Game: "System Shock 2"
Published by: Electronic Arts
Review: System Shock 2 is one of the creepiest, most atmospheric games I have ever played, and because of that it also remains one of the most memorable. In this first-person-shooter with role-playing elements, you play a soldier assigned to spaceship UNN Von Braun, and you've just woken prematurely from a cryo-stasis tube with no idea of what's happened during the last few weeks of space travel. You quickly piece together that the crew of the ship have been "infested" by some unknown alien entity that operate in a hive mind and try to make your way off the ship and destroy the entity known as "The Many". Throw in the insane and sinister Artificial Intelligence SHODAN, who remains the best video game villain I've ever countered, and you've got yourself one hell of a game.
What really makes this game so amazing is not the gameplay or the graphics (which are quite dated by today's standards, but there's an update patch made by fans that at least makes them tolerable), but rather all the little details that exist simply to enhance the setting. You'll be walking through the lonely Medical Bay, bodies strewn everywhere and dangerous mutants stalking the corridors, when all of a sudden you'll see a ghost in front of you, reenacting some horrible experience that led to their death. Believe me when I say that it's enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, because you'll already be freaked out by the sparsely populated halls that strongly suggest an enemy that was until very recently still human could come shuffling around any corner.
You'll also find audio logs scattered throughout the ship left by various crew personnel, and through these you will begin to piece together exactly what happened on the Von Braun. And they're not just random individuals you'll only hear from once either--you'll begin to collect different logs by the same people and the gaps in their stories will slowly fill in. The voice acting on these logs is very well done, and many of the ones that occur in the later stages of "the incident" are quite unnerving.
As good as the sound on those audio logs is, it pales in comparison to the sound design of SHODAN. Whoever came up with that eerie, creepy, just plain evil voice should get nothing less than a medal and an endless supply of blowjobs, because it is my favorite thing I have ever heard in any video game, ever. It's so fucking good that I'm really at a loss for how to even do it justice describing it, but it's the kind of thing that if you heard in real life outside the context of the game, it would make you shit your pantaloons, no doubt. You can find samples of it online if you're really inclined, but my advice is to experience it in the game--don't spoil it ahead of time.
This game is easily in my "Top Five Games of All Time" list, but that's not to say it's without flaws. The weapon degradation is annoying and unnecessary (though there are patches that can remove it), and at the end it all just sort of falls apart, leaving you to wonder what happened to this great game. Evidently the designers didn't have as much time to spend on the last section of the game as they'd have liked. After coming along so far and being amazed every step of the way, it's nothing short of an epic disappointment to see how this game ends. For that reason I cannot give it the "Five" that I'd like to give.
So it should speak highly of the rest of the game indeed when I say that, despite this, any gamer worth his or her salt needs to experience the other 90% of the game. It really is that fucking good. Younger gamers who may not be familiar with this game but know Bioshock should know that without this game, Bioshock wouldn't exist. This is Bioshock's granddaddy, and fans of creepy games really owe it to themselves to check this one out.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
Oh, it's not that it didn't make sense (I clarified my sentence in the review), it's just that there was a severe dip in quality at the end, in my opinion. The whole bit when you enter The Many and then take on SHODAN just seemed half-assed compared to the rest of it. It really gives off the impression that they ran out of time on the development side of things. A game like that deserved a better final few stages.
|Spoilers!||The bit with you getting into an escape pod and getting fired right into The Many was great because it was a suicidally-dangerous plan that went along with SHODAN's utter contempt for the player. And the short area with SHODAN was great because A). it was a throwback to System Shock, and B). it gave some insight into SHODAN's maniacal psyche to think that she would throw her memories at the player like that.
And the fact that you were able to go from being inside The Many right to SHODAN's stage can be explained by saying that The Many just wanted you to take her out as their final act.
|Spoilers!||I appreciated the comic relief provided by the single line the player character speaks, but it really killed the mood the game had built up over the past 10-15 hours, and there was no explanation at all as to how Shodan was able to put her conciousness into the chick on the escape pod.|
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