Surgeon Simulator 2 marks the first time this ‘simulator’ series has arrived on Xbox consoles. For those that don’t know, it isn’t exactly a simulator in the same way as Microsoft Flight Simulator or Farming Simulator are. There is an emphasis on black humour and frustrating gameplay as you try and perform surgical procedures with one of the most convoluted control schemes committed to gaming. The sequel doubles down on this but brings in 4-player multiplayer madness, puzzle solving, and quite a few bugs.
There is a long initial load before you start Surgeon Simulator 2, even on Xbox Series X. This and many of the other bugs are being worked on by the team at Bossa Studios. The sequel is their largest ever launch and by adding multiplayer and servers is no small order. Some initial hiccups are expected, but it is pleasing to know they are being worked on.
The tutorial throws you in at the deep end and will really separate the wheat from the chaff. In the first section, you will be shown how to traverse through the environments, a new feature for the Surgeon Simulator series. Previously, you were only required to move your hands around the patient. Now though, you are having to move through the facility. It is here that you will solve puzzles and be guided through what to do by Dr. Pamela Preston.
These new features and mechanics become more useful when playing multiplayer. Most main levels will have some minor puzzle solving that requires you to find certain objects, but you will also notice the layouts of the levels are designed to be done in cooperative play. For example, one early level has you completing a few transplants at once; with a couple of players to help you out one person could be feeding the new organs to you along a conveyor belt, rather than you alone having to fetch them out of cold storage and dashing back to the patient on the other side of the level.
But as the old adage goes, “Too many cooks spoil the broth” and that can certainly be the case here. Some levels are designed to be more compact and have multiple players getting in each other’s way. At times Surgeon Simulator 2 can remind you of the likes of Overcooked and Moving Out, only with copious amounts of blood instead.
The second part of the tutorial will have you getting hands on with the actual surgery. There will firstly be a couple of appendage transplants to take care of, but it is here the tutorial really fails to actually educate you in how to play the game.
It is at this point where it needs to be explained just how devilish the control scheme is for Surgeon Simulator 2. Walking and traversing around the levels is all well and good, and as you would expect. Each player has an arm sticking out – and I am pleased to say that all the characters are left-handed – and it is this that you have direct control over. To grab an item, you need to hold down the right trigger, but the hand needs to be in the correct place to do so. This is done through a combination of buttons; holding left trigger and moving the right stick will allow you to rotate the arm, and left bumper with the right stick allows you to move the arm. It is as complicated as it sounds and will likely put a lot of people off straight away.
In the second half of the tutorial though it is never explained how to move the arm, only rotate it. First time around I spent ages trying to pick a severed leg up off the floor that I had dropped, but my arm wasn’t stretched out enough to be able to do so. I’m not the only one that’s struggled with this either it seems, as Bossa Studios had to confirm this wasn’t a bug and that the LB button does control arm placement. This information is tucked away in the controls menu, but it isn’t referenced in the tutorial.
Navigate through this testing tutorial, and more stress and chaos will greet you in the Story mode. Fully playable in single player or co-op, the story is written by the wonderful Rhianna Pratchett and it contains more than a dash of Portal or Superliminal about proceedings. Mind you, set any game inside a science facility and Portal will always be the go-to comparison. In Surgeon Simulator 2 though, things aren’t quite what they seem and you can’t help but feel like some vital information is being withheld from you.
As well as cooperative multiplayer, there is also versus mode. This isn’t just a case however of completing surgical procedures in the quickest time as initially anticipated, there is a suite of wacky versus minigames to enjoy. When the servers were behaving, I had a game of basketball with a severed head and a game involving a light-up floor and rushing to hit the most floor panels in the allotted time. Other times though, my opponents and I were just stuck in the vacuum lifts for too long with the only way to fix the game being to quit to the dashboard.
On top of all this are the custom games where players can upload their own creations for seemingly endless possibilities. Again, these don’t need to be tied to actual surgery; some of the early recommended ones include a playable piano, a Dance Dance Revolution recreation and a noir murder mystery to solve amongst many more ingenious creations.
Surgeon Simulator 2 on Xbox has a few things going against it which will unfortunately put a lot of people off. Things such as a buggy launch and a high degree of difficulty for a starting point hinder it somewhat. If you can get over these stumbling blocks, there is a fair amount of variation in here. The complexities of performing the procedures can be offset by playing together with friends and enjoying the ensuing carnage. But even away from the main story there are plenty of things to see and do thanks to the variety of versus modes and custom games. If you have a short temper, are squeamish to the sight of blood, not the most dextrous person out there or just looking for a more relaxing experience though, it is best to check with your GP before playing.
Carve out a new career path for yourself in Surgeon Simulator 2 on Xbox for £14.99