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July 2019

The Surge 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Deck 13
Release Date: Sept. 24, 2019

About Andreas Salmen

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

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 11, 2018 @ 12:00 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.

Few games in recent years had as much influence on the gaming landscape as the Dark Souls trilogy, which spawned quite a few experiences in different genres and by different developers that were clearly inspired by the franchise. One of the more surprising outings in that direction in 2017 was The Surge by Deck 13; the title featured a hardcore RPG experience that was challenging and fun, if a bit constrained in its world design and a few technical flaws.

The response was surprisingly positive, with overall good reviews that encouraged Deck 13 to begin work on a sequel. We had the opportunity to attend a gameplay demo at Gamescom 2018 to see the sequel, and we came away pretty impressed. The story of The Surge 2 is set in the same universe but after the events of the prior title. Instead of an industrial complex, this time, we're thrown into the quarantined city of Jericho with our own created character, and we must try to survive.

"Try" is the operative word because The Surge 2 doesn't pull any punches. In our demo, we tried to reach an essential turbine before the local mercenaries. The path led us through an abandoned green area of the city, and we quickly experienced how unforgiving and dangerous the place can be. The park we are venturing through used to be a recreational area for the wealthy inhabitants who could afford to enjoy nature in this city of technology and scrap metal. Lush vegetation and trees hide the loot and collectibles as well as a few enemies. This is where good weapons come in handy; in our instance, it was a two-handed ax that dealt heavy damage but could also be detached into two wielding axes to dish out a quick flurry of blows. The Surge 2 has doubled its available weapon types from five to 10, giving players more choices on how to play. This also translates to the world, which is partially open in the sense that you can play through the different parts in any order and may uncover shortcuts between different areas to traverse the postapocalyptic town. This gives players the choice of challenge, as they can choose their own difficulty by attempting tougher areas sooner.

As we push through the dense park area, a mercenary with an invisibility chest piece jumps us from the lush bushes by surprise, taking a decent chunk of health off our health bar. What ensues is probably one of the more satisfying combat styles I have seen in a while. Much as its predecessor, The Surge 2 uses a limb targeting system to damage and take out specific parts of your enemy in combat. In the meantime, our friendly assassin from the bushes returns to his invisibility mode. While we can see the shimmering edges of his body popping up here and there, the vegetation around us is the best indicator of his whereabouts. The next time he comes out of hiding, we target his invisibility device and disable it with a few strikes. Now, it's an even fight.

Even or not, fights take effort and planning. Timing and dodging are your friends, and as we target the guy's arm, we soon defeat him, and his limb has been chopped off. We also acquire new gear from removed body parts, such as armor schematics and resources that can be used for crafting and equipment. In this case, we were able to collect an item that can scan for enemies in our immediate surroundings. It's a handy addition, as this is not our last encounter; two more were lurking along the way, one of whom we targeted and subsequently beheaded. Thanks to the new scanning device, we were able to pinpoint his location. The guy and his gun proved to be a decent challenge. As he was holstering the gun on his left leg, we cut it off and took it with us, providing us with a gun for our drone.

We have a drone, and are now fiercely firing bullets from a gun drone. Long-range weapons from enemies can be attached to our helper drone — even explosive and heavy-duty weaponry. What seemed like a gimmick soon becomes a vital tool. The enemy AI in The Surge 2 has evolved as well, and we soon have to pick a fight with two mercenaries at once. One of them tied us down with close-range physical attacks, and the other one tried to flank and shoot us from afar. We already mentioned that The Surge 2 is a challenging gaming experience, but it also wants to make sure that players can play in a skillful way. In the first Surge, you were able to dodge blows from enemies by jumping over or ducking them, and the sequel introduces direction-based parries. If we block in the right moment and in the right direction, we are able to create an opening to strike. Again, it's a feature to give players more tools to tackle enemies and to "increase the skill ceiling" for those who are looking for a more skilled experience. The game can still be played and beaten with regular blocking and dodging.

As we reached the end of our little trip through the park, one of the statues morphed into a merciless killer machine that was out to laser us out of existence. An intense boss fight followed as the statue mowed down vegetation with its laser eyes and had us jumping, rolling and running for safe spots before we could jump back in and dole out some damage. The Surge 2 will have a variety of boss battles, many of which are design to be a lot of work, with heavy-hitting and damage-dealing bosses that require a lot of work before they can be defeated. With a few drone shots and a tactical approach to dodging and attacking from strategic angles, we were able to emerge victorious.

Adam Hetanyi, the head of game design, was in charge of providing us with a short and sweet presentation of The Surge 2. The title seems to take its solid and fun foundation and evolve it in a variety of different ways. The limb-based combat system is back and enhanced, weapons look as fun as ever, as do the enemy types and environments. A valid question to ask is how far the developers will push the concept in the short time frame between the first game and its sequel, but this very impressive demo has us convinced that The Surge 2 could be another surprise when it releases in 2019.

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