(This is part of my journey playing through System Shock 2. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
My escape pod crashed (because of course it did) right into the Many biomass. Time to engage in a bunch of annoying running around inside of an ugly organism that makes navigation a total headache!
I’m seriously not a fan of this level. One area has me swimming around a watery maze while radiation is pelting me from all sides, while another has giant chomping teeth that present a jumping puzzle. As you might recall, platforming is NOT what System Shock 2 does well, so this room took quite a few reloads.
Probably the only entertaining aspect of the level is the story that unfolds from the audio logs, wherein a scientist has explored this biomass (um, when? It was just formed like 10 minutes ago) and is morbidly detailing all of the horrible things that are going on, including his own capture and assimilation.
This watery (artery?) corridor led to the boss fight of the level, which was so chaotic that I couldn’t get a screenshot off. Mostly it involved me yelling while I’m running like a loony, shooting a giant mother brain while avoiding craptons of mobs.
Following the brain boss fight, I jump down a hole and find myself back in the Rickenbacker… but not really. No, it’s SHODAN’s mind, since she’s capable of constructing her own cyberreality. She cackles that she wasn’t really going to destroy the Von Braun (duh) but was going to head back to Earth and enslave everyone in her own reality. Well! I never! This shall not stand!
The SHODAN level isn’t tough at all — a few assassins to kill and floaty polygons to avoid. Apparently this is a recreation of Citadel Station from System Shock 1, which will be a huge treat to the six fans who actually played that back in the early 90s.
The final SHODOWN (um… get it?) isn’t that hard in comparison to what came before. I’m dumped into a little room where her mask floats behind a shield because SHODAN is a coward. Come out and pick on someone 1/1000th your size and capabilities!
The fight involves dodging her attacks, taking out the occasional holographic avatar, and hacking into the three shield stations so that I can attack the juicy center there. My trusty EMP rifle — truly the best weapon in the game — is of great use here.
And then… the game dumped me out to the main menu. For some reason, the second I finish the boss fight, instead of showing me the ending it just abruptly ends the game. Stupid glitch. Oh well, to YouTube for my well-deserved final coda!
SHODAN tries to tempt me into joining her so that we can rule together, blah de blah blah, but all I’m thinking about in this final cutscene is, “Boy, am I one ugly, ugly chum! Do I even have eyes anymore?” And then my character says his one and only line of the game in response to SHODAN’s offer:
The final stinger comes on board the escape pod with Tommy and Rebecca. They get word from me that the Von Braun is back under control, but as Tommy plans to turn around, Rebecca gets up from her nap and asks Tommy if he likes her new look. So I guess SHODAN lives after all? Boom. The end.
Putting aside its sometimes complex inventory mechanics and crude polygon people, System Shock 2 is simply a masterpiece even today. It’s an interesting blend of CRPG, survival horror, and first-person shooter with a story that you both experience and hear (the latter in the form of the logs). The use of sound, limited ammo, and a ship out to get you is really nerve-wracking, at least during the first third or so of the game. You feel alone, outnumbered, and facing death at every turn. It was really exhilerating to beat it.
Probably my biggest criticism is that from the Rickenbacker on, everything seems very rushed. The Von Braun is a marvelously detailed micro-world, whereas the Rickenbacker, Many, and SHODAN are linear levels with little new to add. I also couldn’t find more than a clip or two for my assault rifle in the entire game, so either I missed something (maybe a replicator?) or the game was screwing with me.
Obviously, the fact that I made it to the end of this long playthrough is testimony to SS2’s gripping narrative and gameplay. I’m glad I can put this in my “have played and beaten” list, especially after having gone through SS2’s spiritual successor, BioShock, many years earlier.