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Serious Sam 3: BFE (Windows)

72
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kadath Bird (619)
Written on  :  Jan 15, 2012
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars

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Summary

Serious Sam 3 is good, old school fun - but its missing a certain something...

The Good

  • Crisp graphics & powerful engine
  • Satisfyingly gory
  • The mutilator is an awesome new weapon
  • Continues the series' trend of having massive, awesome battles
  • 16 player co-op!!!
  • A few chuckles here and there
  • Old school gameplay is refreshing amongst a sea of generic military shooters
  • Cheaper than most new games

The Bad

  • Despite crisp graphics, game lacks colour.
  • Lacking the humour and charm of previous games
  • Also lacking the imaginative enemies and levels
  • A few too many cutscenes and bad dialogue for this kind of game
  • First few levels are a bit too slow paced
  • Some poor sound effects
  • Barren competitive modes

The Bottom Line

Ahh, good old Serious Sam. Proving that budget games can kick ass since 2001. The original Serious Sam and its counterpart proved that a simple, predictable formula (I.E. Walk into an Arena, enemies spawn, kill ‘em all.) could be fun if the right magic was thrown in.

It achieved this by having cool guns, creative enemies, a goofy undertone, imaginative levels, pretty graphics and enemies. Lots of them. If you saw a screen in the original Sam games that had 50 or so enemies charging at you, congrats – that’s pretty small compared to what was about to come. All the elements were right, until its 2005 sequel.

Now, I’m not saying Sam 2 was a bad game – in fact I feel it is somewhat underrated, but it felt like it was missing some of that magic. It amped up the goofiness to the extreme, so much so that it was pretty much a cartoon with a larger focus on humour and while said humour was actually fairly solid, the gameplay suffered. The weapons didn’t feel right, the new enemies didn’t feel threatening or challenging, and so overcoming the waves and waves it threw at you unmasked the repetitive nature and made it more tiring then fun.

Sam 2 wasn’t quite the success they had hoped for, and for 6 years – developer Croteam went silent, their only products being the HD remakes of the first and second encounters. However little did we know that while they polished the classics for a new generation, they were hard at work resurrecting Sam – and now, we finally have the chance to get Serious once more. Was it worth the wait?

Well…. Yes, and no. The short version is that Serious Sam 3 is good, but not great. The game has once again changed up its style, for better and for worse. On the good side – the weapons, while not all sounding right, pack the punch that was lacking in Sam 2 and most of the original Sam foes return and a decidedly demonic coat of paint makes them a bit more threatening and it is undeniably a joy to watch a Gnaar’s eyeball slop and roll away as its head is splattered across the sand with the double barreled shotgun, or to leash a small army of headless soldiers with the brand new Mutilator (Which kicks ass to the nth degree.) and watch them gush blood as the aptly titled device bifurcates them all with precision. But amongst the chaos, there are things missing.

Sadly the greatest casualty here is the imagination. Remember the levels that would rotate? Or that bouncy room that would fill with headless kamikazes as you bounced up and down trying to blow them up as their screams humorously oscillated around you? There is nothing like that here. In an attempt to modernize and streamline the game, there are very few moments where you feel like the level designers are taking you for a wild spin. The secrets are also less bizarre and fun, while you’ll stumble across the odd fun secret, you’ll never find secrets as funny as the Secret Yodeler, the tiny demon whose father yells “Oh my god, you killed Blondie!” upon his death, and so on.

You’ve seen levels like this before in just about every shooter, there is simply nothing special about them save for the massive hordes of enemies– and while the graphics are crisp and appealing, there’s also a distinct lack of colour, even with the saturation and “vivid” settings cranked up it feels drab. I know the game is set in Egypt, but the first encounter was set in Egypt and it still had plenty of colour. The only colour you are likely to see in beautiful vibrancy are the gallons of blood (Or flowers, if you so desire) that gush from every foe.

Said foes also lack the imagination of past games. I already stated that you’ve seen almost all of them before – you’ve got the Kleers (Damnit. I hate those guys.), the headless soldiers, were-bulls, Gnaars, and so on.

The new enemies lack inspiration as well, there are some generic zombie soldiers, spiders, and a three-faced version of the Mancubus from Doom 2 and sadly he’s probably the most inspired newcomer. The demonic coat of paint the old enemies receive as well sits with me in mixed spirits as well. On the plus side, there are times that it looks like the denizens of an Iron Maiden cover are invading Earth and they do look appropriately threatening. On the negative side, they lack the funny little quirks that made them memorable – save for the headless kamikazes of course, who never cease to be a funny surprise here and there.

Sadly, you also don’t get any funny backstories when you open NETRISCA either, all NETRISCA does is coldly give you a powerpoint presentation about how the enemies work. No tales of Notorious Mental training them with Clint Eastwood movies or replacing a lumberjacks head with a pumpkin.

The only source of humour here is Sam, and even he feels toned down – yeah he made “badass” quips in the old games, but he also made funny, weird comments too and here but they are too few and far between, so for the most part it is just old the quips, and a few new ones that just fall flat. It is a shame really that the… well, soul has been drained from the game.

However, I should reiterate – Sam 3 is still a very fun game, and dare I say a little refreshing in this frustrating age of grim military shooters. It may not have the charm and soul that made the original two encounters and even Sam 2 so memorable (Without the charm, #2 would have been a bigger failure in my eyes…) but at the very least, it has very good core gameplay. Croteam remembers what Serious Sam fans want: Lots of big guns, lots of big enemies, and insane, intense, downright awesome battles and Sam 3 delivers this in spades. There are many memorable battles and the game will challenge fans of the series.

Even better, the game can be played in co-op with up to 16 bloody players. I rounded up some friends and family, totaling 8, and we tackled the Serious difficulty together and still faced a great challenge, and the game was even more entertaining this way.

The game does also include some competitive modes, but they are fairly bog-standard and they are also very barren. I can find some co-op games, but finding players in the competitive mode seems to be a rare sight. The largest competition I had was with my wife in split-screen, I.E. 2 players. Sad face.

So if you are a die-hard fan who wants to kick Mental’s horde in their collective asses once more or a fan of old school shooters like Doom Sam 3 is definitely worth a purchase – but don’t expect the game to live up to the goofy, wild rides that the first two encounters provided and if you have not played them, I recommend checking them out first.