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The Surge 2 Xbox One review: Is this apocalyptic Souls-like worth it? (update)

The Surge 2 is an evolution for the franchise, but not the genre.

The Surge 2
(Image: © Deck 13)

Updated October 4, 2019: According to an analysis by Digital Foundry, The Surge 2 hits native 4K resolution on Xbox One X, but employs dynamic scaling to maintain a consistent frame rate. In Performance mode, the title goes beyond 1080p resolution to around 1600p.

The Surge is an incredibly popular Dark Souls-like experience which launched in 2017. A little over two years later, The Surge 2 is ready to hit a variety of platforms. Instead of being a new factory worker named Warren, you step into the shoes of a customizable protagonist whose plane is shot down by a mysterious storm and lands on the outskirts of Jericho City. The plot is clearer – even though it's quite bizarre – and you have a mysterious girl guiding you throughout your adventure.

The Surge 2 combat mechanics

Jericho City is quite possibly one of the most hostile environments ever built for a game. Usually, other titles give you a reprieve from the action once in a while, but here, death is around every corner. Taking your time to ensure that you level up and can easily defeat every enemy in a particular area will serve you well. I wouldn't recommend rushing through levels. Not only will you miss items, but you'll get slaughtered even by regular foes once you cross into other areas.

One of the game's biggest surprises is the combat drone.

Just like its predecessor, The Surge 2 requires you to slice off armor and weapons in order to equip them. Unlike its predecessor, however, combat is much more fast-paced, and every enemy encounter isn't a battle for the ages. There are plenty of bisections and decapitations thrown into the mix to make it a lot of fun. As always, you have to target weak, blue body parts in order to defeat enemies. However, if you want that shiny electric sword, you'll have to target that more resistant yellow part.

One of the biggest surprises in The Surge 2 has to be the combat drone. I haven't played the original in a few years, but don't remember the drone being this deadly in battle. In The Surge 2, you can target enemies – even specific body parts – and directly fire around two dozen bullets at them. This helps even the odds because, usually, there are two to three mindless beasts attacking you at once. Taking out one or two, and weakening the third, is quite beneficial when it comes to clearing levels.

The Surge 2 performance and visuals

The Surge 2 doesn't look as good as its predecessor, unfortunately. The issue seems to be related to its lighting and resolution. Even on Xbox One X, it's a little jaggy on Quality mode. However, if you change it to Performance mode, then everything gets even worse. Usually, you'd expect the visuals to get better as time goes on, not regress. Luckily, the performance is stable whether you're playing at 30 or 60 frames per second (FPS). It's just a little jarring to look at from a purely aesthetic perspective. Luckily, great reflections and other material-based effects make up for a lot.

The Surge had the luxury of taking place indoors, going down dark corridors with a flashlight allowed for more spectacular lighting opportunities. It seems like the engine's strengths aren't fully realized in the sequel's abundant outdoors environments. Hopefully, the team will tweak the visuals, as they look a bit dated when you consider we're approaching the end of the generation.

Gameplay is where The Surge 2 really shines. While it's not as groundbreaking as recent similar titles like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or even Remnant: From the Ashes, it's still fluid and incredibly responsive. If you're playing on a console, you'll want to engage the Performance option. "Quality mode" is quite clunky-feeling at 30 FPS. Dodging attacks is a breeze, and attacking enemies makes you feel powerful. Unfortunately, The Surge 2 doesn't evolve the tried-and-tested combat formula in any way. It's more of the same, with the exception of the limb slicing that was already introduced in the original.

The Surge 2 new additions

The Surge 2's greatest focus has to be its new role-playing mechanics. There are a number of side quests that'll keep you occupied for hours. Better yet, many of them have various choices. For example, early on during the campaign, you can pay off someone's debts or fight the debt collector instead. Small decisions like these are scattered throughout the levels, supported with some truly deranged characters. Even a hapless merchant could be a mass murderer.

The Surge 2 shines due to its enhanced role-playing.

The Surge 2 is all about finding a playstyle that suits you. There are a lot of weapons in the game that offer varying attack patterns, so you should experiment with a couple before committing. I chose a welding torch and constantly upgraded it as the game went on. It was just fast enough to stagger enemies, but also did a lot of damage whenever it made contact. Plus, the fact that it applied fire damage was an added bonus.

The Surge 2 feels much more rewarding than its predecessor. Throughout my playthrough, I kept on encountering enemies with new types of armor and weapons. The variety here is endlessly engaging, and you'll have to discover what works for you. You'll want to slice off anything that looks enticing because, usually, it's a worthy upgrade.

The Surge 2 accessibility and inspiration

Just like Dark Souls, The Surge 2 allows you to place graffiti on the ground which other users can rate. This comes in handy because a lot of the time, as sometimes helpful players mark secrets and hidden paths. A concept called "Revenge Enemy" also makes an appearance. Let's say that another player, maybe even your friend on Xbox Live, is killed by one of the enemies. In your playthrough, that enemy will be marked for you to take out, in exchange for bonus materials.

The Surge 2 feels much more accessible than the prequel because you can easily heal. Building up your Energy meter is quite fast, so if you're constantly fighting, you should be able to heal again and again. There really isn't a limit. However, you'll want to head back to the upgrade stations to make yourself more powerful. As usual, you'll lose your valuable Scrap after you die.

The Surge 2 feels like it requires a lot more backtracking than The Surge. Frequently, you'll notice areas that are blocked off by a variety of different contraptions. You'll have to come back with hooks and other drones to open certain doors. This gives the Surge 2 the feel of a complex open world, Metroidvania-like, albeit with a lot of loading screens.

The Surge 2 final thoughts

Overall, The Surge 2 is a good game, but it doesn't hold up to the standard set by titles like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or even some older titles like Dark Souls II when it comes to visuals. Keep in mind that this is a $60 purchase. Even Remnant: From the Ashes arguably offers better graphics and similar gameplay for $40. This is quite surprising because The Surge was fairly impressive visually in 2017, especially given its minuscule download size.

Despite this critique, the addition of deeper role-playing mechanics like choices and unpredictable campaign characters elevates The Surge 2 as a whole, alongside a huge variety of complex enemies that we shan't spoil. I was expecting the combat to see the greatest tweaks, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Don't get me wrong, this is a welcome surprise, and I can't wait to see where the developer, Deck13 Interactive, takes the franchise with the inevitable sequel. If you loved The Surge, you're going to love The Surge 2, as it's a far deeper, far bigger game.

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This review was conducted on a PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X with copies provided by the publisher.

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

10 Comments
  • I'm so glad this is out, I can't wait to sink my teeth into this game, I loved the first one (even if it did get a bit easy towards the end). I'm excited about the new drone mechanics, as outside of area progression the drone was basically worthless in The Surge.
  • I really liked the first game too. Still working on beating it, so gonna hold off on Surge 2.
  • I focused on increasing my max health and using twin rigged weapons (I used the Firebug 2.0 for most of the game) and generally found that, apart from those irritating three legged leaping dog things, most enemies became pretty easy to deal with.
  • The leaping dogs are back and they're tough! But you don't encounter them until like you're 50% of the way through the game.
  • The drone is so insanely powerful. I'm just playing it for fun on Xbox One X and I managed to knock off a boss's health by half just by shooting him with around 20 bullets. The rest was a piece of cake.
  • Initial Surge was pretty good, but it did take me awhile to get comfortable with the controls. Hopefully this addresses some of that
  • The controls are exactly the same, unfortunately, and parrying and blocking are still useless. You just have to dodge attacks.
  • So I've played a bit tonight, I just got to the first merchant hub (I forgot the name of it), where you meet Eli. So far the game has been fairly easy, I don't know if it's just because I'm a lot better at this style of game now (although Sekiro has really been kicking my butt when I play it) or if it is just much easier than what FromSoftware puts out. The drone is definitely beneficial now, from the grenades to the pistol/rifle modes it can actually kill enemies if you need it to and can throw out that bit of extra damage you need to handle a bigger threat. I do feel like there is way too much healing available, which is probably contributing to the easiness of the game so far, which seems from the completely revamped implant system. The fact that you can heal so long as you have a battery charge available (which is actually really easy to accumulate) is the big issue, I never really need to go back to the med bay unless I want to upgrade stuff and that doesn't feel right, I should feel like I'm slowly pressing forward worried about where the next shortcut is going to be so that I can get a short respite. I'm still enjoying the combat, I loved the dismemberment mechanic in the first game and it's well and truly back for this one so I'm always going for the armoured pieces to collect those upgrade parts (which also seem to ramp up in quality fairly quickly, I've been finding level 3 parts already and I've only really killed one "proper" boss). But yeah, I'm still enjoying the game, I'm hoping the difficulty does get a bit harder soon so that I feel like there is a bit more of a challenge, but otherwise I'm having fun.
  • Wait until you meet the Delver Echo. I think it’s like the fourth major boss. I thought it got much harder after that because the enemies got new powers that did a lot of weird nanite elemental damage.
  • I'm up to Little Johnny, hit a bit of a wall. Had a bunch of tries but I get downed really quickly, just got to learn his swiping attacks. I'm going to switch up my equipment, I've been using a staff, but it seems to miss more than it hits, I'm going to go back to the spear I've been using as it's done a pretty good job. I've also probably been trying too hard to get the red shields down on the capsules on the body as I assume that's going to get me the 2.0 weapon, if that's even a thing in this game, dunno, but I'm going to try.