories of SS2 _and_ I have finished it _and_ I can tell you the two reasons I hold it very dear in my heart.

1) Its a horror game taking place in a bright location. Everything was well visible, there was no way to hide something in the shadows. And it still gave me _real creeps_ back then. You rarely get that.
2) Ammo starvation really worked well. I remember one moment where I sat behind a crate with only one armor-piercing bullet left. One of those suicide drones was slowly moving towards me with their nice and friendly "may I help you, sir?". End of the story is that I hit it and survived, but the scene is stuck in my head. Its one of the rare games that actually managed that with a non-scripted sequence.

Its flawed on many levels which the review points out, but at the time it came out, it was a revelation because it succeeded on so many levels that other games never even bothered to touch.

System Shock 2 was an interesting yet exhausting game to play. The way it respawns enemies to areas you've just cleared feels cheap and arbitrary, but it does the job of making you constantly anxious. Eventually I reached a point in which my Olympic sprinting, sword fighting hacker could brush these enemies off like flies, but that really only swapped anxiety for tedium.

Basically, I'll stick with thief.

I would play System Shock and System Shock 2, but I've seen clips. I don't think they've aged well.

Metalrocks:
a game i once had but every time i started a new game, the game crashed.
im glad its out on steam now but i wait till its 75% off.

Go on gog.com (it's from the publisher of The Witcher), it's 9,99 and is drm-free, has manual, wallpapers, interview, sountracks (mp3& flac), artworks, & moAR!!

A Gray Phantom:
I would play System Shock and System Shock 2, but I've seen clips. I don't think they've aged well.

They haven't, but they're also the kind of games that don't get made very often. Especially not these days. inB4 Bioshock, the Bioshock games are *very* poor successors to System Shock. SS/SS2's RPG elements got completely gutted, I assume to "broaden" Bioshock's appeal or some such bullshit.

The part that really pissed me off when playing this with my friend, was that I'd find a really neat gun, shoot two shots and never find any more ammo for it.

As a longtime fan of ZP I realize that his mauling of SS2 is just Yahtzee being Yahtzee, and that's cool. But as an even longer-time fan of SS2 I feel somewhat obligated to stand up for it, so bear with me here--

"You're assigned to an experimental FTL ship exploring a distant galaxy..."

The Von Braun's destination is the Tau Ceti system, which is well within this galaxy (only 12 light-years away).

"You set off to piece together what happened and look for survivors, although you won't find any because there wasn't enough room on CDs to have friendly NPCs..."

This was a rather silly thing to say even by Yahtzee's standards, since we've had friendly NPCs in gaming since practically as long as computer gaming has existed. Rather, the lack of NPCs in SS2 was a deliberate design decision carried over from the original System Shock. I'll let Warren Spector explain--

Warren Spector:
Back when Doug Church and I first started talking about System Shock, we were dissatisfied with the conversation approach taken in Underworld, traditional and conventional though it may have been. And though it pained us to admit it, even to ourselves, we had no idea how to do any better. So the team designed around the unsolvable problem - we killed everyone off. The inhabitants of Citadel station would exist, for the player, only through e-mail and video logs. It was an elegant solution to an intractable problem: if we can't make you believe you're talking to a real human being, we just won't have any in our game world.

Remodeling RPGs for the New Millennium (Gamasutra)

"Then again you can't port System Shock 2 to a console until someone invents a game pad with mouse control and more buttons than a microwave at an arts and crafts shop."

There was in fact a port of SS2 to the Dreamcast in the works, sadly canceled when the console failed to take off. The number of buttons actually required to play SS2 is grossly exaggerated. The controls are for the most part bog-standard FPS-- move, run, jump, crouch, select weapons, reload, use. To that SS2 adds leaning, and a couple of binds for switching weapon mode and ammo type. There are a pile of other binds, yes, but you don't have to use them, they're just shortcuts for things that you can accomplish otherwise via clicking around in the cyber-interface. So yeah, SS2 would have ported to a console just fine. They didn't have any problem with Oblivion or Fallout 3, right?

"Oh no, it looks like you sunk all your points into scratching your bum!" etc...

It's a fair complaint that SS2 puts you in the position of having to make character upgrade decisions without full knowledge of how those decisions will play out, but that's an intrinsic problem with RPGs in general, and the only real "solution" to it is to allow respeccing, which is utterly lame. But what SS2 does do, via the career sequence, is start you out with a set of guided choices that are guaranteed not to gimp you no matter what you pick. This gives the player a sense of direction for their future upgrade choices, despite the game using a classless character system. Very cool.

Still, yes, it's possible to make bad choices, but hey, if there were only good choices, what's the point of choosing at all? True freedom includes the freedom to screw yourself.

"That fucking techno music."

Beg pardon?

"Another someone modded in co-op gameplay."

As already pointed out in this thread, that someone was Irrational Games. It was supposed to be in the game to begin with, and was even advertised on the box, but they couldn't get it working in time. They didn't even want to include it in the game in the first place (survival horror and co-op being about as compatible as peanut butter and spaghetti sauce), but EA forced them to.

But speaking of mods, there are a few excellent ones that improve the hell out of the original rather fuzzy textures and blocky models. You can find most of them here.

"Those weird Dark Engine physics that feel like you're walking around with your feet trapped in bowling balls."

Another very odd complaint, given that the Dark Engine was created for Thief, a game which is all about precise player movement and control, and generally the recipient of high praise in this department.

A) This was a 90's game, cut it some slack, Yahtzee.
B) The inventory was *not* complicated. You want buttons mapped to everything? Play MMOs or Elder Scrolls or whatnot. Even if the key bindings were there, I didn't use most of them. Look, if Oblivion can go to console, you can play System Shock 2 without getting confused.
C) Character creation was lenient as hell. You could make it through game provided you at least had *some* offensive capability. I got through as a psion; my friend got through on Impossible with just melee; hacker is the real hardcore way to do it, but you don't *have* to do that. (Fun fact: did you know you can get SHODAN to kill herself as long as you hack her consoles? No joke. Said friend on Impossible jumped on her platform and got her minion to shoot her in the face.)
D) Co-op was already there before a mod. It's buggy as hell and no one likes it. Ignore.
E) The game's motion capability was fine for its era. The physics doesn't suck any more than anyone else's physics, granted I played mostly console games around the time SS2 came out.
F) Why did you like the game? Because it was a nifty retread of a very workable trope, with a great horror setup, spooky audio log system (new at the time before Bioshock stole all SS2's thunder, dammit), and a gleefully over-the-top villain who did all the Super Evil tropes *just right.* Ignore the buggy game. It was a low-budget company trying to get back on its feet.

Also, you heretic for saying in the Bioshock Infinite review that Bioshock did SS2 better. Go back and look at your original Bioshock review; it's hella shallow (and IMO boring) compared to SS2. Shock as a series is also going far from its roots now; it should really just become another series.

...Dunno why this is a list; it just felt right.

Boo, Yahtzee. You mention retro-gaming but don't bring up Good Old Games and their work with the new license holder, which made the re-release of System Shock 2 possible? Yeah, plenty of people mentioned the fact that GOG released it first in this thread already, but, considering the full name of GOG and your reference to retro-gaming, this is particularly ironic.

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