Last year’s The Surge was probably the most competent of the Souls-inspired games out there. Although flawed, thanks to some weak level design choices and sometimes terrible hit detection, it managed to be quite capable at providing a similar kind of experience that a From Software provides, but under the futuristic guise of having to fight robots and cybernetically enhanced humans gone berserk.
The Surge eventually got some paid DLC in the form of A Walk in the Park — which sadly went unreviewed, but I found it to be pretty neat — that introduced an entirely new area called CREO World, a rundown amusement park for you to explore and fight your way through. Now, more than a year since release, Deck13’s post-apocalyptic brawler is getting a new content pack called The Good, The Bad, and The Augmented, a series of test chamber challenge levels that takes The Surge back to the Old West. Well, kind of.
The Good, The Bad, and The Augmented can be played at any point during your playthrough of the main portion of The Surge, as long as you have beaten the first boss. By opening up a conspicuously colorful door after descending some stairs, the challenge area loads up, and you’re immediately talked into partaking a series of tests by a mysterious voice in the intercom, who claims to be the administrator of a show called Frontier Riders that takes place in the Old West, or at least as close as a holo simulation can get.
Each chamber provides a handful of combat rooms that eventually lead to a boss fight against a challenger, and if you’ve played The Surge before, you’ll know what to expect coming into these: a lot of cheap hits and the terrible enemy hit detection that you’ve probably come to loathe if you’re anything like me. The first fight is notably annoying and extra frustrating because alongside the boss, you’re constantly pelted by lasers that take way too much off of your health bar with each hit.
Adding insult to injury, if you die at any point during your runs, you lose everything you’ve picked up. There are no corpse runs in this DLC at all. The only bone it throws at you is the chance to drop out and reap your rewards before partaking the boss fight, but that basically forces you to replay the entire thing again in order to get to that point. I took that chance quite a few times before trying to beat the bosses, and it usually paid off since there are quite a number of unlockable schematics for some crazy looking techno garbage you can wear, as well as cowboy threads that are dropped by the trash mobs that you fight. For the boss fights, as long as you pick up some items called lucky coins along the way, you’re able to have extra chances at beating them, but without any sort of item refreshment between attempts. Pretty lame.
Having a series of increasingly difficult fights would be great and all, but the main deal with The Good, The Bad, and The Augmented is that it gets really repetitive pretty quickly. There are only a few different combat room configurations, and they start repeating way too soon. I appreciated some of the gimmicks thrown in from time to time, like a phantom train that screams down a broken track overlooking a deadly gorge and burning sunlight that torches you if you spend too long unprotected by shadows, but aside of that, you’re likely to see all there is in the DLC really early on.
I liked jumping back to The Surge this long after being done with it back when I reviewed it, and even though The Good, The Bad and The Augmented proved to be rather lacking and disappointing, it reminded me that there are development teams out there trying to do more with established formulas, albeit failing in this case. I came to appreciate the sense of humor that Deck13 attempted to inject in this DLC, which is definitely something that the Souls games absolutely lack any sort of.
It’s also cool to think that regardless of the flaws and criticism that The Surge’s gotten since release isn’t slowing that team down one bit, and thinking back to what I saw of the upcoming sequel at this year’s E3, I’m excited to see how well they end up tightening up The Surge 2 into an even better game. They have an excellent core concept to work with, the team just needs to polish it up some more and work on getting the combat feel more involved, with better feedback and less cheapness. As The Good, The Bad and The Augmented shows, there’s still a lot of work cut out for them.