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Vintage Game Club: System Shock 2


When we discuss great games, we often cite particular moments burned into our brains: seeing Hyrule Field for the first time in Ocarina; the chainsaw zombie in Resident Evil 4; the death of Aeris; "Would you kindly..."; "The cake is a lie"; emerging from the sewers to gaze on Cyradil for the first time;  insult sword fighting; the final ascent in Journey; "Kick, punch, it's all in the mind." Those are a few of mine.

System Shock 2 has many such moments, perhaps more than any other game. When devoted players discuss storytelling in games, someone inevitably declares System Shock 2 one of the best ever, and rightly so. Its canny mix of FPS, RPG and survival horror elements remains among the most thoughtful and well-balanced in video game history. Today, nearly every game is a mash-up of familiar genres. System Shock 2 was the first to do it right.

And if you're an audio nut like me, SS2 remains one of the most affecting sound designs ever created for a game. Critics routinely describe SS2 as "atmospheric," and it certainly is, but more of that feeling creeps into your ears than your eyes. Wear headphones for this one, and don't ignore the audio logs.

Let's play it!
Today is a day to celebrate because Good Old Games (coming soon to Steam) has released System Shock 2 for all of us to revisit...or play for the first time. Along with the game, optimized for modern systems, players will receive the soundtrack, artwork, concept maps, an interview with Lead Designer Ken Levine, and the original pitch document, which is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history and evolution of games.

So is System Shock 2 the great game many claim it to be? Are we wistfully clinging to a critic's darling that's fashionable to talk about, but no longer fun to play? Can a 14-year-old game with primitive graphics speak to modern players? Is it possible for a game to improve with age?

Now is your chance to answer those questions for yourself, in the company of friendly folks who enjoy playing and discussing older games together. You're invited to join us at the Vintage Game Club for our collective playthrough, which begins Monday, February 18.

Good Old Games has released SS2 in a DRM-free version that runs well on modern PCs. If you already own a boxed version of the game that works on your system, that's great. Players on GOG's forums report that community mods (Hi-Res, widescreen, etc.) appear to work with the GOG version too. 

We all have busy lives, so the VGC is a no-pressure environment. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it, or if you post a comment but can't return to follow up, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. We're here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games. All are welcome!

The Vintage Game Club