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A success to one of the biggest underground success in video gaming, System Shock 2 is a hybrid of many different game types. The layout would suggest the game is a first-person shooter, but the system of skills and classes suggest an RPG. The creepy sounds and voice dialog suggest a horror genre. All of these are correct.
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Apart from adding skills, stats and careers to a shooter, System Shock 2 features a number of ways to work your way around enemies instead of simply shooting them as the basic gameplay model would suggest. You can hack turrets to turn them to your side, you can use stealth and Psi abilities to bypass sticky situations and you will use your skills to great extent as your weapons need repair, items need to be researched and pieces need to be found to complete the puzzle of the story.
System Shock 2 has an amazingly deep and detailed story, revealed through audio logs of the deceased crew of the starships Von Braun and UNN Rickebakker, and by the main villain of the story. Though the game is the successor to the original System Shock, the basic plot of the original is explained in the prologue of System Shock 2. Playing the first game is not a requisite to enjoying System Shock 2.
One of the greatest innovations of System Shock 2 is the enemy AI. If your character is loud (for instance, opening doors, firing guns, dropping items) any enemies nearby will hear you and come running. This and a near-constant lack of ammunition force players to think tactically before rushing headlong into battle.
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The visuals for System Shock 2 are excellent, even by today’s standards. The halls of the Von Braun are either as pristine as you’d expect a top-of-the-line starship to be, or the ruined hell of a ship in terrible danger. There are a large variety of terrains within the ship (a frozen room caused by a leaking coolant pipe, a hydroponics garden and the absolutely terrifying “Body of the Many”) as well as some rooms that have been turned upside down by explosions and gravitational system failures.
The characters you meet in-game are well-rendered, though a bit blocky-looking now. Their textures are well-done and when all is said and done, most of the enemies you meet are next to terrifying.
The best news of all is that if you can get it to work on a newer machine, System Shock 2 is guaranteed to run well, as its requirements are well below even the humblest PC built in the last six years.
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One of the greatest aspects of System Shock 2 is the sound design. While the music is well-done and fitting, the voice work and sound effects are where the game really shines. There is not much spookier than hearing a zombie, just out of sight, moaning “Joiiiiin uuuus” or rasping in a mutated voice “siiilence the dischoooord!”
For maximum effect, play System Shock 2 late at night with all the lights turned out.
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Despite being the better part of a decade old, System Shock 2 still holds tremendous appeal for gamers looking to get a little more substance out of their games. The combination of a fantastic story, terrifying visuals and excellent FPS gameplay with RPG elements thrown in makes System Shock 2 a winner in just about every book.
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Pentium or K6 200+ MHz
32 MB RAM
Highcolor 4 MB PCI or AGP video card