Arts

Games: Shades of Souls, but The Surge has plenty of life about it

The Surge by Focus is a high-tech tale of capitalism run riot
Neil McGreevy

The Surge (Multi)

By: Focus

FROMSOFTWARE'S Souls vibe is strong in this sci-fi take on the punishing action genre. Swap magic for technology and slaying medieval monsters with robotic shenanigans and you have some idea of what to expect in this tale of capitalism run riot.

As the wheelchair-bound Warren, players apply to work at a high-tech corporation in search of a better life. With a company exoskeleton grafted on to his meat, not only can Warren walk again, but soon must fight his way out of a near-future dystopia to stand any chance of survival.

Sinister CEOs and corporate exploitation are the order of the day as employees are suited up to battle each other, living and dying for the man. The core gameplay involves slowly wearing down numbers from enemy health bars as you read their attacks and block or counter accordingly, the bloody dismemberment often captured in voyeuristic slow-mo.

You'll explore semi-linear worlds filled with hidden collectibles and enemies, balancing gear that draws from your core power for some chin-stroking customisation while unlockable implants add healing items, drone controls and suchlike.

Pilfering Souls' supreme difficulty, experience point system and exploration, The Surge adds a sublime loot concept as you butcher your way to success. Players can target specific body parts during battles – arms, legs, heads, etc – with each blow building up an energy meter that, when filled, allows elaborate finishers and lops off that part.

This is how you'll hoard new equipment to craft at a makeshift hub camp where you can heal, level up, and upgrade weapons and armour. Like the Souls games, you'll die a lot. Enemies hit hard, and running away like a chrome chicken is often the best course of action.

Not as boss-focused as its genre stablemates (there are only five in the entire game), individual encounters thus have more heft and even bog-standard baddies will kick your shiny metal arse. As a result, routine encounters become strategy-filled epics. Cark it and it's a rush against the clock to collect your dropped loot before it disappears.

Far from polished, there are errant lock-ons, constrained level designs and an occasionally convulsing camera that can't keep up with the brutal action. Its setting is also old-hat, a naturally reclaimed industrial landscape that's been seen dozens of times before in titles like Destiny and Titanfall.

No mere Souls clone, though, The Surge has plenty of new ideas grafted on to its exoskeleton, while PS4 Pro performance is stunning, bumping up the goodies in a way that should embarrass bigger studios.

The most dramatic tale of wheelchair-bound heroics since Perry Mason served out his tenure as Ironside, The Surge adds plenty of WD40 for a body horror of savage worker-on-worker action.

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