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Great moments in PC gaming: The Shodan Reveal in System Shock 2

missing image - Great moments in PC gaming: The Shodan Reveal in System Shock 2

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories. 

System Shock 2

missing image - Great moments in PC gaming: The Shodan Reveal in System Shock 2

Developer: Looking Glass Studios
Year: 1999

Everybody knew that Shodan, the villainous AI from the original System Shock, would return in System Shock 2. She was right there on the box cover. What we didn’t know is how she would return. 

After System Shock 2’s branching character creation fast-forwards you through several years of education and a military career, you wake up on the Von Braun, the first spaceship capable of FTL travel, to find everything’s gone wrong. Doctor Polito, one of the few survivors, guides you through the chaos, an early example of the classic videogame voice in your ear as a tutorial. 

But when you finally get to her office to meet her in person Polito is dead, and clearly has been for a long time. Then the door shuts behind you, and the walls dissolve. Shodan, who has been impersonating Polito all this while, takes control of your surroundings and forces you to be the audience for her one-woman show.

System Shock 2 was one of the early immersive sims, a genre that’s all about putting the player in control. They’re sparing in their use of disruptive narrative techniques like cutscenes. That’s why it’s so jarring to be trapped in a room while Shodan monologues at you, the heavily processed voice of Terri Brosius bouncing up and down the octaves—now a child or a man or an eager tourism advertisement narrator—with more vocal tics competing for your attention than a Nicki Minaj verse. It’s threatening, surreal, and unforgettable 

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