When The Surge released a few years ago, it caught my attention. Not because it’s a “souls like” experience, as the genre is now referred to. My interest was on the body modification element and theme of robot parts mixed with humans. In almost horror like fashion, The Surge 1 felt like a dark future full of rampant tech and was a surprise hit for me. How does The Surge 2 stack up? It’s with great pleasure to say, The Surge 2 is everything someone would want from a sequel and the virus has definitely spread to the city.
In The Surge 2, players take control of the main character that awakens in a police station after a plane crash in the city of Jericho. Some time has passed since the crash and the city doesn’t seem to be in very good shape. This time instead of playing as a main character like Warren in the first game, players will get to create a character and follow the story of why they are in the city, what happened to their plane, and tracking down an important woman that may have some answers. Also for those worried about the main protagonist of the first game, Warren is mention in the game. The city just feels like one on the verge of chaos and while I never felt much of a cyber punk theme of the first even with its setting, the sequel definitely has that atmosphere and I love it. Players will come across a multitude of new and interesting characters in the city, some of which offer guidance, and others side quests. While the city is in lock down, they still nailed the feeling of folks struggling to survive and not everyone is out to kill you.
The first big different to notice happens right after escaping the prison and entering the City of Jericho. In comparison to the facility and isolated feeling of the first games facility, Jericho is huge, wide, and vertical. Here we get much more room to breathe but danger is still around every corner. The main character will get to explore the city which serves as sort of a hub to other areas noted by load screens and their own complete map. The level design here is fantastic and the way the city intricately links itself back to other areas via shortcuts is just amazing. I was completely in awe every time I opened a new shortcut that I had no idea returned back to another area. This extends both underground and above. To make the exploration even sweeter, there is almost a Metroid-vania style of progressing and exploration in the form of abilities the character receives. For example, there is an EMP drone ability to unlock after defeating the first big major boss, which took me about 5 hours to get to. Afterwards that drone can be used to unlocked specific doors or passageways to other areas for secret loot or progression. Later there is an attachment that enables the use of zip lines located all over the various maps. It’s a great feeling to return to and older location or discover somewhere new and use these abilities to do so.
Now of course we have to talk about the combat here since it was such a huge element that made The Surge 1 stick out. It’s safe to say the combat retains most of what made it great and is refined here. There are a ton of weapons to find and use. Each with varying playstyles and various statues affects. From fast punching and aerobatics, to slow and heavy damage, there is something for everyone here. Combat retains that fast feeling and satisfaction of knowing when to block, parry, and attack. The drone returns as well with new abilities and the function of placing down symbols and notes for other players when connected online. Combat can be brutal and death can come quick if players don’t observe the area and enemies they encounter. Sometime enemies can be hidden behind boxes or come from around corners turning the fight from a one on one to a three against one. This is where knowing how to dodge and parry really comes into play. Parrying is also pretty crucial from some encounters and requires blocking and pushing on the right stick in the direction of the attack. While this could be hard to gauge there is a mod to equip that will indicate which direction the attack is coming from. The mod system returns and it’s a feature I really enjoy. Finding new mods allows players to create a build of a character suited to how they want to play. Perhaps they want more health, regenerating stamina, or better damage against different enemy types. Mixing and matching these prove to be crucial sometimes and can truly change the outcome of a battle if utilized right.
Of course the ability to cut off heads and limbs returns in glorious fashion and the finishing moves on these still look excellent. For those that didn’t play The Surge 1, it’s a requirement and necessity to chop off enemies body parts. This is how players receive weapons, schematics and additional parts for upgrading and crafting new gear. Doing so requires parts and tech points that are received when killing enemies and selling scrap. All this can be done at the med bays which serve as an upgrade stations but also as a personal way to know that players have discovered a new area or made some progression. I always breathe a sigh of relief when finding one. Tech points are the most important element to hang into though and luckily it can be banked at these points also. The Surge 2 continues to follow the idea that Dark Souls set in that when dying, players have a chance to recovery their experience points. Dying again causes them to disappear forever. This makes the tech banking ability a lovely feature.
While The Surge 2 does indeed feature a plethora of great new ideas and truly establishes that this is a sequel to The Surge, there are a few things to note. Graphically, I feel it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes the graphics look fantastic, other times they seem a bit drab. I don’t know if this is due to perhaps the scope of the map and city but it’s noticeable. The PS4 Pro version has the option for performance and quality. Quality offers 30fps with higher resolutions and performance with 60fps. After messing with both, I couldn’t go back to the higher resolution. The game did look a bit better, but the gameplay just feels too smooth to pass up with performance mode. There is also some noticeable screen tearing occurring at times depending on the location. No doubt in order to get it running at 60fps.
My time in Jericho City has been a combat fueled, cyberpunk nightmare come true. What we have here is a sequel that sticks to what it the series does well and expands on it. The bigger maps and hub like city have been an absolute joy to explore. The fighting is as visceral and engaging as ever. The boss battles are demanding and sometimes towering. The defeats will be devastating, the victories bitter sweet. The Surge has returned and it’s time to put on the exosuit, start the body modification, and figure out what happened to Jericho City.
A pre-release PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for review purposes