When The Surge was released earlier this year, it became something of a surprise hit, offering a bright but bleak experience of the Dark Souls variety. Whilst it suffered from some of the same missteps as its forebear Lords of the Fallen, it won over an army of fans with its exceptional level design, compelling, minimalist story and in particular, its innovative way of encouraging players to remove enemy limbs in order to obtain increasingly useful loot, armour and other items.
A Walk in the Park is The Surge’s first DLC addition, offering around six or seven hours of gameplay in an entirely new and generally, very interesting setting. Full disclosure: I was a brand new The Surge player coming into this review, so I was particularly delighted to find that the first section of the new DLC becomes available right after the first section, more or less straight after Warren defeats the first boss.
The Walk in the Park DLC is entirely set in the unimaginatively titled Creo World, which is a theme park built specifically for Creo employees and intended to provide them which much-needed rest and relaxation in between their cybernetically enhanced work duties. Naturally, due to the same (titular) surge that results in the widespread carnage of the main game, Creo World’s inhabitants also go bonkers, meaning that Warren must fight his way through a colourful and amusing array of mascots as he makes his way from one objective to another.
A new human quest-giver is responsible for dishing out objectives and as a new player, I found that the pacing of the new DLC was bang on par (if not a little better) than the sections of the main game that I dipped in and out of as I worked my way through A Walk in the Park. The level design retains the same exceptional standard that the original game reached, with the basic gameplay loop of advancing through new areas then opening a shortcut back to familiar turf remaining intact without ever really feeling as if levels are small or restrictive.
As a new player, I found the challenge level in A Walk in the Park to be similar to that of the main game for the most part, meaning that I had to take care at all times but I could at least progress. Access to new weapons and armour (including mascot-style headgear) was fun and rewarding, but I have no idea how it scales for players who have been through the original game and are returning in New Game Plus. I certainly found that items I located elsewhere in The Surge were as useful as those I found in A Walk in the Park, although I didn’t always have the resources to fully upgrade items from one or the other to do a proper comparison.
There are two new bosses in A Walk in the Park and a handful of new enemies in addition to the mascots, but in all honesty I didn’t find them especially unique or different to those in the main campaign except in terms of how they looked. In general, my perception of the boss encounters in The Surge (overall) is that they are perhaps the most unbalanced part of the game, presenting too tough a challenge and often not allowing the player enough time to become familiar with their patterns before death. Granted, that’s a mainstay of this kind of game, but in Dark Souls at least, there were some bosses I killed first time based on white-hot skill rather than luck of the draw, which does sometimes feel present in The Surge.
As I tested the game on my Xbox One X, I can say that I consider A Walk in the Park to be quite a visual triumph. It is not only a more vibrant place to visit than the main game — featuring a much broader colour palette which works well with the already bright visuals — but it’s also an intricate one. The theme park setting mixes public areas such as sweeping pathways and shows that run jankily as you work your way through them, with behind-the-scenes areas (such as the search and rescue station where our the sole survivor hangs out) reverting the pace to a more familiar, corridor-based affair.
In the Xbox One X version at least (I can’t speak for Xbox One, PS4 or PS4 Pro) the game offers either quality or performance settings to choose from, which is new on me, and the game is presented in beautiful HDR. The sales material I’ve read suggests the game runs at 1800p native, and whilst I can’t measure that with my eyes, I can say that the game looks as good as it possibly could, especially in the more visually rewarding Creo World setting. When set to performance exclusively, I didn’t see a single performance issue raise its head at any time as I played, even when encountering the largest and most elaborate boss encounters.
Playing A Walk in the Park as part of The Surge during my first experience felt completely natural, almost to the extent that A Walk in the Park feels like too good a fit. It is most definitely more of the same, rather than anything new or revolutionary, and whilst there are isolated story elements, the game keeps them relatively contained and so doesn’t really rock the boat in respect of the basic plot. As a result, I felt like I was playing a lengthy and enjoyable side quest (which was fine, because I enjoyed the game) but I don’t know if I would feel the same if I had paid for this DLC as a returning player, possibly expecting something more revolutionary.
With the above enhancements to the Xbox One X version (no doubt some, if not all of which will be on the PS4 Pro, too) and the extra content that A Walk in the Park offers, I don’t think there has ever been a better time to get into The Surge, as I did. Whether you want to return just for this content or not is really up to you. I dare say hardcore fans really should, because this isn’t a small, throwaway bit of DLC and the setting is really cool, but I think most would have preferred a bit more story and a lot more challenge, particularly with a few more bosses to face off against.