The endless stillness of the final frontier has been the basis of tales of awe and terror since mankind first gazed up at the sky and wondered what lurked in the diamond-studded darkness. Many video games are set entirely in space, exposing the player to the lonely sense of horror that comes with drifting off into the endless cosmos. Empty room, Foreigners: Isolationand The Callisto Protocol are great examples of modern forays into horror between the stars. All of these games owe their existence to the Electronic Arts company. system shock 2.
1999 a game like system shock 2 was a rarity on any system and was well regarded, although it didn’t sell well. It broke the mold as far as sci-fi horror video games go, and it’s still the pinnacle of the genre. Here’s why system shock 2 is a must for fans of sci-fi horror games.
System Shock 2 is a masterpiece of sci-fi horror innovation
system shock 2 is visually a product of its time. Modern gamers can see the large polygons and intense menu screens and cringe at the game without realizing what gem they are walking past or just how ingrained in the DNA of modern video games it really is. The game begins with the player choosing their basic stats and gear before being thrown into the Von Braun with an illegal cybernetic implant and Doctor Polito’s voice guiding them to safety before demanding an audience. Along the way, the player encounters the remnants of the crew, who have mutated but are still keenly aware of what their bodies are doing. This is like system shock 2 instantly throws the player into his world, setting the stakes and using what he can to create a sense of dread.
It cannot be underestimated how good the sound design is system shock 2 is and how that adds to the overall feel of the game. The ominous echo of the player’s feet in the mostly empty halls and the sounds of enemies attacking are chilling. The game has very little music but a variety of sounds that bring the player into this tense, hostile environment.
system shock 2 does not shy away from the tragedy experienced. The hybrids (one of the main classes of enemies) were all once humans, now torn between the mutation that makes them part of a hive mind and their human selves that beg the protagonist to put an end to their suffering. Between that and the apocalyptic logs that players can find, the game manages to do something modern games often struggle with.
System Shock 2 creates an environment of isolation and fear
The player is completely and terribly alone during the gameplay. Aside from Doctor Polito’s voice, which turns out to be the far more malevolent SHODAN, there is very little interaction for the player that isn’t hostile. SHODAN is an all-consuming presence, and it makes it very clear how much she views the player character as nothing more than a beneficial insect that she will soon eliminate. The game is a lonely experience with only the cold consolation that members of the crew can be put out of their misery. SHODAN is considered one of the greatest villains in video games for a reason. Their endless taunting of the player is one of the things that fuels the terror even more.
system shock 2 does a lot with extremely little. Where most horror games rely on their graphics to make players squirm, system shock 2 did it with sound and the player’s own sense of impending doom. All of this horror is deeply rooted in the environment itself. Being trapped on a ship in space, now controlled by a ruthless and malicious AI, is a nightmare scenario that many other stories in the past have tried to emulate. what does system shock 2 so successful is the simple fact that it doesn’t overdo it or boost the gore-for-shock value. It’s almost cinematic in its approach, set in a time long before movie games had even become a thing.
Modern reception of System Shock 2
It’s hard to play a game like this system shock 2 today. It demands a lot from the player and doesn’t have the quality of life improvements that modern games offer. However, for those brave enough to try it, it can be an eye-opening experience.
Many modern horror classics stand on the shoulders of system shock 2 and seldom ever reaches the heights of his incredible sense of terror and fear. For gamers looking for a good scare, this is a game not to be overlooked.