System Shock 2 – Day 1

After nearly 2 months of modern games I’m back and ready to pick up this blog again. In this second stage I’ll be playing some games which I’m deeming Origin related. Basically, it’s going to include fan-games, sequels, and games made by ex-Origin staff. Right now on the list I’ve got Ultimerr, Ultima 4 Part 2, System Shock 2, Ultima 3 (GBA version), Lazarus, Ultima 6 Remake, WC Standoff, Caverns of Freitag, Thief series, Deus Ex, Starlancer, Freelancer & Ultima 9 with dialog patch. I’m also going to watch and review the Wing Commander movie + read and review some of the Ultima/Origin literature. I’ve missed some games off the list but its enough to keep me going for a while before I look for more. I’ll be a bit less dedicated than in the first stage and will break off to do other things between games.

I would have been back earlier but I’ve had all sorts of fun trying to get System Shock 2 running on 64 bit Windows 7. Once you know how it isn’t actually all that difficult, the problem is that there is just too much information around (none of it for Windows 7) and a lot of it contradicts. Without writing a detailed guide, you need to do the following:-

1. Install Virtual XP – (available as a free download from Microsoft)

2. Install System Shock 2 inside this virtual machine then copy the installation folder over to your Win7 hard disk.

3. Download and install the fan-made patch (the one with everything including fan fixes). This is currently at version 2.7

4. The ddfix part of the patch install will fail. You have to manually install it by editing shock.exe with a hex editor. Find the first mention of ddraw.dll and change it to ddfix.dll

5. Download the last free version of the intel indeo video drivers (something like version 5.1.1). Run the installation as admin or it won’t work.

6. Run the batch file in your sshock2 folder for the widescreen patch install. This needs redoing after the ddfix install or the screen resolution in the config files won’t match.

That should get it up and running. You don’t want to run in compatibility mode by the way or it won’t start at all.

I’ve also had a bit of teething trouble getting screenshots in Win7. The cutscenes just showed up black and the in-game shots are a bit smaller than I’d like. I’ll get this fixed for the next post but didn’t notice the problem until I came around to writing this one.

After splitting their allegiances with Origin, Looking Glass Studios were involved in making System Shock 2. Along with Warren Spector, they would go on to make the Thief series which I’ll be trying out later in this blog. SS2 is a game I must have owned since it was first released but never played as I was holding off until I finished System Shock. It’s long long overdue that I finally get around to trying this out.

The story takes place years after the events of the original. Humanity has just built a new state of the art spaceship called the Von Braun which is shown in a brief newsreel at the start of the game. After its triumphant launch, we get to hear a distress call before going back 4 years in time.

When I start the game I’m about to join one of the armed forces and get to play this out as a way of setting up my characters stats.

I should say a bit about the engine at this point. Thanks to the fanmade patch I’m playing this in widescreen at 1920×1080 and this works fantastically well. This helps the graphics quite a bit but they are clearly quite dated and I’d say of similar quality to Half-life. These graphics aren’t exactly awful but after some of the games I’ve been playing recently they are truly simplistic. I’m not sure, in hindsight, that these early 3D accelerated games don’t look worse in some ways than the games before them. Certainly the move from 2D sprites to 3D models meant that a lot of character detail was lost. I remember being quite unimpressed with Quake when it came out and preferred the likes of Doom, Dark Forces, etc. SS2 looks decent for its age anyway and the visuals do the job well enough – once I’ve gotten into the game properly I’ll stop noticing them but there is a bit of a culture shock after playing GTA4, then Crysis Warhead straight before this.

There is a full in game tutorial starting with basic training which again puts me in mind of Half-life. It appears to have been a big influence.

This means a trip round virtual reality where I’m talked through some basic tasks like using objects, picking things up, etc. The interface is very easy to use and the tutorial here seems a bit unnecessary but it doesn’t hurt and I could skip it if I wanted. I’m glad to say that you can set SS2 up to use standard FPS controls. My only real complaint about SS1 was the strange keyboard control system you were forced into using. The SS2 interface is really quite advanced and wouldn’t look out of place in a new release.

After basic training its onto the advanced stuff which is split into three disciplines.

Weapons training is standard enough. Something new for SS2, however, is that the weapons degrade over time and have to be maintained through special tools.

Navy training seems to concentrate on hacking. All of this requires nanites which I can pick up and store. The hacking itself involves clicking on coloured blocks in a grid trying to make a row of 3 light up. I’m guessing here that better training reduces the number of nanites used and lets you see which blocks are protected. I can also use the nanites to buy things from vending machines.

The final training area is on psi-powers. These can be used either as a weapon or to do things like telekinesis and grab a distant object. I don’t recall any psi powers in SS1 although they were in Cybermage which is nominally set in the same universe, so it doesn’t feel entirely out of place.

After all this training I now get to choose my career. This is a way of deciding my starting stats in the game. I’m fond of FPS’s so I go for the marine option on the basis that my shooting skills will get me through the game.

I now get another 3 choices of how I spend my first 3 years in the military, each choice again deciding my stats.

After these choices, I get another cutscene showing me waking up in a tank on the Von Braun. Something goes wrong with my memory restoration so I’ve no idea whats going on or how I got there. I now have some cybernetic implants which would be why I was in the tank in the first place recovering from the operation. This is a very similar start to System Shock but it doesn’t feel contrived despite this. Memory loss is a common theme in PC games but not one thats ever gotten stale for me as it works as a great basis for telling a story in a game.

I’m woken up by a woman who wants me to meet her on the fourth floor. She will be acting as my guide in this early part of the game although why she doesn’t fill me in on the details of whats happening I don’t know. I have to immediately get out of my current area as there is about to be a hull breach caused by an exploding radar dish. I pick up my first weapon (a wrench) from a body in a sideroom.

I climb out of the room through the ventilation shaft and at the other end get to see a woman being chased by some sort of creature through a window in one of the oldest FPS cliches in the book. Something is clearly going on here.

I make it to a safe area and am rewarded with a few upgrade modules which I can spend to improve my stats. It’s difficult to know what will be useful at this stage in the game. If its anything like Bioshock I’ll end up using my wrench most of the time so I go for a strength increase.

It’s not long before I get my first combat. We are both armed with wrenches and thankfully the cyborgs are very slow at swinging them so I can nip in and out of range and defeat them unharmed. Despite the basic models, I guess this is an obvious benefit to 3D enemies in that I can clearly see them swinging a weapon. The models really are simple though.

Thats all I managed for this first day. I’m likely to be getting a bit of a slow start to this game as I’m not going to have a lot of time this week. SS2 is looking promising so far and gameplay wise it looks like it will easily hold its own against its modern bretheren. Whether it will be a worthy sequel remains to be seen. I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a rehash of SS1 as it does look as if the storylines could end up being extremely similar. I definitely want more than a remake with newer technology and it will have a lot to live up to, to compete with SS1.

14 thoughts on “System Shock 2 – Day 1

  1. Wow! Just stumbled onto your blog – how awesome is this endeavor?

    Question – I’m running Vista – should I be able to run most of these games in their most recent release, e.g., the Ultima Box collection?

    Thanks and good luck!

  2. Hey!! Finally you have started this again šŸ™‚

    Don’t worry about SS2 plot. It’s not the same as SS1 at all. It has similarities here and there, but it’s different. I could tell you, but I won’t spoil it. I did play this game knowing a major spoiler and I hated myself for reading that before playing the game. So whatever you do, avoid spoilers for SS2.

    That list of games is really long.

    I’m looking forward to see what you think of System Shock 2, Standoff (10 weeks for the final release!) and Lazarus (I can’t believe I didn’t like it at first).

    Also I really really don’t recomend the Wing Commander movie… I do recommend the 13 episodes series. That was more true to WC than the movie.

    • Hey Natreg. When I was drawing up that list I was actually thinking its quite short, compared to the list I was looking at for stage 1 anyway. I’ve got a few other games in mind for when that lot are finished. I’m glad to say I know absolutely nothing at all about whats coming in System Shock 2 and I plan to keep it that way and not go within 100 miles of a walkthrough. I watched the WC series about 6 months back – they were quite good but I wouldn’t like to attempt to review them as they were clearly aimed at a really young audience. I’m kind of looking forward to ripping into the movie.

      Hi John. You won’t have any problem running just about all these games if you get a copy of Dosbox from http://dosbox.sourceforge.net. That will run everything off the Ultima Collection perfectly on Vista. There are fan upgrade patches for Ultima’s 2-5 which help improve the graphics and music so you should search those out as well. The only potentially difficult games to run are the last 3 or 4 Origin made which only worked in Windows. I still think they can all be run in Vista without any major problems but I used XP myself.

  3. well I consider that a long list šŸ™‚

    I can assure you that Lazarus would take you a very long time. I consider it as big as Serpent isle (though, you don’t have to do all the submisions, I recomend doing them, if not, it would be like playing u5 again).

    Perhaps, the only game I would really add to that list would be The Quest (yeah, I’m so annoying with this game lol).

    Also, I was wondering. Are you planning on just playing Deus Ex, or playing the entire series? (I think there are 3 of them).

    Of course, the one which really was a great game and done by Spector, was the first one.

    And talking about Spector, I did find some weeks ago some videos of a Master class he imparted back in Texas about videogames. I really consider it quite interesting (he talks a lot about origin, and even about some unreleased games like Technosaur).

    If you are interested I could send you the link to the torrent.

    Personally, I wish we had some classes like that one here on Spain šŸ™‚ that would make college way more interesting than what we got here.

  4. Yay, Pix is back! Looking forward to reliving SS2 with you since it’s been several years since I played it.

    I have been replaying the Thief series over the past month or so (though I am now playing Thief Gold (1) last due to having trouble getting Thief : The Dark Project (original 1) to run. I love Thief and hope you enjoy them close to as much as I do. Thief 1, 2, and System Shock 2 all run on Looking Glass’ “Dark Engine” by the way. This engine was never renowned for graphics, but more for the terrific audio and AI. Enjoy!!

  5. I’ll add The Quest onto my list. I could do with some older games on there. There are a few long games on that list but there are some really short ones also so I don’t anticipate it taking too long to get through everything. Once I’ve started a game, I’ll be playing through them as fast as ever, its just a case of how much I get distracted inbetween.

    Against my better judgement, I’ve decided I’m going to go back and try Longbow 2 also if I can get it working this time. It’s bugging me that I missed a game out and all the advice I read at the time reckoned that it worked ok in Vista so I should be able to run it now. I do own the sequel to Deus Ex via Steam but I don’t think I’ll blog about it here as its stretching it a bit to call it Origin related.

    I’d definitely be interested in that link.

  6. I just recently tried to install System Shock 2 on my Windows 7 64 RC drive and am coming up with a few problems. Like you said, there is just a lot of information out there. I was wondering if you could post links to where you got the fanmade patch and the indeo drivers, if it’s not too much trouble. In the meantime I’m going to keep scouring the net for patches or upgrades that work. Your blog is a great place to start, though.

  7. Pix,

    Thanks for the links. Everything is working flawlessly now. The only thing that I had to do that wasn’t mentioned was in your brief tutorial was to use a fixed .exe patch found at gamecopyworld.com. Also, it helped me to only enable one CPU core for SS2. Thanks again, you have a great blog too, btw!

  8. Excellent work!! It is funny how I just thought I would play this game again after all these years and I am on Windows 7 and found out I couldn’t play it and you have put a post up just 2 weeks ago.

    This is fantastic!

    I didn’t have to do the hex change nor download the fixed.exe (mentioned by matt). Just did your steps 1,3,5 &6. All good.

    Thankyou so much….I am looking forward to playing this again.

    Lately I have just been wanting to go retro. This is a great game to start.

    By the way SS1 is in my top 5 all time favourite RPG’s. Extremely dated but awesome huge huge game. Will have to play the original one day also but SS2 will do me for now.

    Thasaman

  9. Pix, great work with your reviews.

    I have some kind of issue with Warren Spector Master Class videos. I can’t play them even with QuickTime player…

  10. Thanks a lot. I’m guessing you don’t have the right codec on your PC. I wiped the videos out after I watched them so I’m not sure exactly which codec you need. It’s probably divx but I’m guessing.

    The PC I watched them on had the K-Lite mega codec pack installed which is basically a huge pack of every codec imaginable. You could try downloading that from:-

    http://www.codecguide.com/download_mega.htm

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