By Hailinel 7 Comments
Today, for the first and only time in my planned schedule, we’ll jump into the realm of PC gaming. Back in time to an age when sci-fi horror didn’t mean Dead Space, and when Ken Levine worked on a shock of a different sort. System Shock 2, to be precise, and its antagonist SHODAN.
For what it’s worth, SHODAN was also the villain, or rather, villainess, in the original System Shock, but I personally am more familiar with the sequel. Mostly because it’s the one that I played, and it scared the utter shit out of me. You haven’t known fear until you’ve screamed at the top of your lungs while flailing in the darkness with a wrench. And SHODAN is the cause of it all.
What is SHODAN? Well, she’s an evil artificial intelligence hell-bent on murdering the worthless sacks of meat she considers humanity. Imagine GLaDOS, but replace her dark sense of humor and cake recipes with an acute, genocidal psychosis and the desire to turn people into cybernetic zombies to serve as her unwilling murder puppets. Both AIs toy with their subjects, whether it’s your space marine character in System Shock 2 or Chell in Portal.
But rather than lead you through a series of test chambers with the promise of cake at the end, SHODAN’s plot is far more sinister. After being forcibly awakened from his sleep chamber on board the Von Braun, the player character quickly learns that everything has gone to hell. His only help is Dr. Janice Polito, who communicates with him and directs him through the ship. He makes his way through the Von Braun, hoping to make contact with Janice and hopefully find a way out of this mess. But when he finally finds her, she’s dead, and has been dead for quite some time. She had committed suicide before he even woke up.
So who was this Janice helping the player through the whole game? Why, SHODAN, of course. The entire time, she had been tricking you into helping her assume control of the ship. And when she starts using the Von Braun’s faster-than-light drive to start warping reality, you have to shut her down. And by shut her down, I mean run around a chamber, hacking terminals to shut them off as a physical avatar of SHODAN chases you around and makes you piss your pants, your skirts, your jorts, and your kilts.
And, like all horror villains that just refuse to stay dead, SHODAN finds a way to live on, even after her defeat. She takes possession of a woman, one of the few survivors of that managed to find the safety of an escape pod, and becomes SHODAN in actual physical form. Yeesh.
Unfortunately, Looking Glass Studios shut down after System Shock 2 was released, and with the rights to the series being held in the purgatory that is the EA back catalogue, it’s unlikely that we’ll see her villainy rise again. Which is unfortunate, because her antics could teach necromorphs a thing or three.