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The Surge 2 Review: Electrifyingly brilliant or simply shocking?

Taking heavy inspiration from the immensely popular and highly successful Souls-Borne series, the original Surge twisted the genre into something freshly brutal and unique, but will Deck 13 be able to achieve this once more with The Surge 2 or is this one game destined for the scrap pile?

While there have already been a number of Souls-Borne styled titles, every game I have played within the genre has shared the same base formulaic mechanics that fans have come to love. While some titles have tried to replicate the mechanics to such a point they may as well just be considered a re-skinned Dark Souls, there are two unique titles that stand out to me as an exception to the rule - The Surge and the freshly released Code Vein, each of which are deserving of praise for having been able to imprint their own unique identity within the genre.

The main difference between The Surge and Dark Souls is that in the Souls titles, you'll find yourself repeatedly killing all kinds of undead monstrosities to collect their souls and gear, where as The Surge has you targeting the head, limbs and torsos of cybernetically enhanced humans/creatures to gather scrap and the mechanical gear you've literally torn from your opponents bodies. While the formula is practically identical, there's just something about The Surge that feels so much more satisfying when upgrading your character into a being far stronger, deadlier and ultimately much more badass, and The Surge 2 is no different.

Sadly, while The Surge 2 embraces its pre-established identity (and does this very well), the original had you begin play as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic and while this was both shocking and unique, The Surge 2's intro simply isn't anywhere near as original, as we're instead placed into the shoes of a plane crash survivor who now must fight to survive and navigate his way around a somewhat post-apocalyptic future.

Unlike the original, The Surge 2 actually allows you to create your own character, with a choice of either a male or female protagonist. While this may seem appealing, it really isn't as in-depth as what's featured within Dark Souls or Code Vein and is more a tool to help you care more about your character for the hours of gameplay to come. Options aren't as lacking as some games, but they're certainly not as plentiful either. This is a shame, but in the grand scheme of things doesn't actually detract from the overall experience.

Character creation may not have been in the original Surge, and while it's true this sequel takes what has already been established in the original and improves upon it, I feel that in trying to maintain the originality and unique characteristics of the previous title, something got lost in translation along the way, because it simply doesn't feel the same anymore. The Surge 2 introduces a brand new blocking and parrying system and though it can work pretty well, I don't believe it's a necessary addition to an already entertaining game and yet I can't help but feel this is the way Deck 13 wanted us to play.

Blocking is simple, but timing is key. To parry, you need to be blocking and then press the analogue stick in the corresponding direction with the right timing to successfully fend off your attacker. Do this enough with the right timing and you'll stagger your opponent, allowing you to swiftly move in to unleash a barrage of devastating attacks. Just be mindful of your stamina gauge, because blocking, dashing, parrying and attacking all consume it, so knowing when to attack and when to back off is usually the difference between life and death.

Check out some of my gameplay below, where I take on one of the earlier bosses of the game - Little Johnny:

The combat mechanics work well and there's plenty of enhancements you can make to your build at a Med Station, whether it's simply upgrading your core power to attach more powerful gear, level up your health, stamina and battery efficiency, or upgrading your weapons, armour and implants, you'll always feel like there's something more you could be doing to become the most powerful being in the game. That is of course until you come up against one of the games immensely imposing boss fights, which will almost always put you in your place at the drop of a hat and right when you feel ready to take on anything too.

It's quite possible you'll find yourself struggling against every boss within the game, but the one I had the biggest issue with was The Delver - A huge, dog-like Nano Machine with some pretty unfair attacks. Though the signposting on what it's going to do next is pretty good, there are some defensive abilities I feel should have been nerfed, such as Nano Sickness buildup that'll sap most of your life away within a second or two, should you near its tail. That said, even when I went for its face, just being near the creature can prove deadly. This forces you to play as safe as possible, but also means you'll be dealing very little damage with each opening and unfortunately takes what should be an immensely fun fight and turns it into a bit of a drawn out chore, especially considering how often you'll die in this encounter. This was after I had to take out an armoured human who could turn himself invisible, throw invisible mines onto the floor and then leap at you in a fairly enclosed space before you even really had the time to recover. The boss fights are largely unforgiving and can feel incredibly harsh, but there's a huge amount of satisfaction to be had when you finally fell that intimidating menace you've been having a hard time with. The droning, almost industrial (at times) music can also make the encounters feel pretty epic.

To aid you on your travels, other than implants to bolster your defence and elemental resistance, you can also acquire a number of combat injections, which vary from allowing you to heal yourself instantly, to being able to regenerate health over time, ward off poison and Nanite poisoning. Yet, none of this is possible without the energy bars, each of which you need to fill by attacking, blocking and parrying your enemies, with parrying seemingly being the fastest way to achieve this. Your energy bars also decay over time, so make sure you heal and stock up on health injections before letting them run out. Some implants will prevent this decay, but you'll want to use the more offensive implants if you plan to survive this hellish scrapyard of a world.

Most of the time you'll be killing things to collect scrap, which enables you to pay for all of your upgrades and level up your cores, though if you want better gear, you'll want the schematics first. That said, there's plenty of gear to find and try out (all of which look great in their own way). You can mix and match gear freely, though it's best to wear either a full set or two sets of partial sets for completion and half-completion bonuses.

There are also a lot of weapons within the game, with a good amount to be crafted and acquired under each category. Such weapons include a number of Swords, heavier weapons like hammers and my personal favourites - The Twin Rigged types, which vary from dual blades to the more unique hooked claw type you'll receive from one of The Surge 2's earlier boss fights. Regardless of what weapon type you find yourself leaning towards, there's something for everyone and the name of the game is to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade!

The Surge 2 also introduces the new Combat Drones, which are helpful flight drones able to stun, shock and shred your opponents amongst other things. They also come in handy for unlocking otherwise inaccessible areas of the game. They can also help you out in a pinch and will often save your ass when the going gets tough.

The most satisfying element to The Surge 2 however, is the addition of Combat Finishers. If you have at least one energy bar filled and damage an opponents body enough, whichever body part you've been focusing on will eventually break, allowing you to hold square to perform a super stylish Combat Finisher. Whether you're lopping off limbs or beheading an enemy, it almost always feels satisfying and is the core way to acquiring new parts to forge and later upgrade.

As fun as this may be, and as much as you will feel like an ever-ascending badass with each new upgrade, there's one thing that slightly bothered me and that is the fact hitboxes could have done with a little more work. Most of the time there is no issue, but on occasion the hitboxes are completely off and you'll find yourself taking damage from an impact after the enemy has already attacks and dashed past you. It's fine for a game to be brutal, but there needs to be balance and if a brutal game doesn't at least maintain a level of fair play, it runs the risk of being punishing simply for the sake of it, which in most cases just isn't fun.

One thing I need to mention is how seamlessly the world is pieced together. While The Surge 2 will feel very limited for at least the first 3-5 hours of play, once you start unlocking shortcuts, you'll realise just how cleverly the world has been put together. The layout is truly fantastic and in my mind, completely praise-worthy.

This time around the world feels less industrial and a little more natural (or diverse if you will) and yet it's not without its fair share of graphical issues. Aside from the textures taking a while to load in (I tested this by moving the camera against a wall, where textures would load and unload every time you moved to and from the wall), The Surge 2 has a completely different tone to the original and even though the environments are more diverse, the original Surge felt like a much better looking game, though this largely has a lot to do with the shift in artistic direction. The Surge 2 also features a crazy amount of Michael Bay-esque lens flare, though I guess it all adds to its style.

You'll be exploring a lot and if you look hard enough you'll find a large number of hidden routes and paths you never even knew existed. Thankfully, there's a tag system in place that allows fellow gamers to slap stickers/graffiti pretty much wherever they want, warning you of death, pointing you towards hidden paths and hinting at treasure nearby. You can also pop character icons placed by other players for extra scrap. Explore enough and you'll be rewarded with new parts, scrap and even audio logs that offer extra insight into the world around you.

Overall, The Surge 2 is a fun title to play. It's not the best the genre has to offer, but it's far from the worst. Boss fights may ground you into dust and hitboxes could be improved, but The Surge 2 builds upon the success of the original title and adds a little more flair whilst consistently making you feel like a badass, even when you're repeatedly getting your ass kicked. If you loved the original, then you'll have a lot of fun with this and if you didn't? Well, now's the time to jump right in. Gameplay issues are fairly minimal and though the story feels a little lacking, the gameplay in itself is entertaining enough to keep you playing from start to finish. Just maybe avoid this one if you're quick to anger.

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