System Shock 2 rated best single-player FPS ever?

Having just completed Half Life 2, and having enjoyed it considerably (despite having to wait over 8 hours for my single-player files to unlock on my dial-up connection) , it made me think that I really enjoyed System Shock 2, and felt a fair bit more terror and achievement over the course of its narrative than any other FPS.

Will there be a fair quantity of nervously-cleared throats and callously-trimmed jibs over this pontification? I imagine that this sort of thread gets introduced frequently, but let's try to keep the Multiplayer *twitch lan session* kiddies out of it for a minute... the title for the best *non multiplayer* FPS up for grabs here.

For me, the story, the fear, the gamepig... system shock 2 surged to the head of the pack in terms of awesome single player FPS experiences, followed closely by No One Lives Forever, Undying, and Half Life.

Did you find SIN a miracle-work of genious story-telling? Did Mortyr bring tears to your eyes for its depth? I've missed many a single-player FPS over the years, so let us hear the ones that made the biggest impact with you!

I've said it before on these here boards: System Shock 2 is the greatest game not named "Fallout". And even that condition is debatable.

I found SIN to be a miracle of annoying level design. Hey, lets put holes in the floor so the player falls down by accident and has to find his way up !
Mortyr was a generic shooter with poorly tuned gameplay that quickly popped under the radar after inferior reviews.
Half-Life had an awesome beginning, which later degenerated into generic sewer crawl.
System Shock 2 is a great game, but the scariest part of it for me was constantly worrying that my gun was going to fall apart at any moment, as, clearly, in the future all guns are made out of styrofoam and cheap duct tape.

The FPS that made the biggest impact with me was Doom, unquestionably. Quake II was a worthy spiritual successor to Doom, with just enough of the old and the new, combined with refined, consistent (as opposed to Doom3's needlessly convoluted and absurd) level design which together make a perfect FPS mix.

I'm still in complete awe over the near-perfect designing of Half-Life 2. It's crafted so well it all seems so... self-evident. Also, I believe the greatest works of art combine commercial as well as critical succes. Which tilts the balance towards HL2.

But I have to admit, SS2 is one of those games I know I should have played, but never gotten around to it. I started it a couple of times, but never played it longer than an hour or two. Shame on me, I know.

Agreed on System shock being number one. Undying, NOLF, NOLF 2, HL and HL 2 are all up there as some of the greatest.

One little talked about game that has always been on my top ten of FPS is The Wheel of Time. The game was in no way perfect, but some of the ideas in it where very well conceived. Just the training alone was so well done it made me want to do it more than once. And believe me, I don't need training on how to play an FPS :-). The traps level was also incredible.

Also great was Tron 2.0 my only real gripe with this game is with some of the protect this person missions.

Another Favorite was Giants Citizen Kabuto. Mostly for its humor.

I was sorely disappointed in NOLF 2. All the reviews and word of mouth said it was this great mix of stealth, humor, and action. Action, check but been-there-done-that in other FPSes. Humor, sorta -- mimes are always funny. Stealth? Not at all. I never once found a situation where it wasn't just easier to shoot my way out.

And in my opinion, System Shock 2 doesn't hold a candle to Half Life 2 as an FPS. As an RPG/FPS you can't really compare them, but purely as an FPS HL2 wins.

If the premise is that RPG-FPS hybrids can enter this competition.

In the story stakes, Deus Ex beats System Shock 2 with a gentle ease. It's the refinement of all SS2 principles in design, with the scary-factor replaced by a cyberpunk-factor.
It's also less linear and more intriquing. But Deus Ex wouldn't exist without SS2, easily the greatest "scary game" ever.

illum wrote:

If the premise is that RPG-FPS hybrids can enter this competition.

In the story stakes, Deus Ex beats System Shock 2 with a gentle ease. It's the refinement of all SS2 principles in design, with the scary-factor replaced by a cyberpunk-factor.
It's also less linear and more intriquing. But Deus Ex wouldn't exist without SS2, easily the greatest "scary game" ever.

Deus Ex's story was a bit too forced, in my opinion. I enjoyed it immensely, but as the conspiracy theories began to pile up, I found it hard to take the game very seriously. I *liked* all the conspiracy theories, don't get me wrong; but I also felt that they contributed a certain tongue-in-cheek air to the game, thereby making the plot less moving and less memorable in the end.

SS2, on the other hand, is constantly and consistently dreadful in tone. The plot is more straightforward than Deus Ex's, to be sure, but it is executed with the precision of a laser. And the levels, environments, art design, and audio are, in my experience, rivaled only by other Looking Glass Studios games. The Von Braun and Rickenbacker feel like real places in every respect, in a way that no other game I've played heretofore has matched.

I suppose that we would be wise to distinguish between plot (the story) and narrative (the way the story is told). If Deus Ex has the superior plot, then SS2 trumps it in terms of narrative.

My personal ranking for best single-player FPS is as follows:

1. SS2
2. Half-Life
3. NOLF
4. Thief
5. Deus Ex

Beyond that, the list tends to shift every few minutes or so. And even what you see before you isn't entirely stable.

Nice post, Puce Moose. Welcome to GWJ.

Funny to see this now; I've been playing SS2 again for the last couple of weeks - I'm just heading up to the 6th floor now.

WICKED game. I've jumped a couple of times - some of those times, there's even been something there...

Deus Ex beats out SS2 by a slight margin for me... pretty much on every level..

1. Graphics (duh)
2. Sound
3. Story
4. Level Design
5. Gameplay

Legion wrote:

I've said it before on these here boards: System Shock 2 is the greatest game not named "Fallout". And even that condition is debatable.

And there have been many who've agreed with you!

TheGameguru wrote:

Deus Ex beats out SS2 by a slight margin for me... pretty much on every level..

1. Graphics (duh)
2. Sound
3. Story
4. Level Design
5. Gameplay

Take that first sentence, and reverse it for me. As far as the breakdown goes,

1. Graphics - agreed, Deus wins (duh ;))
2. Sound - SS2 had monkeys, and therefore wins hands down
3. Story - SS2's "twist" dropped my jaw. Mind you, I'd never played the first one, and didn't know what to expect.
4. Level Design - the cargo section had monkeys everywhere. Automatic win
5. Gameplay - Styrofoam weapons and scarce ammo made me use the melee weapon for the first two decks. Scared the hell out of me.

TheGameguru wrote:

Deus Ex beats out SS2 by a slight margin for me... pretty much on every level..

1. Graphics (duh)
2. Sound
3. Story
4. Level Design
5. Gameplay

Sound, too? Sound?

It's admittedly a subjective thing, just like the others you listed, but it just strikes me as odd given that I've always considered the Looking Glass FPS's to be among the best sounding games ever. I'm not trying to convince you to change your mind or anything; just expressing my own surprise.

SS2 beats Deux Ex hands down. Which isn't to say Deus Ex isn't a great game - it is. But System Shock 2 told such a fun story in such an innovative way that I can't help but get into each and every time I play. Deus Ex, on the other hand, usually has a story which I vaugly gloss over on replays.

After SS2, I think NOLF is my favorite. After that, Half Life. I've yet to play HL2, because I haven't yet gotten over my reservations about Steam.

hubbinsd wrote:

Stealth? Not at all. I never once found a situation where it wasn't just easier to shoot my way out.

It's a shame to hear the game didn't live up to your expectations - I've never played it, and have been looking to get ahold of it. I will say, though, that it was always easier in the first game to shoot your way through, as well. It was just more rewarding if you snuck by them

Sound, too? Sound?

sure... the problem arises is that they are very different games and thusly have almost completely different goals for sound design..

But for me DX had almost perfect sound from top to bottom..

environmental? you bet.. from pigeons kicking up as you walked by them to the Night Clubs..

Voice Acting? pretty damn good for its time... and as I recall most critics panned Denton's dead pan delivery but for me it worked..

Weapon sounds were awesome as was the clunking Robots as they plodded around hunting for you.

Dont get me wrong... its a pretty close race..both games are superior in just about every facet.

TheGameguru wrote:

Voice Acting? pretty damn good for its time... and as I recall most critics panned Denton's dead pan delivery but for me it worked..

I'd advice you to take off those rose coloured glasses and reconsider.

As to the for the general SS2 vs DX thing, picking a favourite is pretty damn difficult. I condider SS2 to be more competent and better executed in everything it does, but DX attempts a whole lot more, and I'm such a sucker for ambition.

But it's a moot discussion any way, since the best fps (in the 'anything in first person that's not a beardy rpg' sense it's been used here) ever is clearly Thief.

Alien Love Gardener wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:

Voice Acting? pretty damn good for its time... and as I recall most critics panned Denton's dead pan delivery but for me it worked..

I'd advice you to take off those rose coloured glasses and reconsider.

As to the for the general SS2 vs DX thing, picking a favourite is pretty damn difficult. I condider SS2 to be more competent and better executed in everything it does, but DX attempts a whole lot more, and I'm such a sucker for ambition.

But it's a moot discussion any way, since the best fps (in the 'anything in first person that's not a beardy rpg' sense it's been used here) ever is clearly Thief. :D

nahh...sure it was over the top...but it worked.

Deus Ex's music by Alexander Brandon FAR outdoes anything SS2 offered and set a major industry standard IMO. Every track is classic.
By and large the voice acting was superior in SS2, with a few exceptions..Bob "Maniacal" Page is one of gaming's all time great villains.

Having played both games innumerable times I really stick to my guns on the quality aspects. SS2 was revolutionary, Deus Ex evolved this to the pinnacle. It's everything I want in an FPS game. The only other area SS2 has a serious advantage is Coop mode.

Apart from that Deus Ex fits my tastes down to the ground.

(P.S. Make no mistake, the original copy of SS2 bought on the day of release has pride of place on a small podium on my shelf. -A competition between them is like asking to choose which one of your pet dogs you want killed )

Deus Ex's music by Alexander Brandon FAR outdoes anything SS2 offered and set a major industry standard IMO. Every track is classic.

I forgot to mention the music...and I agree..its one of the few games where I've never disabled the music track if given the option.

Right from the beginning the music was awesome.

Also...one of the best intro's EVAR!!

TheGameguru wrote:

1. Graphics (duh)
2. Sound
3. Story
4. Level Design
5. Gameplay

1. DX1, naturally. The animated mouths put it over the edge.

2. SS2, both in terms of dialogue and music. Let me put it to you this way, if the e-mails in DX1 talked, I'd kill the sound and turn on the subtitles.

3. DX1. SS2's, while good, was fairly straight forward and didn't allow for much thinking and pondering on the issues it brought up. Not that you had a lot of time to ponder.

4. SS2. Even though DX1 had some interesting levels, SS2 is still the superior one. Both the Von Braun and the Rickenbacker feel like actual, living starships. Might have been fun to tour both of them before the zombie sh*t started to hit the fan.

5. DX1. In a side by side comparison, DX1's controls are a lot smoother and easier to use than SS2's slightly akward set-up.

Page? Memorable? Simons I'd grant that, Tom Hall's voice acting for him was pretty damn good, but I can't really think of anything that made Page stand out. (And to continue on with my general contrarian opinions, I wasn't really that keen on the music in DX either, apart from a couple of tracks. Not that music the was all that special in SS2 either, but it's used sparingly, and to great effect.)

Also, in what ways was SS2 revolutionary? The original did do a fair chunk of the same things.

(Man, I've been waiting to post this all day. Stupid proxy server at work is keeping me from posting more than a few sentences at a time. :mad:)

Thief: TDP edges out SS2 for me, mainly because of Garrett. I keep posting about Thief, so I shan't say more.

shihonage wrote:

as opposed to Doom3's needlessly convoluted and absurd

Not sure I agree with you there. Doom 3 certainly had tight spaces, but I found it to be quite logically laid out. I never felt lost or unsure of where to go.

That said, I guess you can fault the "philosophy" of some of the levels. By "philosophy" I'm referring to the fact that there's always a convenient lift or service tunnel when you reach a dead end. However, that's a problem that plagues almost all FPS's and not just Doom 3.

dejanzie wrote:

It's crafted so well it all seems so... self-evident.

That is one of Valve's strong points. They are masters of creating believable and logical spaces with minimal objects and geometric detail. Kind of suggesting the environment and having your brain fill in the rest. Seldomly does a room feel tacted on just for gameplay purposes - you always get the feeling that it belongs there.

Lord_Xan wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

It's crafted so well it all seems so... self-evident.

That is one of Valve's strong points. They are masters of creating believable and logical spaces with minimal objects and geometric detail. Kind of suggesting the environment and having your brain fill in the rest. Seldomly does a room feel tacted on just for gameplay purposes - you always get the feeling that it belongs there.

That's the best description of how Valve makes their games "feel" right that I've ever heard.

I have to give Half-Life 2 my best ever award. I love that game.

Matter of fact I think I'm about due for my third play through it.

I can't believe this thread has turned out to be a Deus Ex vs System Shock 2 battle, with a bit of thief thrown in! Is it because those games or old enough to evoke that feeling of nostalgia, and HL2 isn't? Wake up and smell the hasjiesh people!

And I promise I'll play System Shock 2, after my thesis on Half-Life 2 is finished (and Vampire: Bloodlines is too). And NO I'm not biased because I'm graduating on HL2. Proof: I've been occupied with the damned game day in day out for the last couple of months, and I STILL love it!

Ok, time for a top-5:
1. Graphics: HL2 kicks everyone's ass. Duh.
2. Sound: I agree LGS rocks and/or rolls in the sound department. But the way sound is used to give cues about story as well as gameplay in HL2 (EVERY enemy has it's cue as a warning for the player AND when they die too) is genius. Music could be better implemented, not one of HL's strongpoints.
3. Story: not too many twists, and the story is very action movie-alike. But again it's HOW the story is presented and implemented into the gameplay. I could write more than hundred pages about this, actually that's what I'm doing right now The storyline of HL does leave much to the imagination, though lacking the power to make you think or look at things from another perspective. But I gather that's not the case in Deus Ex or System Shock 2 either.
4. Level Desgin: Sorry, HL rules them all. The mechanics to make a linear game seem non-linear are brilliant, and I refer to Lord_Xan here: you always get the feeling it belongs there.
5. Gameplay: can you compare rpg/fps with a pure fps? No you can't. Matter of taste, but no-one will disagree when I say HL2 has superb gameplay.

Now let me add...
6. Game design: the absolute masters. HL2 arguably has the best game design of any game ever. Everything just blends together: story... naturally... gameplay... seemlessly... design... self-evidently.

Half-Life 2 is the one to rule them all!

Didn't like SS2. Didn't like the fussy inventory management in real-time combined with respawning zombies who bonk you on the head every 3 seconds.

Best shooter IMO is still Half Life 1. After that I'd probably go with Jedi Knight and then Jedi Outcast. Half Life for the pacing, the atmosphere and the setpieces (marines rappelling down from helicopter into the air shaft is one of the great "wow" moments I have seen in gaming); Jedi Knight for the amazing level design; and Jedi Outcast for the sensation of plowing through rooms of hapless Stormtroopers with your powers on full blast, something I had never experienced before.

Honorary mentions: Unreal (flawed gameplay but incredible atmosphere, I still replay it constantly). Half Life 2: Best graphics of any videogame I have ever seen, plus a lot of the same virtues of HL1 (they just didn't seem quite as fresh second time around). Doom: cause it's, y'know, Doom.

I'm a huge Deus Ex fan, and would rate it above SS2, but I think it's fair to say that the sound was much better in SS2 than DE.

For me, what made Deus Ex so great was that the story gave you a fantastic sense of context. The plot itself was great, (if a little over-wrought at times,) but it also gave you so much motivation and context that simply running around became fun. I also enjoyed the shooting gameplay in DE more than in SS2. Also, a game being 'scary' is not a plus for me. Not a negative, but not a plus. Unless we're talking AvP, then it is a plus.

Didn't like SS2. Didn't like the fussy inventory management in real-time combined with respawning zombies who bonk you on the head every 3 seconds.

yes..which was basically why most everyone turned off the autorespawn about 15 minutes into the game.

TheGameguru wrote:
Didn't like SS2. Didn't like the fussy inventory management in real-time combined with respawning zombies who bonk you on the head every 3 seconds.

yes..which was basically why most everyone turned off the autorespawn about 15 minutes into the game.

Was that a legit option or some sort of hack ?

shihonage wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:
Didn't like SS2. Didn't like the fussy inventory management in real-time combined with respawning zombies who bonk you on the head every 3 seconds.

yes..which was basically why most everyone turned off the autorespawn about 15 minutes into the game.

Was that a legit option or some sort of hack ?

hmm..not sure depends on your POV... it was in the .ini config file.. you simply made it a 0 or 1 I cant remember...

to me the game was pretty much unplayable with the respawning enemies....

Also I seem to recall an interview with LGS where they said they knew almost right away after shipping SS2 that the respawning enemies was a "bad idea"

illum wrote:

Deus Ex's music by Alexander Brandon FAR outdoes anything SS2 offered and set a major industry standard IMO.

There's not supposed to be grand scores playing on derelict starships with zombies.

Oh that must be why I don't remember any music whatsoever in SS2. Theres low key and then there's LOW key.

Buuut seriously now. Both brilliant games, it pains me to take sides. Thief of course deserves to be on the same podium as all these greats. Unlike HL2, which IMO deserves to be promptly forgotten...were it not for MP.

Both great games indeed. I've made my arguments here before about my disappointment with Deus Ex's story, and the atmosphere and terror that System Shock 2 creates puts it over the top of any other first person game, IMO.

Rat Boy nails it: the ships felt like SHIPS, not like levels. It made the whole experience a lot more believable. Deus Ex's levels didn't always manage to feel like real places, though some parts were genius. Half-Life's Black Mesa felt like a science facility at parts, especially in the beginning, and a few brilliant places here and there. But, other parts of the supposed facility felt like game levels. And the endgame alien level was TERRIBLE, but that's a different topic. (SS2's endgame didn't quite do it for me either, but it didn't get nearly as bad as jumping to floating platforms like Half Life's)