The Surge 2 Review: Unforgiving Combat Refined to Sci-Fi Perfection
In a year marked by several highly anticipated titles that don't quite stick the landing, an unlikely contender for Game of the Year has arisen.
After a lukewarm response to its predecessor, The Surge 2 has taken everything you thought you knew about brutal combat titles featuring respawning enemies and refined that style into a brand-new post-apocalyptic, sci-fi experience.
Just about any complaint you may have had about The Surge — its clunky combat and limited options, for instance — is missing from the sequel. The Surge 2 is leagues better than its predecessor, taking its style to new, futuristic heights.
Bigger, Bolder, Badder
The Surge 2 immediately makes it clear you will have far more choices here than in the previous game, starting with character customizing, where players can change their gender, skin color, and hairstyle. They can tweak their character's overall work background.
Taking a cue from RPGs, that final choice has real repercussions NPCs will react to characters differently based on what you did before the nanite plague turned Jericho into an android war zone.
Character creation is just the tip of the iceberg, though, as every last mechanic in The Surge 2 has been enhanced, improved, and extended. Options for customizing rig parts and using different weapon types seem limitless.
Starting out dual-wielding defibrillators like an absolute boss, it won't be long before you're severing robotic limbs and choosing between spears, sledgehammers, table saws, flaming gas tanks, and many, many more marvelously gruesome weapons.
Between brand-new skill modules to equip and a vast range of equipment crafting possibilities, such as sets focused on speed, damage, or interrupting enemy attacks, the game gives you free rein to learn and master your own preferred combat style.
But that's not where the upgrades end. The game world is larger this time around.
Expanding from the confines of the factory in The Surge or the amusement park from the A Walk In The Park DLC, the whole city is open to exploration, and the environment is used far more effectively to keep the game feeling fresh.
Coming into The Surge 2 off a long stint with Blasphemous, I initially wasn't super excited. The thought of diving into a game with super-hard combat and a restrictive stamina mechanic didn't sound like much fun.
Thankfully, that's not the case.
Early on, you can pump points into your stamina stat like crazy to mitigate that restriction. When you know how to dodge enemy attacks and get in combos to sever limbs, you frankly don't need health anyway.
On that front, the game utilizes an updated battery mechanic that fits its own style so perfectly that I honestly can't understand why it wasn't used before. In order to sever limbs for scrap collecting, power special abilities, or even heal yourself in boss fights, you need to charge your battery by landing multiple hits. That means aggression is rewarded here, and the combat is much faster and more fluid than before.
Finding New Ways to Kill
Aside from the updated limb severing (and oh, you will sever so many limbs!), there's more a larger stealth component this time around, and the environment can be used to your advantage in different ways.
Jericho City is a big area, and now there's frequently more than one way through any given location.
Finding hidden stairwells, back alleys, and rooftops offers new ways to take out enemies, such as using a drone to shoot them from above or below where they can't reach you.
Of course, you can plow through those enemies via standard melee combat instead, but if any particular enemy type is vexing you, there are now more ways to play than just having to "git gud" — and that addition to this style is long, long overdue.
Playing in a Living World
While exploring acidic rivers, bombed-out apartments, gravity lifts, and more, there's a shared world element at play, as well. You can see where other players had victories or defeats (much like with Nioh), but The Surge 2 takes that idea a step further with an interesting twist.
Besides just shooting enemies or searching for loot, your drone can drop a hologram "banner" of your current character loadout. The idea is to find extremely hidden, out of the way places to drop the banner — and the longer it remains hidden from any other player, the bigger your reward.
The Surge features significantly fewer instances of hidden secondary enemies, those hidden just out of your field of view waiting to gank you as soon as you enter an unfamiliar area. The first game was lousy with that kind of cheap mechanic, and thankfully, it's more manageable here.
That being said, the camera can still be your biggest enemy since its auto-lock feature is turned on by default. In almost every way, it makes it difficult to see who is coming up behind you when fighting more than one enemy at a time.
I'm still not entirely certain if that's a feature meant to increase the challenge in group combat or a bug that doesn't need to be there, but after disabling auto-lock my enjoyment with the game skyrocketed into the stratosphere, so I highly recommend turning it off.
With auto-lock off, you can still cull a herd of enemies into a manageable size, then manually lock onto whoever looks like they will have the best loot. While locked on, your goal in any fight is to either sever a specific armored part to get components you need or target the weakest body part with the best weapon and attack mode for firing off a deadly combo.
That latter element is crucial to beating bosses, and it is used to enhance the combat system along with a new directional blocking mechanic that lets you get in counter-attacks.
It's somewhat complicated, but very satisfying when you figure it all out, and the system comes together for frenzied melees or large scale boss fights. These bosses definitely aren't cakewalks, and there's some serious strategy to be employed if you want to them down from "impossible" to "doable with some luck."
For instance, it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 attempts on the first boss fight before I realized the weaker but faster attack could be chain-combed for 5 or 6 hits in a row on one specific body part.
The end result is that boss fights are basically puzzles to be worked out, and they're extremely satisfying when you unlock the right combat style to move forward.
- Updated battery, limb severing, and healing mechanics
- Much faster, more fluid combat than the previous game
- The Souls style has now been refined into something with a broader appeal
- There is a bit of a grind
- The auto-lock on feature should be turned off immediately
Other than learning to work around the lock-on feature, the only real downside to The Surge 2 is that there is some grind involved to find schematics, construct equipment, and upgrade components.
Respawning enemies is integral to the gameplay since you need to sever limbs to find new weapons and scavenge parts to upgrade. But with the expanded nature of the various game mechanics and the hidden routes to find across the city, it doesn't feel nearly as repetitive as it could have.
That issue aside, The Surge 2 is a nearly perfect refinement of this style and a significantly improved follow-up to the previous game. If there's an award for "best sequel," Deck13 definitely deserves to take it home for The Surge 2.
[Note: A copy of The Surge 2 was provided by Focus Home Interactive for the purpose of this review.]