Look at you, h-h-hacker

I’ve had System Shock 2 kicking around, just the disc in jewel case, for ages. Probably since it was released in 1999, when it played it after release. This last month I’ve been playing through it again, and it’s still mostly a great game that falls apart towards the end (games in general, though, have terrible problems with endings). And a lot of the game mechanics started to reaaaally annoy me (cybermodules as carrots, the excesseive weapon degredation and ammo scarcity, among others). Also, there’s no way a real ship is laid out like that.

But there were a couple of things that still amazed me:

SHODAN scares the shit out of me. Seven years later, hearing the voice in the demo freaked me out. Every time she’d contact me it would grate on my nerves and raise the hair on my neck. That’s an amazing feat.

I remembered a ridiculous amount of the game. Where stuff was, what goals could be skipped, that while I was in location X I should pick up some foo, because otherwise I’d be heading back. It was like having a subliminal walkthrough, but it didn’t give away so much that it was ever boring. It was strange, having chunks of knowledge fall out of the long-term memory archive like that.

System Shock 2 is so great at creating an atmosphere of isolation and horror that when you start to cheer for people you only know through audio logs, and when I hit the rec deck and – for the first time since the start of the game – saw another living person, I flipped a little. “I gotta help that guy,” I said, and started to rush. Even though I played it before and knew there wasn’t going to be any human contact in my future.

Anyway. It was really hard to get it running (especially with dual CPUs, ugh) and often it was a pain in the ass to run, but SS2 (and certainly the first two-thirds or so) are one of the greatest arguments for games-as-art and that there needs to be a better way to preserve old games. If I put the CD away, what are the chances it runs in another seven years?

(actually, it’s probably not so bad – I’ll be running some crazed super-Linux variant and there’ll be some awesome WINE configurator I can use as a wrapper…)

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