System Shock 2 is the sequel to the 1994 first-person shooter/RPG hybrid System Shock. Set in the early twenty-second century, players assume the role of a nameless soldier serving aboard the military space-faring vessel UNN Rickenbacker during its defensive escort for the maiden voyage of humanity's first faster-than-light starship, the Von Braun. The campaign begins as the soldier is awakened from cryogenic stasis with no memory of the last several weeks, only to discover the Von Braun derelict and overrun by a host of hostile mutant creatures who refer to themselves collectively as "The Many".
Over the course of the game, the soldier uncovers the events leading to the catastrophe by battling his way through both ships and examining clues left behind by the crew, such as audio logs. In a mid-game plot twist, players also witness the resurrection of the original System Shock's primary antagonist, the malevolent artificial intelligence known as SHODAN.
The main story begins in 2114, forty-two years after the events of the original System Shock. After the protagonist, Soldier G65434-2, joins the United National Nominate, he is assigned to the Rickenbacker, a military spacecraft. This ship is appointed to escort the maiden-voyage of the Von Braun, an experimental starship capable of faster-than-light space travel.
A couple of months into the journey, the ships respond to a distress signal originating from the planet Tau Ceti V. A rescue team is deployed to the surface of the planet, where they discover strange eggs throughout the entire facility and nearby area. The eggs suddenly infect the rescue team and integrate them into an alien communion that calls itself The Many. Upon the rescue team's return, the infestation takes over both ships.
Soldier G65434-2 awakens in a cryo-tube in the medical wing of the Von Braun with amnesia due to a computer malfunction. He is immediately contacted by another survivor, Dr. Janice Polito, who guides the soldier to safety seconds before the medical wing depressurizes. Dr Polito implores the soldier to meet with her on Deck 4. As he makes his way to his objective, the soldier battles the infected crew members; all the while, The Many communicates telepathically with the soldier, inciting him to join their collective.
After the soldier restarts the Rickenbacker's engine core, incinerating everything in the elevator shaft, he reaches Deck 4 and discovers that Dr. Polito has been dead for some time. He is confronted by SHODAN, the rogue artificial intelligence that caused the devastation on Citadel Station in the previous game. She reveals that she has been posing as Dr. Polito to gain his trust, and is solely responsible for creating The Many. They are the results of bio-engineering experiments on the denizens of Citadel Station. Forty-two years earlier, an unnamed hacker ejected the grove that contained both SHODAN and her experiments into space to prevent them from contaminating Earth. When the grove landed on Tau Ceti V, SHODAN was forced into hibernation. This allowed The Many to grow beyond her control. SHODAN subsequently issues an ultimatum: The soldier must help her destroy her creations, or die.
Soldier G65434-2 tries to regain control of the main computers, but ultimately fails. SHODAN informs him that destroying the Von Braun is their only option, but he must first transfer SHODAN's consciousness to the Rickenbacker. While en route, the soldier briefly finds two survivors, Tommy Suarez and Rebecca Siddons, who flee the ship on a working escape pod.
When the transfer is complete, the soldier travels to the Rickenbacker and learns that both ships have been infected by The Many's source: a giant mass of organic tissue. The soldier enters its mass and destroys the core from within, stopping the spread of the infection. SHODAN congratulates the protagonist and informs him of its original intentions: to merge physical reality with cyberspace by subverting the reality-altering mechanics of the Von Braun's FTL drive. The soldier subsequently confronts SHODAN in cyberspace and defeats her.
The final scene of the game shows Tommy and Rebecca receiving a message from the Von Braun. Tommy answers, telling the soldier that they will return for him but Rebecca isn't feeling well. She is heard speaking in the same voice as SHODAN.
- Soldier G65434-2: The player character and main protagonist of System Shock 2. Depending on which branch of the military is chosen by players at the beginning of the game, the soldier serves either in the UNN Protectorate's Navy, the Marines, or the OSA.
- Dr. Janice Polito: The Von Braun's senior systems analyst. Early on, SHODAN mimics Dr. Polito's voice during her remote communications with soldier G65434-2 in order to establish trust. The protagonist eventually discovers Polito's corpse inside her office on Ops deck just before SHODAN reveals her deception.
- The Many: A genetically-engineered race of psychic annelid-like creatures capable of infecting human hosts in order to control their behavior. While technically not a single "character," this collective intelligence telepathically communicates with soldier G65434-2 several times over the course of the campaign, usually to condemn humanity's inherent individuality or to persuade the soldier to stop resisting and join the "splendor of the flesh".
- XERXES: The resident AI construct installed on the Von Braun. XERXES is co-opted by the The Many's agents and helps them run riot on the Von Braun. Later in the game, SHODAN assimilates his AI core into herself in order to gain complete control over the Von Braun's systems.
- William Bedford Diego: The famous captain of the UNN Rickenbacker, the UNN Protectorate's heavy destroyer military escort for the Von Braun. William is the son of Edward Diego, the infamous vice-president of TriOptimum whose shady dealings led to the Citadel Station disaster of the original System Shock.
- Anatoly Korenchkin: The enterprising CEO of TriOptimum. A consummate capitalist, Korenchkin's quest for greater profits leads him to captain the Von Braun on its maiden voyage, despite his total lack of experience in commanding a starship.
- Dr. Marie Delacroix: The Von Braun's chief engineer and one of the few remaining uninfected survivors. She is the de facto leader of a meager human resistance group fighting against The Many. Delacroix makes contact with the protagonist late in the campaign, but soon falls victim to a trap laid by SHODAN once she is no longer useful.
- SHODAN: A megalomaniacal AI who makes her return as an unlikely ally in System Shock 2. Unsatisfied with the results of her "grand and wonderful experiment" that resulted in the creation of The Many, she manipulates the protagonist in order to correct her "error" and exterminate the annelids.
Like its predecessor, System Shock 2 combines the immersive perspective of a first-person shooter with extensive gameplay elements seen primarily in role-playing games. At the start of the game, players can customize their character's skill set through a series of military career missions. A player's chosen attributes and skills directly influence their character's effectiveness in combat, as well as their ability to perform various non-violent actions such as hacking.
Throughout the game, players have opportunities to guide their character’s specialization by spending "cybernetic modules" at special kiosks known as "upgrade units". Characters can progress in their combat skills, including Standard, Heavy, Energy and Exotic weapons. They can increase their technical prowess, including hacking, repairing, weapon modifications and research. Alternatively, they may learn increasingly powerful psionic abilities.
System Shock 2's gameplay is open-ended, and characters with different specialties may find different ways around obstacles. A Marine trained in combat skills might fight past several enemies to reach an important switch, while an OSA agent with psionic abilities might hide himself from his enemies and simply walk past them. A UNN naval officer could use his technical skills to hack into a nearby gun turret and let it destroy the enemy instead.
As in most RPGs, players will discover a wide variety of equippable or consumable items over the course of the game. Items require inventory slots to carry, and the player's total number of slots depends on their character's Strength value.
With the exception of the Wrench, every weapon in the game has an associated skill prerequisite. Certain weapons may also require a certain level of basic character attributes (Strength, Agility, etc.) to equip. Most of the game's ranged weapons can be loaded with different kinds of ammunition, some of which may be more effective against certain enemy types.
While melee weapons in System Shock 2 cannot be broken, all ranged weapons are subject to durability damage and will eventually jam after a certain number of rounds have been fired, effectively disabling the weapon until it is repaired.
|Standard Weapons||Ammo||Stats Required||Firing Modes||Description|
|Bullets (Standard, Armor Piercing, Anti-Personnel)||Standard:1|
Single, 3-shot burst
|A .45-caliber sidearm available early in the game, the standard Pistol inflicts moderate damage and requires only basic weapons training to wield. It's effective against most enemies, especially when the appropriate ammo type is used.|
|Shells (Rifled Slugs, Pellets)||Standard:3|
Single, 3-shot burst
|A Shotgun with substantial recoil that deals a respectable amount of damage, and its ammo is relatively plentiful. Pellet rounds are very effective versus organic targets, while slugs are better at punching through metallic armor.|
|Bullets (Standard, Armor Piercing, Anti-Personnel)||Standard:6|
Semi-auto, full auto
|The workhorse of the UNN, this automatic rifle is the pinnacle of Standard weapons. Featuring dual fire modes and a large magazine, its damage is comparable to the pistol with a 25% damage bonus. Even strong creatures can be dropped by only a few shots with an optimal ammo type.|
|Energy Weapons||Ammo||Stats Required||Firing Modes||Description|
|A basic energy weapon that inflicts only small amounts of damage in Normal mode, but can be set to Overload for increased damage. Its main advantage lies in its essentially infinite ammo; Laser Pistols can be charged not only with portable batteries, but also at any Recharge Station. It deals double damage against totally mechanical targets.|
|N/A||An advanced melee weapon that's stronger than the standard Wrench. This "light sword" is twice as effective against mechanical enemies as opposed to organic targets.|
|A specialized EMP projection device which is very effective against robots and cyborgs, but useless against organic targets. Like the laser pistol, its ammo is essentially unlimited.|
|Heavy Weapons||Ammo||Stats Required||Firing Modes||Description|
|Grenades (Frag, Incendiary, EMP, Disruption, Proximity)||Heavy:1||Impact, Bounce||A highly versatile weapon that can fire a wide variety of ammo types. The Grenade Launcher's rounds also have the ability to cause splash damage to nearby targets. "Impact" mode causes rounds to detonate on contact, while "Bounce" allows players to perform bank shots.|
|N/A||Though not a weapon in the conventional sense, the Stasis Field Generator can be used to temporarily freeze targets in place, leaving them vulnerable to follow-up attacks.|
|Normal, Death||A devastating weapon that fires slow-moving projectiles which explode on contact. It can also deal substantial damage to players if fired while in close proximity to a target, especially in "Death" mode with its wider damage radius.|
|Exotic Weapons||Ammo||Stats Required||Firing Modes||Description|
|N/A||A shard of annelid crystal with exceptional sharpness. It is the most powerful melee weapon in the game and even boasts superior range in its swings.|
|Human, Annelid||Fires a payload of anti-annelid virus that explodes on contact; players can detonate the projectile prematurely by releasing the trigger after firing. "Human" mode deals extra damage to annelid-human hybrids but also puts players at risk. "Annelid" mode is superior against "pure" annelids and cannot not harm the player. The Proliferator is totally ineffective against machines.|
|Human, Annelid||Similar to the Viral Proliferator, this organic weapon features two firing modes for different enemy types and does no damage to mechanical enemies. However, the Launcher fires homing projectiles with a larger blast radius.|
|Other Weapons||Ammo||Stats Required||Firing Modes||Description|
|N/A||N/A||N/A||The utilitarian Wrench is likely to be the first weapon acquired by players. Though relatively weak, it does not require any special training nor ammunition to use.|
|N/A||Psi:1||N/A||While not strictly considered a weapon, Psi Amps are required for players to use Psi abilities, which can range between offensive, defensive and support applications.|
With the exception of the Hazard Suit, characters' attributes (Strength, Agility, etc.) must meet certain prerequisites in order to equip protective gear.
|Strength:2||Defense:20||A basic set of body armor with a minimal Strength prerequisite.|
While offering no protection from weapons, Hazard Suits do shield the player from most of the environmental damage caused by toxins or high levels of radiation.
This top-of-the-line armor provides superior protection while only weighing slightly heavier than Light Combat Armor. However, it is totally dependent on an external battery and offers no protection without a power source.
|Strength:4||Defense:30||A beefed-up set of armor with twice the weight of the Light variety.|
|Strength:6||Defense:40||The best set of non-powered armor in the game is also incredibly heavy, preventing all but the strongest soldiers from equipping it.|
Radical innovations in ballistics research have produced this living armor made from annelid tissue, which also boosts the wearer's Psi stat. However, it also constantly drains PSI points while equipped.
Special "metabolic booster" devices known as Implants can be equipped to the player's cyber-rig in order to grant better stats or skills. Implants draw power from an internal battery pack, which must be periodically recharged to maintain their functionality.
- BrawnBoost - Boosts the player's Strength stat by +1.
- EndurBoost - Boosts the player's Endurance stat by +1.
- SwiftBoost - Boosts the player's Agility stat by +1.
- PsiBoost - Boosts the player's Psionic Ability stat by +1.
- LabAssistant - Boosts the player's Research skill by +1.
- ExperTech - Boosts the player's Hack, Repair and Modify skills by +1.
- WormMind - When the player receives damage, one out of every four points of damage is subtracted from the user's PSI points instead of their hit points.
- WormBlood - The player can right-click on a pile of worms to instantly heal ten hit points.
- WormHeart - The player is immune to annelid toxins and regenerates one hit point every thirty seconds. However, if the implant loses power or is unequipped, the player will be subjected to the residual toxins stored inside the implant.
In addition to equipment, players can carry consumable items that offer additional support, such as healing or free upgrades.
- Medical Hypo - Heals ten hit points over a duration of four seconds. The most common healing item.
- Psi Hypo - Instantly restores twenty PSI points.
- Anti-Toxin Hypo - Instantly reduces toxin level by two increments.
- Anti-Radiation Hypo - Instantly reduces radiation level by about 15% of maximum possible radiation.
- Speed Booster - Doubles the player's speed for twenty seconds. Players can actually damage or kill themselves by crashing into objects while speed-boosted.
- Strength Booster - Increases the Strength stat by +1 for five minutes.
- Psi Booster - Increases the Psionic Ability stat by +1 for five minutes.
- Medical Kit - Heals twenty hit points over a duration of four seconds.
- Potato Chips - Heals one hit point.
- Soda - Heals one hit point.
- Juice - Heals one hit point.
- Liquor - Heals one hit point, but drains Psi points by two (at Normal difficulty).
- Champagne - Heals one hit point, but drain Psi points by two (at Normal difficulty).
- Vodka - Heals one hit point, but drains Psi points by two (at Normal difficulty).
- Cigarettes - Drains one hit point. There is no benefit to using this item.
- Disposable Maintenance Tool - Increases a weapon's condition commensurate with the Repair skill.
- Auto-Repair Unit - Instantly repairs one device or weapon.
- French-Epstein Device - Instantly modifies a weapon, increasing its modification level by one.
- Portable Battery - Recharges one item that requires energy to use.
- ICE Pick - Instantly successfully hacks one device.
- Surgical Unit Activation Key - Activates one stationary surgery unit, which can fully heal the player in exchange for nanites.
- Diagnostic/Repair Module - Heals fifteen hit points. This item can be extracted from large robots if the player has installed the "Cyber-Assimilation" OS upgrade.
- Recycler - Destroys any stackable item and dispenses a small number of nanites in return.
- GamePIG -A handheld gaming system that the player can use to play a variety of minigames.
- MFD Game Cartridge - Loads one game onto the GamePIG. A total of six different games can be found throughout the campaign.
Using a software item instantly installs it to the player's cyber-rig. Each piece of software is available in three tiers of effectiveness; level 1 boosts the associated skill by 10%, level 2 by 20%, and level 3 by 30%. Higher levels of the same software will automatically overwrite previous versions when used.
- Hack Software - Boosts the player's chance to perform a successful hack.
- Modify Software - Boosts the player's chance to successfully modify a weapon.
- Repair Software - Boosts the player's chance to successfully repair a jammed weapon.
- Research Software - Boost the speed of the player's research.
Players can research certain annelid artifacts to gain various perks or unlock new items and equipment. However, research requires basic chemical elements, which can be found in various Chemical Storerooms located throughout the Von Braun and the Rickenbacker. Most researchable objects require more than one chemical to research, as well as certain levels of the Research skill.
|Name||Locations||Items Researched & Add'l Req.|
Reception and Legacy
System Shock 2 was noted for the original aspects of its design, including the usage of crew member audio logs as a narrative device. These voice recordings tell the story of what happened aboard the Von Braun and, in some cases, document the horrific transformation of the crew into mindless, savage agents of The Many. This method of storytelling allowed the story to flow at the pace of the player's progress, instead of sweeping the player along by force. The game is also noted for its atmosphere and tension, and to this day it ranks on many critics' lists as one of the scariest games ever produced.
Despite the game's critical acclaim, piracy and a lack of marketing resulted in lackluster sales, and System Shock 2 is known today more as a cult hit than a commercial success.
Although it wasn't a huge commercial hit, a lot of game mechanics and ideas were refined and used many years later in System Shock 2's critically and commercially acclaimed spiritual successor, Bioshock, including the use of audio logs, plasmids in place of cybernetic upgrades, and a similar mid-game plot twist. Deus Ex, another well received game whose development was lead by System Shock franchise creator Warren Spector, also used many of the ideas of it's predecessor, most notably cybernetic augmentations and the integration of RPG elements with FPS gameplay.
GLaDOS , the main villain of Portal is often considered to be an homage to SHODAN, as both are malevolent female AIs who goad and taunt the player as they progress throughout the game.
Following the acquisition of rights by Night Dive Studios, a sequel to System Shock 2 is now in development. System Shock 3 is being developed by OtherSide Entertainment, a studio populated by an assortment of developers who worked on System Shock 2 as part of Looking Glass Studios.
Although many years have passed since its release, System Shock 2 still has many devoted fans and modding community. The most known mods are Rebirth, which replaces some of the game's original NPC 3D assets with new, fan made, high-resolution models, and SHTUP, which updates the original textures of the game with newer high-res versions. The ability to utilize these complex, high resolution assets is a testament to the versatility of the Dark Engine, which SS2 and the original Thief were built on. The community is also responsible for high number of fixes and tweaks, which help to run SS2 on newer operating systems and video cards. The main "base of operations" for the community is Looking Glass Studios' forum, even though the company itself ceased to exist on the 24th of may, 2000.
On February 13th 2013, it was announced that the System Shock rights and trademark (notoriously caught in a complicated legal triangle for many years) had finally been secured by Stephen Kick of Night Dive Studios who approached GOG with an aim to releasing the title on the popular digital distribution service, with a later Steam release likely, thus marking the first time in many years that the game can be bought legitimately without the need for second-hand copies or legally dubious downloads. As is customary for titles released through GOG, the game has received bug-fixing polishes and has been adapted to run natively on modern versions of Windows with little set-up required on the customer's behalf.
As of May 11th, 2013, System Shock 2 is now available on Steam with better compatibility to make it work on the latest operating systems while still allowing user-made modifications to be applied. It also contains additional material such as the game's soundtrack, maps of the Von Braun, and the original pitch document for the game.
- Ramsey Center
- Deck 2
- Crew Quarters
- Deck 1
- Engineering Control
- Cargo Bay 1
- Cargo Bay 2
- Engine Core
- Deck 3
- Hydroponics 1
- Hydroponics 2
- Hydroponics 3
- Deck 4
- Operations 1
- Operations 2
- Deck 5
- Recreational 1
- Recreational 2
- Deck 6
- Command 1
- Command 2
- Rickenbacker Pod 1
- Rickenbacker Pod 2
- Body Of The Many
- Where Am I?
The music score for System Shock 2 was composed by Josh Randall and Ramin Djawadi.
|Track #||Song Title||Running Time|
|01||Irrational Games Logo||00.12|
|02||Med Sci 1||03.28|
|03||Med Sci 2||03.51|
- Through the Looking Glass
- SShock2.com - Community website, which is closest thing to an official website for System Shock 2.
- SMA (SystemShock.org) - Community forum, large file archive with tons of patches and mods.
PC System Requirements
- Processor: 200Mhz Pentium
- Video Card: 4 MB D3D hardware accelerator
- Memory: 32 MB RAM
- Hard Drive Space: 250 MB
- Operating System: Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP
- Processor: 266Mhz P2
- Video Card: 8 MB D3D hardware accelerator
- Memory: 64 MB RAM
- Hard Drive Space: 250 MB
- Operating System: Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP