The Shocks

Ooh, ooh, how about... "Shock it up?"

...

Ekhm... Bioshock Infinite is just around the corner. I've already pre-ordered my copy, I know I'll like it, just as I liked all the previous entries in the... "shock" series...? Yeah, let's go with that. The Shock series. Now, I have played nearly all of them, except for the first one... I haven't played it way back then, and it's not (yet) available on GOG.com. But what IS available through digital distribution, is System Shock 2, and the two Bioshocks. And here's what I think about all of 'em.

Look At You Hacker... Your Flesh Moves Around So Goddamn Slow

Let me preface this first segment by saying System Shock 2 is fucking awesome. It's one of the best old games I've bought on GOG. It's still playable, and the atmosphere, the story and the mix of FPS and RPG elements... Well all of those things are just beautiful. BUT, I do have three and a half little problems with it. Now, this game was released in 1999, so I understand. I get it. Those weren't really problems back in 99. But they still bug me. Don't worry though, every time you'll read a paragraf of hate, a paragraf of love won't be far behind.

There's something about action RPGs that you can mess up really easily: Limitations. It's okay when you're playing a standard RPG and you have a low agility stat, and your character in combat is slower than the rest of your team. Yeah, that's totally fine. But imagine that because of that low agility stat, your character is slow on the world map. It would be really annoying, wouldn't it? You'd be forced to raise that agility stat to improve the game, cause the defeault speed is just painful, and it's taking your character for-EVER to get where you want him to go. That's System Shock 2. And it doesn't help that there's a LOT of backtracking to do (which, hey, isn't a problem for me), so speed is a must have if you don't want to be bored out of your mind slowly stomping around the bloody corridors of the ship.

Some love now! System Shock 2 is fucking amazing! It has awesome character progression, and by the end of the game you feel like you've achieved something. You can smoke the enemies you've had problems with earlier in the game just like that. Even the big brutes are a cakewalk at some point. And with a high agility stat, you're faster than wind! Am I a hypocrite? Maybe so indeed. Maybe so... Indeed.

...Or maybe you are a hypocrite. Think about it.

Another limitation is the way the game handles guns. You can't use a gun unless you have invested points in gun mastery. Even the basic handgun. Come on guys. I've had this freaking handgun for 3 hours now! Let. Me. Use. It. For Christ's sake, I would know how to shoot a monster after four hours with a handgun, come on. Eh, maybe they're future guns... With some... Kind of... Locks on them, I don't know. But that doesn't excuse the fact that it's crappy when I find a gun in an FPS, and can't even equip it. Something's not right there. Ain't natural.

System Shock 2 is crazy! It has a great variety of guns, energy guns, explosive guns, alien guns, and more! It even has three melee weapons! That's crazy, ain't in?! ANd it has majicks! Okay, it's called psychokinewhatever, but you're still throwing ice blasts, mind controls, heals and all of that good stuff around. Hey. This game is pretty great.

Remember first person platforming in video games?! Loved it you say? Well, I'd say you're full of shit, but hey, System Shock 2 has you covered. Only a few instances of this awesome addition to FPS games though, sorry, so it's not exactly Jedi Knight (thank GOD).

Come on bro, it wasn't that bad!

Most of the game is really straightforward though. And except for a few areas, and some backtracking, System Shock 2 has great level design.

And two small complaints, which I guess count as half of a big one. Shitty ending (Jesus Christ it's so bad), and some crappy voice acting here and there.

But Shodan is probably my favourite villain of all time! The ending does suck a big one though, the way they handle Shodan is just damn disrespectful, and I'm really disappointed, because up to that point the writing's solid.

There ya go. That's System Shock 2. Released today, it would still be a great game. Almost 15 years later. Truly a classic. Truly.

Would You Kindly... Read Along? I don't Know Guys, I Tried To Come Up With Something Cool For The Title Here, But I Ended Up Using That Line from The Game That Everybody Knows... Why So Serious, Am I Right? Am I Right Or Am I Right? Ha-Haa! You Know, Like the Joker? Like In That Batman Movie? You Know The One!

You know Bioshock! It's a great game! It ain't SS2 though. Some things were streamlined (thank God), but others... were streamlined (NOES!). So less of an RPG, more of an action game. It's still damn fine though. Yeeeeah the gameplay could've been better, but still, damn fine. I have a beef to pick with the writers though... The story beats are the fucking same! Really. I ain't kidding here. It's System Shock 2 part 2. And yeah, nowadays we make games that are almost identical to eachother, the allstory and all that crap, but this is just ridiculous, even by today's standards.

Okay, this blog is gettin' really long, so... Bioshock 2. A good goddamn game, even though it seems like a cop out, and I didn't think I would enjoy it, there ya go. The gameplay's really good. And they've done something that should've been done in Bioshock uno, you hold your gun in one hand, and magic in the other. I mean, how hard was it to implement that into the game? Clive Barker's Undying done it way, waaaay before Bioshock. Either way, this game's great. And the writing's not bad, really. Maybe I would have prefered it over the System Shock 2 plot of the original Bioshock.

Play Undying, it has some level design problems, but it's fun! And it's on GOG.

Also, Minerva's Den is a damn fine DLC. But you probably knew that already. It's Bioshock 2, but more compact and with a better, more interesting story. It wouldn't do well in a 10 hour game, but as it is, the writing's really solid.

So there you go. The Shocks. In terms of gameplay I'd say SS2 is best, followed by Bioshock 2 and then Bioshock taking the third place. In terms of story... Well, maybe you should just look at that order again. In terms of setting though? Bioshock one reigns supreme. And hey, that's why Bioshock is a classic. It takes what was great about SS2, streamlines it (hey, take the good with the bad I say) and places all of that in an awesome underwater city with big hulking gorrillas roaming around the half-sunken tubes.

Yeah, I think Infinite will be a good game.

2 Comments
2 Comments
Posted by FancySoapsMan

@twolines: I am hyped for Infinite mostly because of how much I love System Shock 2's gameplay and atmosphere.

I doubt it will ever be as terrifying and gripping, but even if it's half as good I think I'll be satisfied.

Anyway, good blog, I enjoyed reading your take on this great series :)

Edited by bgdiner

If we're talking classic 90s games, I think Daikatana deserves a mention here.

All joking aside, great article. With Infinite out, I will say it has the least-developed surroundings (of the series, that is); my expectations, as inflated as they may have been, led me to believe that we would see a fully fleshed-out Columbia, as opposed to one that is really only a stage for combat and story exposition. Granted, Bioshock had its staged moments (anyone remember the scene in which you were ambushed upon picking up the shotgun for the first time?), but Columbia somehow embodied that more-so than I would have liked. But hey, everyone's entitled to an opinion (just check out the vitriolic posts on Infinite).