System Shock 2
2, Issue 4
December 2, 1999
combat is as intense and nerve-wracking as anything I've ever found.
Some of the critters are very nasty, ammunition is scarce, and you'll
find yourself peering around every corner, trying to make every
shot count. Frankly, this is a scary game, and you never ever get
a free ride. There are lots of audio cues to tell you what kind
of enemies are nearby, and you'll need to pay attention and have
the proper kind of blaster in hand, with the proper ammunition loaded.
sure if other players shared my experience, but I found the weapon-balance
a little arbitrary -- some of the later weapons that I expected
to pack a big punch, didn't. Certain weapons do work better on certain
critters, but even so -- midway through you get the semiautomatic
rifle with armor-piercing rounds, and none of the fancy sci-fi arms
I got later improved on it. This was a big disappointment, given
how hard I worked to get the necessary skills to use them. Where
was my payoff there?
2 is a hard
game, and it just gets harder. Gamers, prepare to be tested -- I
have rarely felt such bleak isolation in a game, such terrified
hopelessness, as when I got launched into that giant alien biomass.
You're low on ammo, surrounded by enemies, and in the wrong damn
solar system -- it makes Die Hard look like a visit to Grandma's.
When I survived I felt I had really earned it -- I walked out of
that mess I feeling that I had balls of solid titanium steel.
inventory system (84k)
for System Shock 2. It's great to see that narrative depth
in first-person games is trendy again, and that game developers
are finding new, effective ways of telling stories in an interactive
situation. The narrative-light mid-1990's were, I feel, a useful
transitional period -- Doom and Quake had almost no
story, and this meant getting rid of heavy, pretentious exposition,
burdensome complex stories that nobody wanted or cared about.
is coming back in new forms, as a part of the game rather than just
window dressing. Half-Life and System Shock 2 led
the way, with Daikatana and Deus Ex hopefully soon
to follow. This is the kind of evolution in the medium that we all
Austin Grossman is a game designer who has worked for Looking Glass
Technologies and Dreamworks Entertainment.