System Shock – After the Shock
Just two days ago, I took “System Shock: Enhanced edition” for a spin. It has been created by “Night Dive Studios” in 2015, gathering a lot of positive reviews from the fan community. System Shock: Enhanced edition is what every fan of the entire System Shock franchise adores: gritty atmosphere, sophisticated & complicated UI, marvelous characters and a juicy story that is simply bustling with replay value. Despite the success of System Shock: Enhanced edition, the entire System Shock franchise is a whole lot MORE than a simple series of games. From the distant 1994 when the first System Shock has been born, gamers still remember and play this legend, but with the announcement of “System Shock Remastered”, I have a feeling that the luster of this diamond will double.
System Shock Memories….
For me, the pinnacle of the series is System Shock 2, a game perfect in every aspect: outstanding gameplay, terrific sound that follows the dashing through the both Von Braun and UNN Rickenbacker, superb graphics (for the time of course) and the replay value that skyrockets through the stratosphere. The game is not unfair or punishing – if you know how to manage resources and develop a character that possesses skill in more than two fields (hacking is a “must” category if you want to survive) you can beat the game without demolishing the monitor with a wrench. To be a specialist in System Shock 2 is to be a dead man.
What I like about System Shock in general is the fact that you can pass the levels in a myriad of ways. Stealth, speed or brute force are all viable options, but most of the game a balanced approach would yield the best result. I have beaten the game twice; in the first playthrough I was a simple “powerhouse” soldier spraying the mutants, midwives, arachnids and other mechanical contraptions with shells and/or energy blasts. In this “doomish” System Shock 2 I missed a lot of crates and hidden goodies, but enemies fell like flies. The second time was a bit more covert, roaming through the game with a character concentrating on psionic powers (telekinesis for example) and technological skills. When you play System Shock this way, needless to say, head-on clashes and miscalculations are not easily forgiven. However, the hacking of security systems and special crates never left me without ammo or hypos for restoring health or psy. The choice is yours.
SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network), the System Shock legendary antagonist…
L-l-l-l-l-look at you, hacker. A pa-pa-pathetic creature of meat and bone. (panting and) Panting and sweating as you r-r-run through my corridors. (How, how) How can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?
(SHODAN’s legendary quote)
Oh, this lady. At first, the gender of Shodan (your enemy in both System Shock games) was unknown, but System Shock 2 finally resolved the dilemma: SHODAN is a female, evil mastermind, hiding behind the chaos in both Citadel Station (System Shock 1) and the two above mentioned spaceships(System Shock 2). The most striking and unique SHODAN’s feature/characteristic is her voice and attitude in general – her distorted, stuttering and fluctuating voice pitch (like a damaged sound card) will keep you on your toes, sending chills down your spine all the time. We can say that this megalomaniac and deluded villain is unique, managing to impress the player with her sharp wit and uncompromising ambition. Without her, System Shock would be but a hollow shell or a mediocre game, since your main task is to ruin her visage of her being a goddess and to thwart her plan to attain complete dominance over Earth and the entire Humankind.
This is Xerxes. Can you not feel the glory of the flesh? Do you not yearn to be free of the tyranny of the individual?
SHODAN is not a static component of the games – she is omnipresent, constantly watching and intervening through the various computers and machinery to realize her desires. She even conducted various organic experiments that eventually went jackrabbit in System Shock 2 where SHODAN was hibernating on the planet Tau Ceti V, creating the hive-mind organism called “The Many” that was no longer under SHODAN’s control and supervision. Completely expected, SOLDIER G65434-2 (the protagonist in System Shock 2) destroyed it, along with XERXES (A.I. working for “The Many”) and SHODAN (in the end of System Shock 2, though defeated, we can see SHODAN escaping by pod in the body of the woman that she took over, Rebecca Siddons). This mind-blowing cliffhanger of an ending, will be used for the potential System Shock 3 or under a different name, according to the fan legions.
System Shock atmosphere….
To say that the System Shock series are dark, dreary, claustrophobic and intense is an understatement. The feeling of subtle paranoia and insecurity is vast and powerful, leaving the player to watch after his every step, never knowing if something skulks behind or in front, behind the corner or in a passage below. The shrieks of the midwives, chatter of arachnids, moaning of mutants and screaming of lab monkeys never leave you at peace – not once I have been turning in all directions to find the source of those sounds. Beside the “relatively sentient and walking” monstrosities, System Shock 2 has a lot more dangers to throw at the player: radiation, poison, turrets, security bots and larvae filled with some kind of centipedes that are difficult to kill. To further complicate things, System Shock 2 has several interesting but potentially lethal (for the player) elements – if you do not maintain your weapon’s condition it could jam in the middle of the fight and seal your fate, implants have a limited duration and armors are scarce. There are several types of ammo (bullets, shotgun slugs and grenades) designed to deal more damage against a certain foe: anti-personnel rounds devastate everything made out of flesh, anti-armor destroys turrets and robots while standard bullets are only useful for the “spray and pray” approach in the later stages of System Shock 2. By far, the best weapon is the shotgun: superior stopping power and frugal with ammo, making it essential in close combat. Melee weapons are also effective – despite being the starting weapon, you can beat the game with the wrench, but if it does not suit your play style, go for the energy rapier. There are many more weapons (assault rifle, grenade launcher, energy rifle to name a few) in System shock 2, but the mentioned are my favorites.
System Shock – Blue Screen of Death?
What more to say about this legend? It is confirmed that a new System Shock game is in development and the expectations are blazing. Personally, I cannot imagine how will the new System Shock look, let alone feel with new graphics and polished gameplay. The mere thought makes me tremble with excitement.
System Shock 2 trailer and SHODAN’s quotes: