Review: The Surge (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: The Surge
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (5.4 GB)
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €59.99 (EU), £49.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The Surge is a hardcore action-RPG in the same vein as the Souls games, Demon’s and Dark, but with a very different landscape and a refreshing fighting mechanic. A word of warning for you all, I am awful at these kinds of games, but for some reason, I adore them. Maybe it’s the reward of overcoming gargantuan hurdles and becoming something better, something stronger.

Gameplay:
You will die countless times and in doing so you drop any scrap you salvaged along the difficult journey. The prospect of going back and reclaiming your gear is often a tempting one, especially if you have acquired a sizeable supply that goes toward upgrading your suit and parts.

An unexpectedly surprising and painful beginning hurls you into a frightening and desolate landscape, with only evil drones and crazed psychopaths intent on murdering you to keep you company. With no recollection of what caused the horrible and devastating situation, you set off to find some answers.

For those of you who watched the excellent action film Live, Die, Repeat (or the boring studio name, Edge of Tomorrow) will be familiar with the look of the exoskeleton at your disposal. This one is a little different as it is fixed into the body and has no weapons attached, but it does make your character almost as powerful as the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Terminator.

What makes The Surge different from so many other games is the way in which you acquire your weapons and gear. You’ll slice off metal and bone, salvaging dismembered limbs with precious components to equip on your own suit. Using a quick targeting system, you can pinpoint the part you need and try to hack it off in a gruesome finishing move.

Learning the way each enemy attacks and how best to defend yourself is paramount, as one or two missteps will generally result in your death. Even the weakest enemy can decimate you in a few seconds if you fail to pay attention and block or move out of the way.

You can dodge, jump, and duck incoming attacks. However, the latter two require a button press and a quick movement of an analog stick, I know that doesn’t sound complicated, and it really isn’t. However, in the heat of battle, I often forget or fail to move the stick in time, resulting in a chunk of valuable health lost or death. Maybe I’m getting too old for this.

You can inject health serums and with certain implants, you can even convert built up energy into health if you have enough from successful hits on enemies. This means you will be keeping a close eye on the three gauges that also include your important stamina.

… I figured it out and knew how to kill it …
Your stamina quickly refills but also drains in just a few swings of a heavy weapon or a quick dash. You can also use implants to improve this and your health but you only have a limited amount of slots in your exo-suit meaning, if you are anything like me, you will be agonizing over what to use every time you find a new implant.

After a time you will get drones to fight with you. Most of these drain your built-up energy when performing their abilities and just like the consumable implants, you can switch them on the fly with a press of their corresponding directional buttons. I occasionally wasted a health boost or sent out the wrong drone because I forgot to switch them over.

At first, your progress will be slow and cautious. As you learn the area and enemy placement, your pace will pick up. Unlocking doors and lifts lets you access new areas and shortcuts back to your med-bay. Death means you respawn in the safety of the disused bay and just like when you bank any scrap, all of the enemies reset in the map.

You can and probably will need to farm for scrap and armor, not to mention improve your weapon proficiency. Building up your stats and armor is important when facing a boss. It took me hours of trial and error before I even got close to defeating the first boss.

After many attempts of just whacking at it and trying to avoid the large melee attacks and lethal projectiles, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and it all clicked. Well, exploded is a better word. I figured it out and knew how to kill it.

I still failed to kill the boss as it caught me with a nasty little kick which sent me tumbling across the floor. As I was getting back on my feet it launched a flurry of projectiles and I was laid to waste. Just before my character’s unfortunate death, I had noticed some of my hits to its massive legs caused pieces to break off. Anyway, where was I?

… my only option is to get better at the game …
I cannot believe this is just the first boss. Maybe I’m just terrible at this game. Ah well, I don’t care, I’m having a blast. Every death is fair and just but every successful encounter is so satisfying and rewarding, especially when you finally enact your revenge on an evil boss.

One thing that might have made my life easier is knowing that I had to manually break down the tech-scrap consumables in the inventory section of the touchpad menu. When I finally stumbled across it, I had amassed a small fortune. It might have told me when I first started playing and it could have appeared in the loading screen tips, but that can only be viewed when you travel to a completely new area, which is rare.

As it stands, I have amassed thirty-four hours over three different save games and the furthest I have reached is the second level boss. Embarrassing, I know. I can change the controls, but only the main block command, not the duck and jump variants, so that does not help.

I guess my only option is to get better at the game. After so much living, dying, and repeating you would think I’d get bored, but it’s quite the opposite, although it has been mainly the dying part that I have mastered.

Will I get the Platinum? Very doubtful. Will I even reach the end? Probably not. Has it been immensely fun, in a sadistic kind of way? Yes. At least I can be happy in the knowledge that my second save had an easy and continuous run all the way up to the boss on my first attempt – who then killed me with a quick stomp of its large metal foot.

There is no difficulty option and everything is generally one or two steps stronger than your own character. Increasing the power of your suit and upgrading weapons help, but only so much. There is no place to stroll in and buy weapons, no person stood in a dark corner asking for your trade. If you want something you have to go out and tear it off the enemy yourself.

… just enough lens flare and bloom to make it look like a believable real-world location …
Visuals:
The Surge is a pretty game, a pretty disgusting game that is. You will smash, slice, and tear limbs off of psychotic enemies with tons of blood spraying out of the severed appendages. Grotesque mangled corpses litter the deserted hallways and rooms like discarded rubbish. Furniture and equipment have been broken or piled up as makeshift barricades as if whatever happened turned sour immediately.

It isn’t all disgusting, as there is some beauty in the decaying remnants of the massive corporation that you signed up with on the day it all went wrong. It becomes startlingly clear that a lot of thought has gone into the level design and some of the structures are massive and complex.

Not everything is perfect. There are one or two minor issues with a flickering texture or dismembered limbs and dropped weapons floating above the ground. Every wooden box I destroy looks odd. The pieces are caught on invisible scenery and float in midair. Not a big issue, but it looks strange.

The use of lighting and the game engine both work wonders in most areas to show off very detailed components and objects with just enough lens flare and bloom to make it look like a believable real-world location.

It also moves at a nice pace even when there’s a boss four times the size of your already large and detailed character flying around and slamming into the ground with a ground-shaking shudder.

Audio:
A chilled and relaxed song called Prisoner by Stumfol plays in the med-bay, which is a stark contrast to the usual ominous silence of the game.

Don’t get me wrong, there is music and voice work, but they only appear at certain times. You will often just hear your character’s footsteps and panting as you run about the place and the general hum of machinery and computers.

… terminate a troublesome enemy and claim their weapons and armor for yourself …
I like the female machine voice that you hear when entering and exiting the med-bay and performing a few other objectives. I would have liked more variety in what is said but enjoyed hearing every announcement and remark.

The sounds of combat are bloody and painful. You will hear the anguished gurgle as you tear a head from its body, the wet slop as a limb smacks onto the floor, and the klack and crash of metal against metal.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
The Surge surprised me, from the painfully intriguing beginning to the brutally difficult middle and end. Well… I am nowhere near completing this hard as nails action-RPG so I can’t really comment on that.

Having started from the beginning after an embarrassing thirty-hour crawl through the first two levels, things are much easier. Even when my character is weak I can rip through all of the standard enemies with a devastating brutality so much better than before.

It is so satisfying when you figure out how to terminate a troublesome enemy and claim their weapons and armor for yourself, and in such gruesome ways too. Seeing the slow-motion kills never gets old and even though I am undeniably bad at this game, I still love it. I just hope you can perform all of the blocks better than I can.

There is no question to the awesome fun to be had when playing The Surge. It’s so much fun dashing toward an unsuspecting enemy and changing into a slide attack as you notice them turning to face you, unleashing a flurry of attacks and then darting to the side as they manage to take a swing but missing, leaving them open for one more slice and ending with a horrifying finishing move that leaves your opponent in pieces on the blood soaked ground. With a satisfied smile, you claim your new found gear only to hear the terrifying charge of an enemy from the side who you never knew was there.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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