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Yahtzee reviews The Surge.

Release date Edit

This episode premiered in the (nominally) post-ZP Escapist Twitch stream and was released on the Escapist website a few hours later.

Transcript Edit

When Deck13 Interactive set out to make a game to rival Dark Souls, the nay-sayers said it couldn't be done, but Deck13 damn well knuckled down and made Lords of the Fallen, thus proving the nay-sayers right, because Lords of the Fallen was, while superficially Dark Souls-esque, short, boring, and reminiscent of a D&D campaign run by a bloke who collects knives. But nonetheless emboldened, having gotten the straight rip-off out of the way with a dark fantasy game, Deck13 now moves to bring super-hard exploration RPGs to the world of science fiction with their new game, The Surge, thus breathing new life into the word "surge", which was previously of use only to electricians and erotic fiction writers. Seriously, try it: describe any human body part as "surging", and voila, you're writing erotic fiction. "Tenderly, he caressed her surging kneecaps."

Sadly, there's very little erotic about The Surge, which continues many of the trends started by Lords of the Fallen in that the combat's a bit clunky and most of the characters look like they covered themselves in glue and rolled around in a dumpster full of old dishwasher parts. I don't know if The Surge is as short as Lords of the Fallen; I've heard it is, but I couldn't say because I stopped playing at the third boss. In fact, let's not mince words; I think I might hate The Surge. I feel like I've been easier-going lately; it's probably because I have a small dog now, but I forgot how much I enjoy really hating things. It's like putting on a favorite old sweater and smacking yourself in the balls with your childhood teddy.

And The Surge got off to such a promising start, too: we open on a futuristic train with our slightly generic main character, Warren - so called because he likes sticking rabbits up his bum - making his way to his first day at work with some kind of tech company, and when we're given control, we move him away from his seat and see for the first time that he's wheelchair-bound. That's actually pretty neat, storytelling-wise; just a smidgen ripped off from James Cameron's Avatar, but hey, without cutscenes or dialogue, we've established our protagonist is vulnerable and hoping for the better life that this tech company's industrial robot suits can offer. So he probably felt a bit gipped when it turned out all they were going to do was nail bits of scrap metal to his legs.

You see, what follows the prologue is a cinematic in which Warren gets his all his fancy new cyber-bits drilled into his flesh, except they forgot the anesthetic, and he's awake and screaming the whole way through, as the camera zooms gratuitously in on the blood squirting out of his new shoulder-mounted shelf bracket. It's quite harrowing, and I'm not even sure what the point of it is. I'm sorry, The Surge; perhaps there's a bit of a misunderstanding. I came here for some exciting sci-fi action, but you seem to be showing cripple torture porn. "All right, fine. Begrudge us a little fun. Bam! Now you're in a junkyard fighting robots. Go." It's that abrupt!

Maybe if Warren had interacted with another human being during the wheelchair prologue segment, we could have gotten a handle on some context. As it stands, for all we know, the torture porn cinematic and everything following could just be some kind of "How Not to Do It" occupational health and safety video they're making Warren watch. But this is another callback to Lords of the Fallen, isn't it, which also began with a pre-rendered intro cinematic that was largely cock-all to do with the rest of the game. So I guess this is Deck13's design philosophy: "Hey, do you mind watching this video we threw together for a laugh while we finish nailing bread-bins and bits of old pipe to the main character's armor?" I was impressed by how the story successfully created the atmosphere of a new work environment, though, because something's gone horribly wrong, and no one seems to know why or who to blame. But it scarcely needs an explanation; the machines have all gone hostile, standard science fiction plot 14-Alpha. The explanation is, they needed to do that for there to be a video game.

So we begin the usual Dark Souls pattern: gradually advance, explore, unlock shortcuts, and get repeatedly smashed like an avocado in a sprinter's jockstrap, more so than in other Dark Souls-likes, I'd say. If it is a relatively short game, then it may have compensated by cranking the difficulty up even higher than usual, so we have to creep forwards, square foot by agonizing square foot, in case another concealed enemy jumps out from a blind corner and chops your health bar up in two hits. But hey, if it's obnoxious difficulty that makes me like Dark Souls, then surely, even more obnoxious difficulty can only make things better? Don't you try to catch me up with your Earth logic, human!

In the world of difficult games, there exists a hypothetical line, which I like to call the Tropic of Fuckabout. It is defined as the point where high difficulty stops being a stimulating challenge and becomes merely fucking me about. The fact that we and most of the half-human enemies we face are basically scrapyards on legs and that the robotic enemies lean towards being flat, geometric shapes on legs mean it's really hard to read their movements, especially in dark areas, because for some breathtakingly arbitrary reason, you can only turn your flashlight on when you're wearing a piece of body armor, and even then, it's a miserable spot, about sufficient to illuminate two-thirds of the entity trying to shove a pneumatic drill up your nose.

The best approach I found was to wade in and start mashing "Attack", not with a fast light weapon, because I'd always come out of it with some health lost and a foot missing, because apparently, one of the enemy's indistinct movements might have been a stab. I'd use a heavy weapon I could make sure would stun-lock them, and which only have a wind-up time of about 900 million years, and knocks you into long combat animations that might end with you combo-ing right off a fucking ledge into a pile of sharpened supermarket trolleys. None of which are impossible to compensate for, of course; this is all shit that can still be countered with the usual go-to advice for twats, "Git Gud", even the fucking horrible dodge mechanic, where you have to flick the right analog stick. I've said this before, third-person games: leave the right analog stick alone to its happy little world of controlling the camera. You force it out of its comfort zone, and it's just going to piss on the bus seat and ruin the whole field trip.

None of this was enough to bring out that hate I mentioned earlier. Frustration, yes, but frustration doesn't stop me from playing; it just means I'll need two diazepam and a wank once I'm done. The hate only came when I was taking on the third boss: it's a big industrial machine with about nine things on it trying to kill you, fair enough. But for some turbo-cocking reason, every time you attack one, the game auto-targets it, leaving you staring blissfully into its eyes as its eight friends are winding up attacks where you can't see. Get past that, and I can start attacking the core, but if you target it, it fucking switches to a fixed camera, so I could barely see what I'm doing! What's got into you, camera?! Is this about the "pissing on the bus seat" comment?!

Finally, after much frustration and about 900 attempts, I've gotten the core on the ropes and I'm moments from landing the final blow, whereupon I glitch through the floor and fall to my death. No. That's too much. That's gone right over the Tropic of Fuckabout on a jet-ski full of dicks. I'm done. Fuck The Surge, fuck Deck13, fuck anyone who likes it. Blimey, that's filled my schedule out for the week.

Addenda Edit

  • Surging buttocks: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Still don't know what made all the machines go crazy but I'm guessing it was something to do with a surge
  • Smack my glitch up
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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