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Steve's XP Legacy Games Corner - System Shock 2
By Steve Metzler (Last updated: 15th November, 2015)

I had the luck of first playing System Shock 2 on my old Win 98 machine when it was easier to get running, and before the game itself went out of print due to the unfortunate demise of Looking Glass Studios. But if you don't have a copy of this game, you can find it quite easily on eBay for between $15 - $25.

So... I got a new PC just a few months ago, and decided to dust the cobwebs off SS2 and give it another twirl. No dice, even after several hours of trying all techniques known to me (which are many). So the next thing I did was type 'shock 2 xp' into Google, and start to read a whole bunch of tips in a whole bunch of forums and FAQs. Several hours later, I finally managed to get SS2 up and running! Here is the condensed wisdom from all those forums and FAQs I read that allowed me to do that:

  1. Choose the full install option (513MB) and install to your hard drive in the default folder (C:\Sshock2). Note: if setup.exe refuses to run for you, then...

    Start > Run, and enter: d:\setup.exe -lgntforce

    (that's a lower case L, by the way. Not a one)

  2. Now we need to patch the game from version 1.15, which you just installed, to version 2.3. You can obtain the patch 'officially' from either File Planet or 3D Gamers... but you have to sign up for one of them, and the other puts you on a long queue if you choose to use their free 'public' servers. I soon tired of that, and was able to find the patch archived here:

    http://www.kampkaos.com/hosted/SS2/files/shkpatch.exe

    Once downlaoded, just double-click on that .exe to install the patch.

  3. Now we have to get a user-supplied fix that allows SS2 to be played in Windows 2000/XP. I found this here:

    http://www.moddb.com/mods/6832/system-shock-2-winxp2000-fix

    (you have to click through quite a few links from there until you can actually download the file: shock2_xp_2000_fix.zip). Unzip that, back up your original C:\Sshock2\SHOCK2.EXE file (236KB), and replace it with the SHOCK2.EXE file that you just unzipped (2,840KB).

  4. Now we have all the files we need. Just a few more tricks to pull... since Dark Engine games (like: Thief: The Dark Project, and SS2) can't handle hyperthreading or multiple cores/processors, we need to patch the new SHOCK2.EXE file (using a utility called 'imagecfg') so that it binds to a single core/processor. You can obtain imagecfg from Steve's XP Games Corner. Just look at the hyperthreading/dual core topic.

    To use imagecfg.exe once you have copied it to your C:\Windows\System32 directory:
    a. Open a Command Prompt via: Start > All Progams > Accessories > Command Prompt
    b. Change to the folder where you installed SS2 to, like this: cd \sshock2
    c. Run imagecfg on SHOCK2.EXE like this: imagecfg -a 0x1 shock2.exe
    d. You should see the following output:

    C:\Sshock2>imagecfg -a 0x1 shock2.exe
    shock2.exe contains the following configuration information:
    Process Affinity Mask: 00000001
    shock2.exe contains a Subsystem Version of 4.0
    shock2.exe updated with the following configuration information:
    Process Affinity Mask: 00000001

  5. Now we need to set up SHOCK2.EXE so it runs in Compatibility Mode for Windows 2000. If you don't know how to do that:
    a. Right-click on SHOCK2.EXE, and select the 'Properties' option
    b. Select the 'Compatibility' tab
    c. Tick the 'Run this program in compatibility mode for:' box, and choose 'Windows 2000' from the menu

  6. OK... one more thing to do before we fire this thing up, and that is: open the file cam.cfg with Notepad and add the following at the end:

    safe_texture_manager

  7. Now run SS2 by double-clicking on SHOCK2.EXE. Et voila! After the intro and starting up a new game, you wind up in a train car that has arrived at a platform. You should do two things before quitting the game:
    a. Change the screen resolution to 1024 X 768
    b. Save your game! Now quit the game

  8. If you try to get into the game again, you'll find out you can't :-\ Now... I didn't find mention of the next trick anywhere else, but I figured out how to get into the game again successfully. You'll notice that after running the game for the first time, some new info has been inserted into the cam.cfg file. One of the items is:

    skip_intro

    All you need to do to be able to get back into the game is remove this line from the file! It seems the game won't start up properly in XP unless you remember to remove this line every time before you play.

    Well, that should do it for you. Good luck!

    Copyright © Steve Metzler 2008. All rights reserved.

    See also the metzomagic.com Help! page for links to additional help in getting games to run.