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Game review

By WES PLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 1999


System Shock 2
Company: Electronic Arts

The virtue -- and the greatest weakness -- of System Shock 2 is that it tries to be something more than a standard first-person shooter.

It's a promising concept: You're a soldier in the future assigned to the starship Von Braun. During a crisis, you are thawed from cryogenic freezing -- and suffer amnesia in the process.

So, you must spend the duration of the game fighting for your life, trying to find out what happened to you and the crew -- and pitting yourself against the same megalomaniacal artificial intelligence, Shodan, who menaced players in the original System Shock game.

With System Shock 2, the developers have tried to fuse elements of science-fiction/horror roleplaying with the traditional shooter. As the game begins, you develop a character as either a Marine, naval officer or a specialist in psychic powers. On each level, you pick up clues and begin to unravel the mystery.

The graphics and sound, using the same engine as the popular Thief: The Dark Project, are outstanding.

But I spent so much time watching over my shoulder for killer hybrids that provide the kill-or-be-killed element of the game that it dampened my attention to and appreciation for the role-playing aspects.

One reason System Shock 2 suffers from this rather schizophrenic (if noble) attempt at fusion is the rather clumsy control arrangement.

I found myself so distracted paying attention to cursor keys and mouse movements and clicks that it took away from the immersive elements the game strives for and left me all too painfully aware that I was at my computer, struggling with controls.

Unlike most shooters, System Shock 2 does not offer the option of joystick control to handle movement and shooting.

System Shock 2 isn't a bad game, but it could be much better if it didn't try to be all things to all people.

Platform reviewed: Windows

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