SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - View Screen -

Jor­dan Far­ley, Com­mu­nity Edi­tor

Videogames aren’t short of mem­o­rable vil­lains, but SHO­DAN – Sys­tem Shock’s per­fect, im­mor­tal ma­chine – may just be my favourite.

She gets in­side your head – a dis­em­bod­ied, dis­cor­dant com­puter voice that con­tin­u­ally tor­ments you while travers­ing Sys­tem Shock’s Citadel Sta­tion, and Sys­tem Shock 2’ s Von Braun Star­ship. While her grotesque chil­dren The Many pro­vide the phys­i­cal threat, SHO­DAN em­barks upon a none- too- sub­tle form of psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare. “What is it you fear?” Af­ter a few hours in SHO­DAN’s com­pany there’s only one an­swer.

She’s cut from the same cir­cuit board as 2001’ s HAL 9000 with one cru­cial dif­fer­ence: while much of HAL’s homi­ci­dal ac­tions can be ex­plained by mal­func­tion­ing hard­ware, SHO­DAN is com­pletely aware her de­ci­sions will re­sult in death and de­struc­tion af­ter her eth­i­cal re­stric­tions are re­moved by the first game’s mil­i­tant hacker. She’s an AI with a god com­plex, and fre­quently likes to re­mind you how lit­tle she thinks of hu­man­ity. “You move like an in­sect. You think like an in­sect. You ARE an in­sect.”

Across the two Shocks she has a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter arc. In the first she’s in full con­trol of her sur­round­ings – for all in­tents and pur­poses she is a god. By the sec­ond she’s al­most com­pletely pow­er­less, forced to co- op­er­ate with the in­sects she de­spises, in­clud­ing the player’s cy­ber­net­i­cally en­hanced sol­dier. And boy is she mad about it. Where HAL re­mains chill­ingly calm, even in death, there’s pas­sion be­hind ev­ery syl­la­ble SHO­DAN ut­ters.

Even­tu­ally SHO­DAN gets her hands on a re­al­ity- warp­ing drive, us­ing it to shape the phys­i­cal space around you to her will, and then comes the in­evitable knife in the back. “You travel within the glory of my mem­o­ries, in­sect. Make your­self com­fort­able… be­fore long I will dec­o­rate my home with your car­cass.” It’s good to have you back, SHO­DAN.

In some ways it’s a bless­ing that Sys­tem Shock 3 re­mains un­made. Too many fail­ures and she’d turn into a GLaDOS- like joke, one step away from be­ing trapped in a potato. For now she’s down but never out, im­mor­tal­ity fi­nally achieved.

fact attack!

SHO­DAN is voiced by Terri Bro­sius, for­mer Tribe key­boardist and the wife of Sys­tem Shock 2’ s sound edi­tor Eric Bro­sius. SHO­DAN’s name stands for Sen­tient Hy­per- Op­ti­mized Data Ac­cess Net­work. To mis­quote Joss Whe­don, sounds like some­one re­ally wanted the ini­tials to spell out SHO­DAN. Ken Levine, the writer and designer of Sys­tem Shock 2, is cur­rently script­ing a Lo­gan’s Run re­make. Af­ter Sys­tem Shock 2 Ir­ra­tional Games went on to make BioShock – a spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to the Shock games.

SHO­DAN: a mega­lo­ma­niac not above be­ing petty. Re­mind you of your boss?

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