Serious Sam: The First Encounter (Windows)

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Written by  :  Trixter (9126)
Written on  :  May 04, 2001
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars

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Contains ludicrous amounts of action that will liquify your brain.

The Good

Serious Sam is a return to the mind-numbing fast-action shooter solidified by Doom. In a nutshell:

  • You have many weapons of mass destruction
  • You have many mindless enemies that exist solely to kill you
  • You have fast framerates and crisp control that you can command at a thought's notice

It's an homage to Doom, but Croteam has added their own twisted spin on the types of enemies. One of the more grotesque enemies would be what I like to call "the walking maw" -- a running torso with no head and a huge, gaping, teeth-filled mouth embedded in the chest. But easily the most, ah, disturbing enemy has to be the suicide bombers. Headless men that run at you with a bomb in each hand, stopping for nothing and noone, and screaming the entire time (yes, even though they have no head). You haven't felt terror until you've heard a faint noise... that gets louder... that slowly graduates into a yell and by that time you're frantically spinning around trying to figure out what the hell is coming at you.

There were some times in Serious Sam where the action got so thick I literally started laughing out loud at how utterly ludicrous the situation became. 60+ galloping skeletal creatures that can run faster than you, all headed your way? 10+ werebulls all heading at you like a runaway derailed train? It's friggin' nuts! And also some of the most fun I've had in recent months playing an action game.

You'd think that a game like this wouldn't have any story or plot, but I was surprised to see that the authors of the game had more than a passing interest in ancient egyptian locales, history, and mythology. As such, a passable (if completely false) plot exists tying all the locales and (simple) puzzles together based on ancient egyptian history.

Finally, the graphical engine (the real reason Serious Sam was created was initially just as a technology demo for the engine) is superb. The engine is capable of a lot of things that you don't normally think about until you see them demonstrated, such as support for many different objects onscreen, huge wide open areas where you can see for miles in all directions (there is absolutely no fogging or pop-up that I could see), portals that really work, and nicely-implemented effects (lens flares, reflections/water, etc.) where appropriate.

The Bad

As much as the graphical engine kicked ass, I experienced some severe rendering anomolies at times that were fairly annoying, such as flashing polygons. If the game weren't so fun, I might have stopped playing entirely because of it. Note that I am in the minority -- I haven't heard of any other major graphics glitches from other players.

I also experienced an odd mouse button delay -- if I didn't hold the mouse button down for at least 50ms, it didn't register. In other words, I couldn't "tap" shots off; I had to really press the button down. I don't get this kind of behavior in any of my other games, so it was definitely Serious Sam-related.

Some situations (especially near the end) cross the line from "ludicrous fun" to "impossible situation". If you play on any of the harder settings, there is simply no way to win the game, I am convinced. I would love to see an AI bot try it.

Finally, there are some annoying situations you can get into when you need to kill all onscreen enemies to advance to the next section, but you can't find one of them because they've fallen into a pool and can't get out, or they're hidden, or stuck, or you just haven't wandered into the area where they're waiting for you yet.

The Bottom Line

This game is the action-game antithesis of Counter-Strike -- no strategy at all. Just blast everything and keep running! It's the old-school modern-day oxymoron of 1st-person shooters.

And since its retail price is only $20, why not pick it up?