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October 2018

The Surge 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Deck 13
Release Date: 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'The Surge 2'

by Thomas Wilde on June 16, 2018 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

The Surge 2 keeps what fans and critics loved about the original – hardcore combat utilizing a unique, dynamic limb targeting system and deep character progression – while also expanding greatly upon the formula.

I was kind of surprised to see this at the show, but apparently, The Surge — last year's fiendishly difficult science-fiction spin on the same sort of punishing, one-mistake-is-your-last gameplay as the various Souls games, by the same team that brought us Lords of the Fallen — managed to find an audience after all. Now we've got The Surge 2, which turns most everything about the original game up a few notches.

In The Surge 2, we play as a user-created character who, at time of writing, may or may not be a silent protagonist, depending on what the community asks for and the developers decide. We begin the game on the outskirts of the corporate-speak hell of Jericho City, currently quarantined, walled off, menaced by a potentially unnatural storm, haunted by crazy mercenaries, and at the rate things are going, probably about to get sunk by an earthquake.

Surge 2 is much more about Jericho City as a character in its own right, rather than being a story about its protagonist. We only saw a little bit of the city in the E3 demo, as we began by picking our way through an artificial nature preserve ("...even better than the real thing used to be!") that was also home to a bunch of human bandits with cloaking devices. While Surge 2 has the same lead level designer as the first game did (I mentioned to him that the first game kicked my ass; he said, "Good!"), Deck 13 has said that Surge 2 is considerably less linear than the original. You're also not picking through the city after the same sort of specific brain-frying apocalypse, so many of the human characters you encounter are just fine, and some are even friendly to you.

As with the original, Surge 2 is a game about "tactical melee combat," which is a fancy way to say that it's a dismemberment fiesta. You can still target enemies' limbs, weakening them in order to set them up for a finisher that will chop off the offending extremity. This can kill, cripple, or at least slow down an opponent, as well as rewarding you with schematics for any weapons or armor that were attached to the body part, which you can turn around and build later once you have the materials. This includes ranged weapons, which you can use by affixing them onto your friendly drone buddy. There was a pistol available in the E3 demo, but we were told that you can find heavier and bigger firearms later on. You can also find, craft, and equip up to 10 different types of weapons, up from five in the original Surge, as well as a variety of consumables, including bombs, fire-and-forget drones, and sensor modules that reveal cloaked opponents.

While you do fight quite a few robots in Surge 2, you'll also be up against a number of humans. Most of the enemies shown in the E3 demo were bandits in the park, and they've all received a significant AI upgrade. This doesn't sound like it's saying a lot — most of the human opponents in the first game were brain-fried zombies who were mostly dangerous by accident, especially early on, when healing abilities were at a premium — but humans will parry attacks, force you on the defensive, and if fought in groups, will fall back to support one another with covering fire. It's the same sort of tricky, cerebral experience that you might remember from the first game, where even a trivial fight will require some amount of forethought, planning, tactics, and/or surprise in order for you to win.

My first impression of The Surge 2 is that it's much more of everything than the original was. The first Surge was difficult enough that I ended up tapping out relatively early on, but at least part of that was because of its circular map and near-constant backtracking. The new game is bigger, more colorful, offers more enemy variety right out of the gate, and is still mostly about carving off enemies' limbs with a giant homemade ax. All things being equal, this ought to be a considerable improvement.

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