Space, the only thing more hostile than space is the Van Braun, just so happens, this is where this game is setÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and that is only the good news, from there its down hill fast.
System Shock 2 has somewhat of a wayward storyline, the reason it is wayward is because there is almost introduction to the horrors you will soon behold, nothing to prepare the feeble minded gamer for what he is about to behold, nothing to give you comfort, I'm getting a little ahead of myself now aren't I? The truth is the story line is beautifully crafted, you start the game told you have an assignment on the Space Ship the Van Braun, upon arrival on the ship you find it deserted as soon as you turn the first corner you find a dead body, then a females voice will talk to you, aiding you to escape the initial area as it is beginning to decompress, soon after the voice will tell you about the current situation on the ship.
Upon further investigation you will run into some friendly locals, who hauntingly moan, join us, as they begin to smack your face in with iron bars, as you will quickly learn all the locals are not friendly, and those that could be are dead, long dead, and from this point on the games story unfolds, in various manner, the main manner is via messages recorded by the ships crew before their demise which tell so of the happenings on the Van Braun, also from the enemy themselves and then finally from the female voice that speaks to you at the beginning of the game.
This game has in this reviewers opinion, embodied everything that a horror game should be, this game will have you sitting on the edge of your seat from the moment you begin, the level of fear in this game is so great that more than once you will find yourself not wanting to walk down the next corridor in fear of what awaits you.
If you do manage to break through the fear and venture forth you will be awaited by a brilliantly crafted title, combat is done via various means, melee weapons, projectile weapons and psi. This combat model is also very influential of how the game is played.
Players when creating their character at the beginning of the game choose one of three sectors of the armed forces, the Marines (the brawn), the Navy (the hacker), and the OSA (the psi user).
Choosing a different sector is similar to choosing a class, the Marines are strong and can carry more, the Navy are more computers friendly and can hack things like nobodies business, and the OSA are the physic powers that use their minds to obliterate their enemy. Each class also has their weaknesses, the Marines completely lack psi ability's and can barely scratch through using hacking skills, and so on, so choosing which sector to play from can effect the entire game and how you tackle it.
The monsters in the game can be dispelled in an manner of means, from poles to guns, mainly whatever your skills allow you and how easy it is to do so, also once you have killed an enemy sometimes they will leave an appendage on them which you can take and research, if you have the skill, once researched you generally get a 25% damage bonus on the creature, which is great for the Navy or OSA men who would need it most and would be more likely to pick up the research skill where as the Marines are strong so their lack of researching the enemy is compensated by the strength of their attacks.
Over the course of the game you pick up PDA's of the dead crew, which have logs that can sometimes contain passwords for locked doors or supply crates but also give a lot of background into the story, the great thing is that all the PDA's have voice actors so you do not have to sit there and read the text, you can just open the PDA, close the inventory and then walk around while the PDA reads, although sometimes the voice of the persons PDA will override that of monsters groans and you may be attacked without noticing.
Scattered across the ship are various secrets and hidden goodies for the player to look for if they so wish, although some will not be available given your characters skills.
Also some doors that require a key become simple if your playing as a hacker as you can just hack pass the keypad where as in other situations you would find yourself tramping through corridors in search of the PDA that contains the code, these little variances are very good and help the game along.
Another main point of this game is the different skills, as previously stated the Marines are stronger, that is because they get a strength bonus and endurance bonus, where as the Navy would get a hackers bonus, during the course of the game you get modules which can be spent at upgrade stations that are scattered across the ship, you can upgrade you weapons skills so you are more proficient with small firearms, or energy weapons.
Each time you upgrade a skill the price to upgrade it again goes up, which also means it will be longer before you get the chance to upgrade that skill again, you get modules of completing the "levels" or "quests" within the game, you can also get them from the dead or just lying around but that is very rare and are always in a predetermined space, so don't bother trying to find them on a dead zombie.
Now to the nitty gritty, or the graphics, in a word, nice, nice in today's standard, brilliant for 1999 when the game was initially released.
I'll start with the monsters, as they are the things you will have most contact with, they are all brilliantly designed, from the zombies who rove the majority of the station to angry droids who take it upon themselves to blow up in your face.
The zombies are of particular interest as they have a large growth on their should that distorts their face by pulling it towards the muscle, they are very gruesome looking and this look is enhanced by their sounds (more on this later).
The games environments are also very nice, since the game is a space ship you would be forgiven if you thought it would be one skin fits all, but Looking Glass have made the games ship very believable all the areas littered with various items that make the game look whole, from pot plants to broken chairs, everything is plausible and extremely well done.
The textures used are all very crisp and detailed, you would once again be forgiven if you thought this was a new game, although a dated looking new game but the graphics are that nice that they stand up even today.
The games sound is brilliant, it sets the atmosphere perfectly and if the monster designs didn't have you shaking in your boots then the sound will. The music is very creepy and is sort of a techno styled beat, once again blending in with the games setting, it speeds up when enemy's approach and tunes down when your creeping around so that you just hear your footsteps.
SS2's voices have to be the best voices I have ever heard in a game, every character has their own voice, all speaking as if they were actually in the situation, none of the lines seemed forced or the voices un-matching the faces, the developers have done a brilliant job with their voice casting, I don't think a team of talented voice actors have ever been assembled for a game as in SS2.
The sound effects are also brilliantly done, be it the zombies groans as they charge down the dark corridors towards you, or the screeching of the genetically engineered monkeys, which I might add are terribly frightful, many times you will long hear the screeches before you actually see the monkeys and the screeches alone are enough to steal away the sanity of a feeble minded gamer.
So will you still be playing this game after the initial completion? Yes and no, the yes is if you actual manage to finish the game then chances are you will want to play through again as a different styled character, the no is that chances of you finishing the game are slim, not because the game is bad but because most of the time you will only be able to manage 1 hour stints of it before your spin has tingled so much you have to switch it off, playing this game at night is not recommended. So if you can fight your way past the atmosphere of the game you will be playing this game for many years to come.
Another factor that may hinder replayability is that the game doesn't change depending on what class you choose, the only thing that will change is which crates you can open, how fast you can defeat the enemy etc.
In the games stats I have stated that the game is 1 player, so why am I brining up multiplayer? Because the game also supports it, in a patch that is downloadable from various sites on the net, the patch is official so don't worry about it screwing you game, it is a very nice addition as you can play co-op through the game with a friend.
System Requirements - Pentium 200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95/98, DirectX 6.0, 4 MB DirectX-compatible video card, DirectX-compatible sound card, 4x CD-ROM drive, and 200 MB hard-disk space.