The Surge is back with a western-themed encore, but is it worth revisiting?
With a sequel announced and a Complete Edition hitting the shelves last December it appeared that Deck 13 had closed the book on their frantic sci-fi RPG The Surge. It turns out that Warren's journey isn't over though, and after battling reanimated mascots in a theme park he's now off to the Wild West in a new DLC known as The Good, the Bad, and the Augmented. Just like A Walk in the Park, which we were treated to last year, the expansion adds heaps more weapons, implants, and armour sets, as well as a distinguished new setting.
The Good, the Bad, and the Augmented features an episodic structure and each of its nine episodes are accessible through a new location known as the Peril Chamber. Episodes are unlocked in sets of three throughout the campaign, and the first set, for example, becomes available after you have defeated the first boss and taken the train to Central Productions B. The only loose thread of story here is that you have been challenged to 'modify the West' by the creator of the trials, known as The Supervisor. We'd recommend tackling this one in either NG or NG+ as backtracking can be a pain due to the lack of a fast travel system.
These playable episodes don't offer the same open-world freedom that A Walk in the Park did with CREO World, but they do play on the western motif in a few interesting ways. We found ourselves battling through shadowy graveyards and over beaten old train tracks, and we had new obstacles to avoid such as runaway minecarts and the scorching heat of the sun. The main issue, however, is that these ideas are stretched thin across the nine episodes and aren't layered upon. Once you've played the first handful of episodes you've pretty much seen it all, as many are just rehashed versions of areas that you've played through before.
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Each episode is concluded with a showdown in the middle of town against a boss known as the challenger. Having the quickest trigger finger won't win it here for you though, and to fight these bosses you'll have to dodge pistol fire and other enemies charging at you like rodeo bulls. You obtain lucky coins throughout each episode and these offer you a second attempt at the boss, with any that you don't spend being converted into tech scraps. The main issue with these challengers is that they feel bland, forgettable, and not much different to your typical enemies. A Walk in the Park at least introduced some interesting foes such as a giant animatronic cat. As the campaign is so focused on taking down imposing bosses we found this to be a huge detriment.
Helping to extend the longevity of each of the roughly 20-minute episodes are modifiers. These shape the gameplay significantly in hilarious and challenging ways and offer you rarer gear and more tech scraps if they are applied. There's a modifier that makes your enemies explode if you don't chop off their limbs, one that makes them completely invisible, and another that forces you to equip the weapon of the last foe you killed. Four of these can be equipped at a time and playing with them switched on was easily the most fun that we had with The Good, The Bad, and the Augmented.
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As mentioned previously, the expansion features many new implants and western-themed armour and weapon sets, helping to bulk out the selection available. You can now bludgeon enemies to death with a coffin or hack them to pieces with a grim reaper-like scythe, for instance, and the armour sets include a variety of cowboy and luchador masks as well as our personal favourite, a metallic wolf mask (although we're unsure of its relevance to the west). The main issue is that besides offering a cosmetic change we found little reason to equip these items as once we obtained them we had already spent time leveling up our gear just to make it through the DLC.
The Good, The Bad, and the Augmented continues the wacky spirit of previous expansion A Walk in the Park but lacks any real substance or purpose. Its few episodes are heavily recycled, the boss battles are bland and generic, and the gear offers little more than a simple cosmetic change. We did have fun with its game-altering modifiers and it had a few interesting ideas centred around its western motif, but these aspects alone don't warrant your time and money. With a certain other western blockbuster right around the corner we can't help but wonder if this one was rushed out of the gate in a ploy to capitalise on the setting.
4 / 10
Modifiers enhance replayability, It continues the wacky spirit of the previous DLC.
Level layouts are recycled, Boss battles are dull, New gear isn't worth the grind.