Ok, I never played the first System shock game, I didn't even know there was one until my mate told me that it was on budget release and that I should get it! Now System Shock 2 (SS2) on the Other hand I do know about, I've played the Demo (Mighty Impressive) and now bought the Game, so now I'll get on with the Review.
The second one begins a mighty 30 years after the first in which time humans have discovered the faster than light speeds and have sent the first ships (the 'Von Braun' and 'Rickenbacher') on their way to go to 'Tau Ceti' where they discover some Alien Life (Shock Horror).
You start the game pretty much as in every other 3D Shooty Shooty game in the middle of nowhere with someone telling you what to do (how we love that), so we do what they say fully expecting nothing to happen because its the beginning of the game and they can't go killing us this early on can they? Well, No!
So you make your way as the computer tells you to the ever present "Training Room" which don't get me wrong looks very much like a Holo Suite out of Star Trek, but that's where it ends, you do your training bit, which is not really necessary if you've played the demo or any other 3D FPS game, so you go into the game.
The oddest bit in the whole game starts here, you have to choose 3 years of Duty before you actually start the game on the 'Rickenbacher', the problem is, that while doing this you don't actually play the game, you just get some animation then a paragraph saying that you finished that year. This threw me back a bit until I realised what was going on and then got on with the rest of the game.
Ok, as I said before you play the game from the First Person Perspective where as any other game of its type you run around and hit things in 3D, the whole concept of the game is like any other RPG, yes its an RPG game in 3D, same as the first really. The unique thing in this game from any other FPS is that you also get one hell of a massive inventory, special skills, hit points and other RPG sorta stuff.
Your character has a number of skills and statistics that can be manipulated throughout the game, namely, Strength, Endurance, Psionics, Agility & Cybernetic Affinity, these can go up by training and special implants you can use on yourself.
Your character also a load of special skills that can be improved by using specially placed "Upgrade Units" dotted around each level. To use these you have to collect a specific number of Cybernetic Modules, which can be picked up virtually anywhere. These skills range from your Hacking ability to the use of Psionics to manipulate items and characters from afar, there are 14 different skills with 7 levels per skill, this makes a lot of skills to learn and by the end of the game you will never have all of the skills maxed, I never did.
In the beginning you have practically no skills whatsoever but soon enough, you will be able to upgrade and those upgraded usually interpret into how you progress through the game. By picking the right skills at the right time you can get through the game really easy, other times you might find that your stuck in a place finding another way to get through it and as ever there is always a few ways to progress, you just need to find the one that relates to your skills.
The skills are really important in the Game, most weapons and items can only be used after you have reached a particular skill level. And the skill level dictate's how long you can use it, for example after using a gun for a while it will break (crappy world) and you need a particular skill level to be able to repair it, without that skill at that level you will have to use another weapon or in the case of researching an item, yes you have to research items too, you will just have to upgrade and research later.
The whole mix of RPG elements and Action bring the game together and provide a great challenge to the player, the two gameplay types don't get in the way of each other they sort of work together to provide a game with more than the usual FPS "Run, Jump, Shoot & Kill"
For the most part interaction in the game is via the mouse, in Action Mode it moves the display around as we are all used to in 3D FPS games and in RPG mode the display is controlled by the keyboard and the mouse acts as a pointer allowing you to move items around in your inventory, equip weapons and read the logs you've picked up along the way.
The combat in the game is like any other, you get a weapon and blast until the creature, or static killer object is dead. The main difference in SS2 is that you can actually use a close combat weapon to kill things and if they damage you when they die, they explode, they you can check the health meter and when appropriate move back and use a ranged weapon to finish it off.
Cameras are the little annoyance in the game, get one to spot you for too long and the alarm will sound and wherever you go a group of monsters will get ya. These little elements mean that wherever you go, you have to think before you shoot. Some things are actually meant to confuse and injure you, in some places there might be a turret, just sitting there doing nothing, you move up to kill it and hidden in a corner there will be a camera that spots you and activates the turret. While you scramble to find cover it reduces your health so you just manage to escape with 1 or 2 hit points left and are left wondering how you get back at the whole system.
Monsters are vulnerable to specific types of attacks. Different weapons or ammunition will allow you to kill a monster more efficiently giving you a little more time to live. The whole 'know your enemy's weakness' comes into play here very well and the more you know the quicker they will die and the more ammo you will have to dispatch of the next one.
The big problem with the Action/RPG game is that while in the vast array of menus in the Inventory section the Action game continues and monsters often sneak up on you while you concentrate on getting you weapon ready for something you've noticed round the corner, not on the sounds of the approaching danger.
SS2 uses an enhanced version of the Thief Engine, anyone who's played thief will know that light is the primary factor in the game, SS2 uses it very well too. Textures and sounds are all as detailed as can be, you will hear monsters coming before you actually see them and soon enough will be looking for them instead of them looking for you. It is possible to sneak up on enemy's by crouching which reduces your noise and if successful you can catch them by surprise and get a few hits in before they can respond. The whole look of the game is really good, the dark textures add to the great atmosphere but the game suffers a little while new areas slow your computer down while the bank of textures is loaded.
While the slowdown of the computer is due to the great textures the music in the game makes you want to stand up and dance, it adds to the game perfectly, and while playing you will feel as if it could all be real.
The graphics also slow down when in combat, as you swing and turn you often find that while trying to compensate for the lack of movement as the game slows, you find that your actually facing the wrong way and also being hit at the same time. Don't let this worry you, it doesn't happen very often, just when you don't want it to happen.
SS2 is a great game, despite the small flaws that happen to be mostly related to your machine the game plays well. The great mix of First Person Shooter and RPG elements means it caters for 2 types of people, although you cant play the game using only 1 method there is enough of each in there to satisfy everyone.
SS2 is a game I recommend to everyone, it looks good, plays good and sounds good. What more could you want?