Developed by Deck13 Published by Focus Home Interactive Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Xbox One, Steam)
The Surge 2 is an action RPG video game developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive. Following up 2017’s The Surge, a hit in its own right, The Surge 2 is decisively an improvement in almost all qualities. Following shortly after the events of The Surge, The Surge 2 shovels you deep into a just after the apocalypse, following the turmoil of a rogue artificial intelligence with nanomachines dead set on rewriting the world.
When starting up The Surge 2, you’re first greeted by a character creator, new to the series. Despite being incredibly minimal in its visual impact throughout gameplay, having the choice to choose your appearance is enjoyable. As you hack off limbs and armor throughout the game’s city, armor gets haphazardly bolted over top of your character creator face and clothing, which makes your appearance feel very survival-based.
Combat in The Surge 2 is one of the biggest draws for the series, honing on the feeling of using a construction weapon to crush in the helmet of your enemy and then deftly golf swinging it off so you can salvage bits for your own armor. While much of the combat feels similar to its predecessor, it has been improved. This includes more feedback and variety in enemy types. Successful combat usually feels productive as well, as cutting off the arm holding a weapon usually gives that weapon to you, as well as any armor on that arm as well.
Even simple improvements on the genre like correctly timed attacks reducing stamina usage rewards active play and not just frenetic button mashing. As you progress you’ll find a bevy of weapons and armor to use to slice through security droids, drug addled survivors, and even hunks of nanomachines with a grudge.
As you roam the cordoned off city of The Surge 2‘s Jericho City, you’ll find remnants of life prior to the apocalypse. From former doctors wielding rifles with the impunity of a world on fire to a kind lady selling questionably obtained fresh meat, the people filling the world come from all walks of life. Some you meet accept that the new world is one of fire and fighting and have taken up weapons to protect their small hill of dirt. Others act as if they’re temporarily disgraced millionaires, spending time in lavish bars socializing with others with momentary setbacks in their life that will return like a small storm blowing out of town. You’ll do quests for others, like handling a debt collector or finding what happened to a hunter’s best friend who wandered off, or even just turning in audio-logs to a nosy vending machine. The writing feels very organic and lived through, as though the people in the story genuinely are enduring hardships.
As The Surge 2 puts so much effort into allowing freedom of customization and a wide assortment of armor designs to mix and match, it is very unfortunate that the home console release [check for corroboration] appears incredibly muddy. A side effect of lowering texture quality to maintain framerate, the player character, armor, and most enemies appear to be in the lowest fidelity setting possible. To the game’s credit, gameplay feels smooth regardless of how out of focus everything important to the game appears. This function appears to be intentional, as initially loading in from a save or death loads a medium quality texture before loading in a smaller, blurrier texture.
As the genre of gameplay The Surge 2 subscribes to has a very distinct online experience, seeing innovation in that online experience is fresh. Helpful graffiti from other players warning of danger is nice, but the addition of timed hide and seek changes how the player perceives exploration and what dangerous pitfalls a player will brave to keep others from grabbing their banner. Asynchronous Revenge enemies, enemies others have died to, add some depth as well, showing what other players are dying to and a friendly challenge/warning for what’s to come. The Surge 2 also features graffiti, a limited message system exclusively for letting other players know what’s to come whether it’s a hazard or reward or sometimes just encouragement.
Despite being relatively sparse in audio, The Surge 2‘s usage of sound demonstrates good understanding of level design. Empty alleyways echo the mechanical clattering of an enemy around a corner, allowing cautious players to foresee ambushes. Chittering of spike covered nanomachine clumps warns you to observe the skyline for reactive enemies. Music swelling under your feet and between your ears warns that you’re getting too cocky, you’re going to die to this boss. Predicating on expectations and using them to improve your experience is great sound design and it feels good to be rewarded for observing with your ears.
Mechanically, The Surge 2 is a great sequel to its predecessor in the series and in its genre, and what minor setbacks occur don’t greatly impact how you play. If your dig is fear of AI and using increasingly more wild weapons to bonk anything in your path, The Surge 2 is the game for you.