System Shock 2

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System Shock 2
System Shock 2 cover
Developers
Irrational Games
Looking Glass Studios
Publishers
1999-2012 Electronic Arts
2012-present Night Dive Studios
Engines
Dark Engine
Release dates
Windows August 11, 1999
macOS (OS X) (Wine) June 18, 2013[1]
Linux (Wine) April 1, 2014
Taxonomy
Modes Singleplayer
Pacing Real-time
Perspectives First-person
Controls Direct control
Genres Immersive sim, Shooter, RPG
Art styles Abstract, Realistic
Themes Cyberpunk, Sci-fi
Series System Shock
System Shock 2 guide on StrategyWiki
System Shock 2 on MobyGames
System Shock 2 on Wikipedia
System Shock
System Shock 1994
System Shock 2 1999
System Shock: Enhanced Edition 2015
System Shock (2021) 2021
System Shock 2 Enhanced Edition TBA
System Shock 3 TBA

Warnings

The macOS (OS X) version of this game does not work on macOS Catalina (version 10.15) or later due to the removal of support for 32-bit-only apps.

Key points

Install outside C:\Program Files (x86)\ to avoid problems.[2]
Install SS2Tool to add widescreen/multi-monitor support and fix various compatibility and performance issues.

General information

Modding guide on the PCGamingWiki blog
SHODANPEDIA - Unofficial System Shock wiki
TTLG Forums - System Shock Series
systemshock.org Forum
systemshock.org Forum - SS2 Troubleshooting Guide
GOG.com Community Discussions for game series
GOG.com Support Page
Steam Community Discussions

Availability[edit]

Source DRM Notes Keys OS
Retail
Disc check (requires the CD/DVD in the drive to play)
SafeDisc DRM[Note 1].
Windows
Publisher website
Icon overlay.png
Purchase via Humble Widget.
Windows
macOS (OS X)
Linux
GamersGate
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Windows
macOS (OS X)
Linux
GOG.com
DRM-free
Windows
Green Man Gaming
Icon overlay.png
Windows
macOS (OS X)
Linux
Humble Store
DRM-free
Icon overlay.png
Windows
Humble Store
Icon overlay.png
System Shock Pack, 2 games bundle.
Windows
macOS (OS X)
Linux
Steam
DRM-free after installation through Steam client (notes may include more details)
Windows
macOS (OS X)
Linux
SafeDisc retail DRM does not work on Windows Vista and later (see above for affected versions).
All the digital distribution versions are pre-patched with NewDark.
OS X and Linux versions use Wine.
A faithful higher resolution icon for Windows can be downloaded from the Files section.

Essential improvements[edit]

SS2Tool[edit]

Essential patcher which integrates the NewDark patch and fixes various issues.
Latest versions automatically disable the intro video for you (if you wish to re-enable it for whatever reason, add always_play_intro to the cam.cfg or cam_ext files).
SS2Tool requires Vista or later due to included Rsync, however NewDark runs on 2000/XP or later. One can patch it on a Vista machine then transfer it to an older machine. Digital versions already include NewDark and compatibility fixes for modern systems however the tool is still necessary for proper mod support.

Recommended mods[edit]

Modding guide available on the PCGamingWiki blog.
Alternate modding guide with updated links and mod info, from the System Shock 2 forums.
Mod list
  • Shock Community Patch - Fixes various bugs dealing with texture inconsistencies and general map issues. There's also a yet to be included prison event fix available here. Note that it also rebalances some weapons; a revert mod is available here.
  • Olfred's fixed objects - Fixes many small imperfections of SS2 objects: missing polys, z-fighting, incorrect texturing etc. Note that SCP already integrates the fixed objects and SHTUP includes modified versions with higher res textures, but Olfred's pack is usually the most up to date; load with higher priority than SCP but lower than SHTUP.
  • Portraits Fix - Fixes inconsistencies with the character portraits from e-mail and message logs. Recommended to be used with SCP but is not required.
  • SHTUP - Improves the texture quality of the level objects and scenery. Recommend using with earth dynamic/static newsky and Vurt's Water. Yet to be included military logos are also available as well as a fix for a (at the moment) broken texture, install the texture by placing it in SHTUP's \obj\txt16 folder. You can also fix a duplicated texture on explosive barrels by deleting the file brl_exp.bin in the obj folder, allowing the Olfred's or SCP version to load.
  • 400 - Improves the texture quality of the levels' terrain.
  • Rebirth - Increases the poly count and textures of in game NPCs. Recommend using it with the High Res Protocol Droids and Eldron's Midwife as Nurse Bloome. Also checkout Cutscene 2 Rebirth, which was a project to update the in game cutscenes with the rebirth models. Unfortunately only one Cutscene 2 Rebirth cutscene was ever made, but it's quality is excellent.
  • Scary Monsters AI Enhancement and Enemy Health Randomizer - Can give some variation to the games archaic AI.
  • Denoised Cutscenes - These cutscenes have been upscaled to 640x480 and had the static noise from the original outdated encoding removed. To make compatible with Cutscene 2 Rebirth, either set to lower priority or merge it into this mod, overwriting cs2.avi.
  • Tacticool Weapon Replacements and RocketMan Alternative Weapons Pack - Improves the appearance of the in game weapons, both world models and in hand models. Tacticool focuses on standard and energy weapons while RocketMan focuses on heavy and exotic, however both packs include their own versions of the wrench; pick the version you like the most. Unfortunately neither of them include replacements for the EMP Rifle or Laser Rapier. You could use R&R&R's EMP Rifle to give the EMP Rifle a skin however. Recommend using with JMP Jack's Hires Weapons with player hands to give two handed weapons a proper second hand.
  • Kyu's Weapon FX - Adds enhanced graphical effects to weapons, such as smoke/heat distortion leaving the barrel after firing. Also has optional weapon rebalancing and MiniHUD.
  • Vurt's Organics / Goo - Improves the appearance of various organics in game. Recommend using in conjunction with Vurt's Flora Overhaul and Kaucukovnik's alternate wormpiles and wormbeakers. Note that SHTUP already includes biomatter, however Vurt's can be used as an alternative.
  • Vaxquis Vintage Song Remake - Adds higher quality music to the game.
  • DeepFriedBeer's Sound Upgrade and LarkSS' Small Sound Modification Pack - Improves the in game sound effects, particularly weapons. Note that the Small Sound Mod includes an elevator theme, which the original game lacked. If you do not like this, delete the elevator.wav file inside snd/amb.
  • Rickenbacker Automaps - Adds real automaps to the Rickenbacker level. A minor alteration to some map sections can be found here.
  • Quest Note Notifiers - Adds notification sounds for when a new quest is added or it's goal changes, similar to System Shock's successor BioShock.
  • SS2 HUD Logs - Make emails display a portrait of the sender, again like BioShock.
  • Replicator to Inventory - Items purchased at replicators are automatically added to your inventory.
  • GamePig Unleashed - Restores some missing minigames.
  • Repairman and Stasis Trap - Makes the repair skill and Stasis Field Generator actually useful.

Alternatives[edit]

  • Alt weapon sounds - An alternative/expansion to DeepFriedBeer's Sound Upgrade that improves the weapons effects furthor (you can merge and overwrite DeepFriedBeer's original files if used as an expansion). Note that this mod contains a Duke Nukem voice clip for the weapon break sound, which can break immersion for some players. To fix this delete the file gunbrek1.wav (or if being used as an expansion simply don't copy).
  • Silversharp's Weapon Sounds - Yet another weapon sounds pack.
  • Vurt's Hi-Res Space Textures - SHTUP already includes a space texture, but this is a nice alternative.
  • Necro Water - Alternative to Vurt's Water.
  • Hi-Resolution Player Models - Rebirth includes player models, but here's nice alternatives.
  • ImpyNickers RebirthSkins - Makes the Rebirth Hybrids look more vanilla (scary). Requires basic Rebirth to be loaded first.

OS X version[edit]

Modding the Wineskin version can be done by firstly installing the Windows version in a virtual machine, patching it and installing all desired modifications and then replacing the System Shock 2 installation within the Wineskin version with the custom version. If you are using the Steam version it may be necessary to deactivate Steam's "Keep up to date" function for this to work.

Game data[edit]

Configuration file(s) location[edit]

System Location
Windows <path-to-game>\*.cfg[Note 2]
macOS (OS X) <path-to-game>/Contents/Resources/drive_c/Games/System Shock 2/
Linux ~/.systemshock2/systemshock2/drive_c/Program Files/SystemShock2/*.cfg
cam.cfg contains game settings.
cam_ext.cfg is the configuration file for the game once patched using SS2Tool.
It's unknown whether this game follows the XDG Base Directory Specification on Linux. Please fill in this information.

Save game data location[edit]

System Location
Windows <path-to-game>\[Note 2]
macOS (OS X)
Linux
Save games are kept in multiple folders, e.g. \save_0\, \save_1\

Save game cloud syncing[edit]

System Native Notes
GOG Galaxy
Steam Cloud

Video[edit]

General settings.
General settings.

Graphics feature State WSGF Notes
Widescreen resolution
Native for digital versions; for retail versions install SS2Tool.
Multi-monitor
Native for digital versions; for retail versions install SS2Tool.
Ultra-widescreen
Native for digital versions; for retail versions install SS2Tool.
4K Ultra HD
Native for digital versions;[5] for retail versions install SS2Tool.
Field of view (FOV)
See Field of view (FOV).
Windowed
See Windowed.
Borderless fullscreen windowed
Enable Windowed mode, then use desktop resolution in-game.
Anisotropic filtering (AF)
Native for digital versions; for retail versions install SS2Tool.
Anti-aliasing (AA)
Native for digital versions; for retail versions install SS2Tool.
Vertical sync (Vsync)
See Vertical sync (Vsync).
60 FPS
120+ FPS
Default framerate cap is 100 fps. See High frame rate.
In addition to setting video options, editing cam_ext.cfg will allow you to set the interface/HUD scale and transparency. There are also custom crosshairs available (using them with a mod manager requires changing their extension from .ss2mod to .zip).

Field of view (FOV)[edit]

FOV of 150.
FOV of 150.
Change field of view (FOV)[citation needed]
  1. For retail versions install SS2Tool.
  2. Edit <path-to-game>\cam_ext.cfg.
  3. Change ;fov 90 to fov # (any number).

Windowed[edit]

Change windowed mode[citation needed]
  1. For retail versions install SS2Tool.
  2. Edit <path-to-game>\cam_ext.cfg.
  3. Change ;force_windowed to force_windowed

Vertical sync (Vsync)[edit]

Disable vsync[citation needed]
  1. For retail versions install SS2Tool.
  2. Edit <path-to-game>\cam_ext.cfg.
  3. Change ;vsync_mode 0 to vsync_mode 0

High frame rate[edit]

Change frame rate cap[citation needed]
  1. For retail versions install SS2Tool.
  2. Edit <path-to-game>\cam_ext.cfg.
  3. Change ;vsync_mode 7 to vsync_mode 7
  4. Change framerate_cap 100.0 to the FPS cap you want.
Ensuring correct game speed[citation needed]
  1. Go to the installation folder.
  2. Edit cam_ext.cfg.
  3. Change ;phys_freq 60 to phys_freq 60
  4. If you want more than 250 FPS, change SlowFrame 4 to ;SlowFrame 4

Input[edit]

Keyboard and mouse State Notes
Remapping
Full remapping available, but no 'default' can be loaded.[6] (although in the Steam version there is a "standard FPS" preset available)
Mouse acceleration
Mouse sensitivity
Mouse input in menus
Mouse Y-axis inversion
Controller
Controller support
Official Steam Controller bindings only.
Steam Input
Steam Input API support
Official Steam Controller bindings only.
Hook input (legacy mode)
Official controller preset(s)
Steam Controller button prompts
Cursor detection

Audio[edit]

Audio feature State Notes
Separate volume controls
Surround sound
Up to 7.0 output.[7] Requires OpenAL Soft.
Subtitles
mod on Systemshock.org
Closed captions
Mute on focus lost
EAX support
EAX (2[citation needed]) and A3D. For further info refer to this thread. Effects from both APIs are remapped to OpenAL in NewDark versions.
Follow this guide for OpenAL Soft HRTF in NewDark.[8]

Localizations

Language UI Audio Sub Notes
English
SS2 English Subtitles
German
SS2 Deutsche Untertitel / German Subtitles
Italian
Fan translation, download.
Brazilian Portuguese
Fan translation - GOG version
Spanish
Fan translation, download.

Network[edit]

Multiplayer is officially unsupported in NewDark. Even so, a guide for use with NewDark is available here.

Multiplayer types

Type Native Players Notes
LAN play
4 Co-op
Online play
4 Co-op

Connection types

Ports

Protocol Port(s) and/or port range(s)
TCP 2300-2400, 28800-28900
UDP 2300-2400, 28800-28900
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) support status is unknown.

VR support[edit]

3D modes Native Notes
Nvidia 3D Vision
See install/setup instructions.
iZ3D
See install/setup instructions.
vorpX
Z3D
Officially supported game, see official vorpx game list.

Issues fixed[edit]

Random crashing[edit]

Use SS2Tool[citation needed]

See SS2Tool.

Left-clicking or dragging does not work[edit]

Use SS2Tool[citation needed]

See SS2Tool.

Small game window or black screen[edit]

Edit cam_ext.cfg to disable multisampling[citation needed]
  1. Go to the installation folder.
  2. Open cam_ext.cfg using Notepad.
  3. Comment out and change multisampletype 8 to ;multisampletype 8
Enable SS2Tool Safe Mode[citation needed]
  1. Download and run the SS2Tool installer.
  2. At the Choose Components installation step, enable Safe Mode.
  3. Click Install and finish installing.

UI too small on high screen resolutions[edit]

Edit cam_ext.cfg to enable ui scaling[citation needed]
  1. Open cam_ext.cfg in Notepad or any other text editor.
  2. Uncomment the line ;d3d_disp_scaled_2d_overlay 64 by removing the semicolon.

Notes

If this does not fix the issue, you may try scaling the UI to arbitrary resolutions by re-commenting out the above line (add back in the semicolon), uncommenting the line ;d3d_disp_scaled_2d_overlay 640 480 and adjusting the 640 and the 480 to your desired resolution. However, this may cause the ui to become blurry/pixelated, so try the initial fix first.

Poor performance on Mac wineskin version[edit]

Enable X11[9]

Find the System Shock 2.app and right-click on it. Click Show Contents and run Wineskin.app. In the Screen Options, you should see a checkbox that says Use Mac Driver instead of X11. Uncheck that box and that should fix the problem. If box is already unchecked then check it instead.

Can't dive in Mac or Linux version[edit]

Place this dml file in the SS2 folder[10]

Other information[edit]

API[edit]

Technical specs Supported Notes
Direct3D 6.1, 9.0c Originally released with 6.1, and 9.0c support was added in modern re-releases
DirectDraw 6.1
Executable 32-bit 64-bit Notes
Windows
macOS (OS X)
This 32-bit-only macOS game does not work on macOS Catalina (10.15) or later.
Linux

Middleware[edit]

Middleware Notes
Audio DirectSound, OpenAL Replaced with OpenAL in NewDark

System requirements[edit]

Original retail release[edit]

Windows
Minimum Recommended
Operating system (OS) 95
Processor (CPU) Intel Pentium 200 MHz / Cyrix 6x86 / AMD K6
System memory (RAM) 32 MB
Hard disk drive (HDD) 200 MB
Video card (GPU) 4 MB of VRAM
DirectX 6.1 compatible
Sound (audio device) Sound card with DirectSound support

Digital re-release[edit]

Windows
Minimum
Operating system (OS) XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10
Processor (CPU) 1.8 GHz
System memory (RAM) 2 GB
Hard disk drive (HDD) 2 GB
Video card (GPU) DirectX 9.0c compatible
macOS (OS X)
Minimum
Operating system (OS) 10.7.0
Processor (CPU) Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz
System memory (RAM) 2 GB
Hard disk drive (HDD) 2 GB
Video card (GPU) 256 MB of VRAM

Notes

  1. SafeDisc retail DRM does not work on Windows 10[3] or Windows 11 and is disabled by default on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 when the KB3086255 update is installed.[4]
  2. 2.0 2.1 When running this game without elevated privileges (Run as administrator option), write operations against a location below %PROGRAMFILES%, %PROGRAMDATA%, or %WINDIR% might be redirected to %LOCALAPPDATA%\VirtualStore on Windows Vista and later (more details).

References