While rubbing mechanical shoulders with genre redefining games such as Dark Souls, Deck13’s The Surge managed to define an identity for itself as a smart, gritty futuristic entry into the increasingly saturated world of combat-heavy action RPGs. Now, with a brand-new world and an opportunity to develop its base gameplay, can The Surge 2 bolt on enough shiny new bits to keep us interested?
The Surge 2’s greatest strength is that it knows what it wants to be. Sure, there’s a story here of a mysterious young girl, a city on the verge of self-destruction, and the political dastardliness of a factional war within it – but you’re also not here for that. If you are, then we’ve got some bad news for you, as the story of The Surge 2 is 80 per cent nonsense and 20 per cent bad.
Ultimately, the concrete hellscape of Jericho City serves only as a nicely styled backdrop to the combat and upgrade systems that Deck13 have carried over mostly wholesale from the original game, which is a bit of a shame given the massive shifts in encounter and combat design we’ve seen in contemporaries like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
That said, if you’re new to the series, The Surge 2 provides a slick, bloody and unforgiving combat system that allows for a tonne of customisation and loadout variation. The limb-targeting and severing mechanic returns, wherein you’re able to target specific body parts of enemies in order to…*ahem*… relieve them of their weapons and armour. Equipment itself can up upgraded multiple times, with stat bonuses for wearing sets of similar armour, and weapons having multiple attack patterns depending on the speed of your swings.
Limb severing is not only one of the most ridiculous and fun loot collection systems in a game today, but it also drives home just how brutal life in Jericho City has become. Not only are people killing each other to survive, they’re literally severing each other’s limbs to gain access to better gear. If what The Surge 2 wants to be is a grim, apocalyptic combat simulator, it delivers that experience in spades.
It’s good that the world is a fun one to fight in too – remember back when everyone was complaining about how grey and brown games like Gears of War were? The original The Surge had a similar issue, but here in The Surge 2 neon lights and leafy forests are well represented. However, the world of The Surge 2 still ends up being a series of corridors and ‘outdooridors’, and there’s a strange haphazardness to the placement of enemies, especially in the opening of the game. Fellas are just standing in little alcoves, seemingly having trained their whole lives for the moment that they jump out at you. We guess cutting off limbs for a hobby does something to the brain long-term…?
Boss encounters are equal parts spectacular and eye-gougingly frustrating, though they’re not without their unspoken tactical elements. A particular early encounter could be made far easier simply by attacking weak points in an order that avoided undue risk, and repeating the same fights over and over is really just an opportunity to truly get to grips with the game’s directional blocking system, which, when successful, opens up opponents to some real punishment.
There’s a lot of dumb fun to be had in The Surge 2. If you’re willing to shut off your brain for a couple of hours and get into the bloody rhythm of ‘block, dodge, sever, repeat’ then you’ll be rewarded with a game rich in skill-testing boss fights and a metric tonne of slow-motion kill animations. It’s not as well considered or polished as something like Sekiro, but gosh, sometimes you’ve just gotta rip and tear!
The Surge 2 is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.