The Surge was a sleeper hit back in 2017 and flew under the radar for many, which was a shame. The game was a sci-fi twist on many of the Souls clones that were around at the time and was an incredibly tough but equally rewarding action RPG. The Surge was set in a dystopian future in which humanity have exhausted the world’s natural resources. Robots and drones have caused mass unemployment, with humans resorting to mechanical upgrades and machine-driven power rigs just to keep up. Players take control of Warren as he starts his first day of his job at CREO, the largest tech conglomerate in the world…. but as expected in all video games, things do not go to plan. Armed with a power rig and a slew of weapons, Warren must fight his way through CREO headquarters, dismembering robots, humans and robot-human hybrids that lie in his path.
The Surge 2 takes place an indeterminate number of months after the first game and sees players take control of their own created character as they awake from a coma in a confinement facility. The player has been unconscious for weeks following a plane crash and must piece together events by investigating the vast and semi-ruined remains of Jericho city. It is quickly established that things are not quite right as the sky is filled with an ever-expanding nanostorm and the city is plagued with a nanite-based disease, not to mention rampaging killer robots and military units using lethal force. Much like the first game, the story is mysterious and rich with lore, but the player must work for it, speaking to NPC’s and finding audio logs to help fit the pieces together. Although still relatively linear, compared to the first game The Surge 2 gives much more freedom in the order in which players can tackle obstacles and move the story along. Much of The Surge’s criticism came from the monotonous grey corridors of CREO’s headquarters but the sequel offers a larger city filled with various environments; from artificial parks and murky ports to neon nightclubs in posh hotels, the scale and variety improves on the original in almost every way.
The Surge 2 plays much like the first game, in which the goal is to make it from start to finish without being massacred. OK, that describes most games but the point I’m attempting to make is that survival is the key as much as progressing. Much like its predecessor, each section is broken up into smaller chunks with the goal being to progress a little further each time before dying…. which will happen a LOT. Play usually starts at a med bay in which you can upgrade and store tech-scrap, the games currency as well as using resources to create armour. As you progress forward, you will find shortcuts that lead back to the med bay in order to allow you quicker access to visited areas upon your inevitable death. Each area is usually then ended with a boss or a mini boss before progressing to the next part. Despite the game being much more open that it was previously, this system of play is almost necessary as with any game of this ilk, progression will always be in small steps or nobody would ever finish it! The gameplay focusses on skill when fighting enemies and it is never possible to be complacent as even lower level enemies can kill you with ease if you let your guard down.
The gameplay itself continues the trend of being challenging and rewarding. Each enemy can be targeted in 6 main areas; the head, body, left and right arms and left and right legs. Once a required amount of damage has been done to a body part, players can hit a finisher button and dismember it which will drop either precious construction material or schematics for new armour. This adds a level of strategy as armoured parts offer rewards but are tougher to break where as unarmoured parts offer an easier kill but with fewer rewards. The range of weapons of which to dismember foes is much more varied this time around, with a large range of categories available to suit playstyles such as spears, swords, hammers and more. Each weapon comes with advantages and disadvantages and it really feels like the decision is up to the player as to what they choose to use. I for one decided to upgrade a weapon I loved rather than changing to various new ones, but this is just one way of playing.
As well as melee weapons, the player will also have a trusty drone by their side which can be used in a range of ways depending on the programmes that are found for it. The drone can be used to shoot enemies from afar, fire an EMP to open doors and disable foes and even paint graffiti for other players to see as well as many other programmes. The drone can create a 3-symbol message which can be used to warn other players of danger or point them towards secrets, which was a nice touch although a tad annoying when placed on the floor as the button for a finisher and the button to read the tag is the same. Players also have the ability to place a banner, which is a small hologram of themselves which will remain for 1 hour; with the aim being to hide it from as many players as possible. Should nobody find the banner, the player is awarded 5000 tech scrap and this figure decreases as more people find it. Both the banner and the graffiti are nice additions and make the city feel a little more inhabited, even if you never see other players in person. Continuing the theme of inhabitants, Jericho is much more populated than CREO with some very interesting characters with their own agendas. This offers not only a richer story but also some fun side quests that offer more than the standard fetch and carry quests of the prior instalment.
The combat in the Surge 2 is where the game shines and remains solid and fun but as challenging as ever. Target enemies are locked with a click of R3 and the right stick is then used to pick which body part you plan to annihilate, and combat begins from there. Players have a health and a stamina bar, and every action taken other than standard moving will lower stamina. Players can dodge-step, strike horizontally or vertically, sprint attack or jump attack based on input and remaining stamina as well as perform the all-important finishers when enough damage is dealt. Players are also able to parry attacks, which while present in The Surge, I felt played a much more prominent role in the sequel. Much of the game is trial and error when facing enemies, as it is often necessary to fight an enemy in order to learn attack patterns in order to be victorious. Some enemies are better to parry and unleash a flurry of blows whereas others may be easier defeated by running in to attack and the dodging clear. Much of the fun of The Surge 2 is seeing an almost impossible enemy and being killed in 5 seconds, only to take more time to learn its patterns and on the next attempt, parry its attacks flawlessly before chopping off its head.
The surge looks similar to the first iteration in terms of graphics, but due to the much more varied environments is much more aesthetically pleasing. Each area feels like a new world rather than repeated metallic corridors and the story/lore behind each area is always interesting. The lighting is done well casting eerie shadows in tight alleyways as well as bright sunlit town squares and as a whole works well. The game is by no means photo-realistic but still looks good to play and I had no issues with that side of things. The blood and gore are still ever present and as visceral as ever and the satisfying ending animations add a sense of accomplishment when ending a battle. As for sounds, the music and the sound effects fitted with the game and I had no issues with them, although they didn’t particularly stand out.
Overall, The Surge 2 is a good game and in a rare case for a sequel, improves on the original in almost every way. It does have a few issues however, the first of which being the ending animations feeling a little clunky. The animations are incredibly satisfying but can sometimes look a bit…. off…. when a limb or a head flies off but isn’t quite cut at the joint – it looks more like an action figure than a person/robot. The second main issue I had was the lack of a map which at time was frustrating. There are maps giving an overview of the whole city but some of the sections are quite large compared to the first game and without a map, there were times I found myself aimlessly wandering before getting killed and not remembering my way back. Minor flaws aside, if you are looking for a Souls-esque challenge in a new setting, with some very difficult yet rewarding gameplay, The Surge 2 is definitely for you.
The Surge 2 improves on the first game in every way. The core combat is as fun as ever and the addition of more weapons, drone skills and environments make for a superior experience.