The Surge 2 is a generous love letter to action RPG/Hack-and-slash titles like its prequel, The Surge, Dark Souls, Bloodbourne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Though flawed, The Surge 2 is a celebration of animation in a setting that feels far more alive, more interesting, than its predecessor. It is not all as glorious as it sounds though, as there are numerous shortcomings, from performance issues to abysmal lighting and contrast. To its credit, the animations, functions of the rigs, and the absolutely superb level design, The Surge 2 will most certainly fill you with hours upon hours of exploratory excitement in an industrial-grade grey landscape full of drug addicts and overly militant religious sects.
To start, The Surge 2’s opening level/tutorial space is about as bland as they come, though I did get a very hefty Resident Evil feel. Unfortunately though, that tense and foreboding feeling died the moment I exited the starting area and hit the open air of Jericho City. I have to admit that the open-air feeling was a refreshing spin on the more densely atmospheric action-RPG/Hack-and-Slash “Soulsbourne” genre, and as you discover more areas in Jericho City, you will come to realize the brilliance in level design.
Exploration seems to be a key second next to the limb-ripping goodness that carried over from The Surge and both of those elements are superb. I can only imagine that if you were to zoom completely out over the entirety of Jericho City, then overlay it with the actual paths available to you, you would likely find that the entire map looks not all that dissimilar from that old 3D Pipes screensaver. It is WONDERFUL.
What is not wonderful? Performance. Oh lawd its bad at times. On the Xbox One X, under the Quality mode, you will rarely maintain, or even get close to the 30 FPS lock on consoles (I cannot yet speak to PC performance, but it too is reportedly poor). On top of that? This is a regular occurrence on the Xbox One X :
I would most certainly call that “quality” … if we were talking original Xbox-era. Later areas tend to stutter and drop frames far more often as clutter is more common, enemies are more numerous, and various effects, like the very cool animations in the background vistas, however the framer drops and graphical pop-in is frustrating and immersion-breaking.
On the flipside of that though, this is launch and there will likely be an optimization patch so the hope is that there is one that focuses on performance. In truth, I eagerly await that because the game is quite pretty; some of the scenes are breathtaking, especially mid-game when there is a significant color shift away from steel and varying shades of grey. Tie that into some wonderful audio design (minus some of the … questionable voice acting) and there are some excellent moments that, after taking out a horde of bad guys by ripping up their limbs, are simply serene. A shame that the relatively bland story did not capture me with its bland twists and unenthusiastic story arcs…
What really sets The Surge 2 apart? Combat. Where Demons Souls and the first two Dark Souls games were about patience, parrying, and timing, Dark Souls III and Bloodbourne were about speed, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a blend between timing and stealth, Surge 2 is all about getting in and just beating the hell out of the enemies while taking a beating yourself. “But T1ckles, those games are all about NOT getting hit” you say? Well … They are and Surge 2 sets itself apart not only with the utterly awesome limb-removal combat style, but in its use of rigs that have armor ratings. The better the armor, the longer you can stay in the fight, smashing and bashing and de-limbing all to your heart’s content. Not a fan of the tank-style combat? No worries; you can go full-on dexterity/agility with the different rigs and any of the huge pile of wickedly homemade weapons (Spears are my absolute jam).
The Surge 2 graphics are good at times, though they run into issues with performance; audio design is superb, and level-design is stellar; combat is awesome and what keeps one coming back. Is it a title worth its weight based on its price point? That is an absolute and resounding “yes.” Is the story as deep and intricate as the Dark Souls trilogy? No. Is it as passionate as Sekiro? No. Is it as dark and twisted as Bloodbourne? No. Is it different, interesting, and full of extreme potential? Abso-freaking-lutely.