System Shock 2 returns!

System Shock 2

BioShock Infinite is still more than a month away. Chances are that anyone wanting to get themselves psyched up for the release of Irrational’s return to the world of genetic augmentation and megalomaniacs already played and replayed BioShock 1 and 2 to get themselves even more psyched up. What to do then? There’s no demo to taste the game ahead of time, and Ken Levine’s original exploration into first-person storytelling and character growth systems, System Shock 2, has been out of print for the better part of a decade with no easy way to download the game. At least, that is, until this week.

Good Old Games, those intrepid preservationists selling classic PC and Mac games at often shockingly reasonable prices, announced on Thursday that it’s now offering System Shock 2 for just $10. That’s far more affordable than the $60 a used CD-ROM copy will cost the average Windows PC owner, and Good Old Games’ will help ease the compatibility issues for any Windows 7 or 8 users (as well as that one remaining Windows Vista user is they happen to be in the mode for some atmospheric science fiction horror).

When it was released in 1999, System Shock 2 was an anomaly in the PC gaming landscape. Valve’s Half-Life released just one year before and helped to redefined the already booming first-person shooter market thanks to its expertly paced story, cunning artificial intelligence, and advanced physics. While not as technologically groundbreaking as Valve’s game, Irrational’s debut game pushed first-person shooters even further in terms of storytelling, with an antagonist named SHODAN that was herself a precursor to Valve’s famous GLaDOS character from Portal. The role-playing aspects of System Shock 2, including complex character growth and item management, also preceded Warren Spector’s benchmark Deus Ex by a year.

Even since BioShock’s release in 2007, interest in System Shock 2 has risen but publisher Electronic Arts has never made a move to rerelease the game to BioShock’s console-centric audience. One intrepid modder did remake the first level of System Shock 2 in Valve’s Source engine last summer, though.