Focus Home Interactive – Deck 13 Interactive – Out Now on PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One (version tested)
Dark Souls, Sekeiro and Ni-oh are all games that are enough to send a shiver down the spine of most people who enjoy video games. As for the rest, well, they’re sadistic. Masochistic, even. They enjoy the punishment these games dish out and keep coming back for more. And as I’m talking about the aforementioned games in the opening paragraph for this review of The Surge 2, it should be glaringly obvious that they share more than a few similarities. And of course, just like everything else in the sub-genre, it’s as frustrating as it is entertaining. Starting off in the medical ward of a detention centre, your custom character awakens to find all hell is breaking loose. Armed only with a pair of defibrillators-cum-boxing gloves, you set out to escape the chaos. Which is easier said than done when there’s a host of disgruntled inmates, robots and an extremely aggravated prison warden between you and your escape. As you try and make your escape, you stumble across the Medbay. This is a base of sorts and it’s where you acquire your exosuit. This allows you to wield heavier weapons and give you new abilities, as well as making you stronger in general. With it being the type of game it is, there’s obviously the RPG style element to the system, which involves levelling up, upgrading your attributes, weapons and gear. Your main attributes are your health, stamina and battery. The latter is basically a glorified special meter, which allows you to use certain perks as well as perform execution moves whilst in combat. Where Dark Souls had, er, souls, in The Surge 2 you upgrade using Tech Scrap, which is collected by kicking arse. And very much like Dark Souls, if yours is the arse that gets kicked, then you need to return to where you were killed if you want to reclaim all what you’d earned up to that point.
Once you’ve escaped the detention centre, you are now in the labyrinthine, war-torn city of Jericho. Here you meet some allies who fill you in on the back story, as well as providing you with help. You meet a stranger who also acts as a tutorial regarding upgrades etc and just so happens to be next to another Medbay. This will be you base as you start to slowly progress around the city and open up new paths to make exploring convenient and more importantly, safer. Jericho is full of ne’er do-wells’ who would like nothing more than to put you on your backside, and if you haven’t got your wits about you, that’s exactly what will happen. The combat is built up of blocking, attacking, dodging, parrying and targeting, and if you get a good rhythm going, you’ll be ok. Parrying is particularly useful as it will give you a window of opportunity to batter your opponent. However all of the mentioned moves will cost you stamina, and if that gets depleted you let your guard down and it’s much more difficult to defend yourself. Sometimes the combat can feel quite fluid, but other times it’s pretty rough and you just swing and hope for the best. Much like the Dark Souls games, there’s the facility to leave hints and tips for other players. Although in our experience, it can be very hit and miss as to whether to trust them!
Visually it’s a pretty decent looking game. There are moments where textures fail to render properly and the frame rate does drop here and there (this was just played on the regular Xbox One so it may be better on the X or PS4 Pro?), and the sound also dips here and there, especially if there’s a lot going on at once. There are many occasions where it feels like you’re finally making progress then the game will thrown in another massive obstacle and it feels like it just doesn’t want you to keep going. Whilst the challenge does feel quite rewarding at times, more often than not it is a major irritation and frustration when yet another roadblock appears. And this frustration starts to outweigh the enjoyment of playing the game, to a point where it feels cheap at times. A game that does this is not an entertaining experience. To get through the game involves a lot of grinding and a heck of a lot of repetition which soon becomes laborious and a complete drag. If you’re already a fan of the sub-genre, then great, you’ll probably get a great deal of enjoyment out of it, however, if Dark Souls and Ni-oh etc didn’t float your boat, then you’ll probably want to steer clear.