Hands are often wrung in places where journalists congregate (courts, houses of ill repute, gaols) over whether news can ever truly be objective, or whether the becoming long brown coat of the reporter simply conceals their own selfish purposes and prejudices.
Let this post serve as proof of the latter – for though you’ve been tempted here for the dirty on System Shock 2’s new Linux version, it’s all a big sham. An excuse to sell you on this cold, cruel game I’ve fallen unrequitedly in love with on Windows lately.
System Shock is a game everyone intends to play, right? But intention doesn’t quite translate into clicking that tangible grey ‘Play’ button in Steam, somehow. You need to bump this one up your to-play list, for these flashily named and numbered reasons:
1. Dead Place: Forget the rubbish about this being a different beast to BioShock – this is the same abandonment horror story we have known and on-off loved. There is backseat philosophy, thanks to a spreading, anti-individualist worm virus that calls itself The Many. There are things called ‘hypos’.
There are cameras, which trigger alarm systems, which bring down sudden aggro on your head. And there’s that same exquisite balance of systems and scripting you’ll remember as quintessential Irrational – there at their very beginning, just as it was at their very end (in the excellent Burial at Sea part 2).
2. The Scrap Metal Age: This might just be me, but I love Looking Glass’ Thief engine – the one they licensed out to Irrational for the building of System Shock 2. The rare shadows in this overlit space station still seem to perform their original function, and an awareness of what’s under your feet is crucial to keeping quiet – and therefore alive. But the use of Thief’s tech is most apparent in the clumsy swing of your hybrid enemies, who you’ll learn to lure and dodge, so that you can give them a real back problem while they’re wrench-lunging at thin air. This turns out to be terrific, and terrifying, fun.
3. Making of a Mass Murder: EA, or whoever on Earth is responsible for System Shock these days, have updated every copy of System Shock 2 on Steam in conjunction with the new Linux release. That means an installation directory suddenly filled with titbits – a pitch document, radio interviews, original artwork, and the intrusive techno soundtrack you’ll turn off in the first level. Another way to sift through a still-warm history, in a game about doing just that.
So, yes: get System Shock 2 now on Linux, or on not-Linux. It is good. Or perhaps you’ve played it already?