Any videogame sci-fi horror hall of fame that doesn’t have System Shock 2 in it somewhere is a downright lie and should be ignored, fact. Irrational Games first ever title is widely and correctly considered an absolute classic whose shadow still looms large over its spiritual descendants, the BioShock series. If you’re a fan of such first-person experiences but have never played System Shock 2 then quite frankly…well, it’s perfectly understandable actually given how tricky it can be to acquire a copy legally. For a smug git like me to say “if you’ve never played System Shock 2 then I pity you” is kind of sanctimonious when I still have my original copy right next to me. Well from tomorrow we smug horror gaming snobs can preach to our hearts content because System Shock 2 is coming to GOG.com, as first reported by gaming/tech/entertainment website FleshEatingZipper.
Why this hasn’t happened sooner is because of a whole mess of legal red tape and witchcraft. According to this interview on Rock, Paper Shotgun when Looking Glass Studios went under EA still held the System Shock trademark, with everything else going to a company called Meadowbrook Insurance Group. The result was a huge legal clusterfuck that still hasn’t been untangled but Stephen Kick of Night Dive Studios, in negotiations that started in October of last year, created enough wiggle room for the digital distribution rights to escape. Stephen then got in contact with GOG.com who had themselves been conducting their own efforts to untangle the rights issues surrounding the System Shock license.
Actually getting hold of the game wasn’t the only barrier to entry for aspiring System Shock 2 players however. Since the game is over 13 years old it naturally required a fair bit of tinkering to make it work on modern operating systems. One of the benefits of this new digital release is that GOG.com were able to go over it with their own coders and tweak it to run on modern machines with relatively little fuss. According to GOG.com’s MD Guillaume Rambourg it “runs pretty much flawlessly on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. Our most recent build has gone through all of our test team PCs without a hitch, and the game is definitely polished up and ready for its time in the limelight again.”
Some of you whippersnappers out there might have Googled some screenshots of System Shock 2 and twisted your ungrateful little faces into a sneer of ingratitude. Unless perhaps you found some screenshots from the rather spiffing System Shock Rebirth mod that adds high-poly models and other graphical goodness. But who’s to say that and other such mods will work with this new version? Well Stephen Kick says they will. “Fans will be able to apply the mods they know and love,” he confirmed, “and hopefully we may see some new mods from the community in the future.”
Although unconfirmed there are also rumblings of the game coming to Steam as well if that’s your preferred digital distributor of choice. Whether that pans out or not, as of tomorrow you’ll still have no bloody excuse what-so-bleeding-ever not to have played System Shock 2 legally. Prepare your wallets, download some mods if you really have to, then come join the many of us who’ve enjoyed this game legally (and some illegally) for over a decade. The only thing that can make this news any better is if they somehow also get the rights to the original System Shock. That would be something truly miraculous.