Remembering System Shock 2

The guys at Thunderbolt want to make sure that Irrational Games' System Shock sequel isn't forgotten about anytime soon, as they've posted their own retrospective article for the FPS/RPG hybrid.
In a masterstroke of a twist devised by lead designer Ken Levine, the person you thought was helping you through the maelstrom, Dr Polito, was already dead. SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network), the darkly sexy digital overlord, had been deceiving you from the beginning. This reveal was shocking. You weren't a human helping another to safety anymore, you were the pawn of a greater power, manipulated by her will rather than mastering your own destiny, as was the norm with most games. It didn't just feel like SHODAN had betrayed you, but that the entire game had, designers and all. Interestingly, this was actually a controversial decision from the development team's standpoint, causing some friction amongst them, but gratefully, it remained uncompromised. After this gut-punch, you became forced into an uneasy alliance with SHODAN where you not only had to do her bidding, but also had to endure her grating taunts: (Look at you, hacker. A pathetic creature of meat and bone. Panting and sweating as you run through my corridors. How can you challenge a perfect immortal machine?) And the always welcome (Your flesh is an insult to the perfection of the digital.)


Your knowledge of the narrative's formative events increased alongside the skills and attributes of your character. As you interacted with the object-rich world, you had to toggle a bi-modal interface (POV/Inventory), which was implemented by the devs in order to keep cursor-based inventory management with mouse-look exploration. The game's RPG element allowed you to build up your stats across the relevant fields of weaponry, hacking, repairing and '╦ťpsionic' abilities. The choice of character enhancements meant players were offered quality replayability with a new skill-set should they desire to board the Rickenbacker once more, provided they hadn't expired from weapon-repairing stress. Yes, good old weapon repairing the bane of System Shock 2. Almost every time you used a gun, it would deteriorate before jamming and breaking. This meant you had to either scavenge or pay an extortionate amount of nanites (in-game currency) for maintenance tools to keep your shooters working. The game was difficult anyway, with low ammo supplies and constant enemy respawns, but this infuriating repair factor really squelched your fizzog into the sputum-flange. Luckily, this abomination was patched and players could fire at Will (who was incidentally responsible for the whole mess anyway).