Serious Sam: The First Encounter (Windows)

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Written by  :  Maw (884)
Written on  :  Sep 12, 2007
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

7 out of 11 people found this review helpful

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My parents stopped me from playing this game, So I SHOT EM UP HARD-STYLE

The Good

Retro is the new black. For every game that looks forward and tries to push the boundaries of gameplay and design, there is invariably another game that relives the days when shooters were fueled by sheer testosterone and "story" meant a paragraph in the manual. Serious Sam is one of the latter, an extremely stupid Doom homage that purposefully ignores all the innovations in gameplay since 1995.

You play as Sam Stone, a guy who has been sent back in time to stop an alien invasion before it begins. It was made by a Croatian development team and is the first of a series known for its intensity and over-the-top violence. The game's calling card is that you fight large numbers of enemies, sometimes several thousand per level. Serious Sam is crazy and unrelenting, sometimes you'll survive a battle with only 3 health and 10 shells left...and then have to fight again. Serious Sam's enemies are very aggressive and dangerous, and pose a massive threat even in small numbers. The absurd body count and non-stop fighting make Serious Sam an exceptionally intense game.

The game mostly takes place in Ancient Egypt, and the game has a funky art style that sets it apart from other games. The game takes place outside in huge courtyards and market squares, giving you lots of elbow room for the game's massive battles. As far as weapons go you have a knife (which is surprisingly useful), pistols with infinite ammo, single and double-barreled shotguns, a tommygun and chaingun, a rocket launcher, a grenade launcher, the series' trademark "Serious Bomb", a laser blaster, etc. Even the weak weapons pack a punch, and the diverse nature of the game's enemies mean you have to switch around a lot. Speaking of which, deformed and drooling horror-movie rejects are the rule here, as you have to fight such critters as headless suicide bombers, fridge-magnet shaped apes, and giant scorpions cross-bred with spiders. The bosses tower over you like skyscrapers.

Although it's mostly a by-the-numbers Doom clone, Serious Sam does experiment with some new ideas. You have an on-board computer called NETRISCA, who will provide information on the enemies you fight (analysing how strong/dangerous they are, etc), give you warnings about potential ambushes, or give you guidance on how to escape the area you're in. It speeds up the action in the game because you don't have to run around for 15 minutes looking for a button to press or an elevator to ride.

Graphics aren't great, but they do what they're supposed to do. Hundreds of enemies can be rendered on-screen at once with little lag, and the game's bright colors and exuberant art are reminiscent of Indiana Jones. There are some nice graphical effects like lens flares and realistic blood splatters (when a fast-moving enemy crushes you, it leaves a giant blood streak on the ground), and surprisingly good AI. Enemies will chase you up staircases, and even jump narrow ledges if possible. The game also has a dynamic soundtrack, which changes tempo to match the amount of action on screen.

Ultimately the best thing you can say about Serious Sam is it succeeds in expanding upon the frantic action of Doom. It seriously does make almost every other FPS game look tame, and that's not bad at all for a budget game.

The Bad

The game looked very promising when I first started playing, but sadly it never delivered the goods. Serious Sam begins and ends as a gimmick game. It's fun for about 20 minutes and after that is an extra-stupid version of Quake. It's weird how a game with this amount of KICKASS ACTION can be so...boring.

Serious Sam's gameplay formula boils down to the same thing: enter a large area, and destroy a huge swarm of enemies in order to collect some random item/weapon from off the ground, after which an exit will open somewhere and you can move into the next area where you will probably have to do the same thing. This is all there is. A computer bot could play Serious Sam.

Serious Sam is often compared to Duke Nukem 3D, but it isn't half the game Duke 3D was. The design isn't there. Serious Sam has huge environments, yes, but they are bland and featureless. There are huge expanses of practically nothing. Sam Stone gets a couple of weak one-liners but there's nothing like the retarded non-stop comedy of Duke. Environmental interaction is limited to pressing buttons and blowing up statues. The game's zany graphical style is cool at first, but every level looks the same. The only area where I would say Serious Sam's content shines is in the monster and weapon design, and frankly games that get off on wacky and weird enemies are a dime a dozen these days.

Since Serious Sam's action is repetitive and uninspired, and the levels boring and bland, I guess I can't do anything except pass this off as a 21st century version of Galaxa. But even by arcade game standards Serious Sam doesn't work. Sam Stone moves too slowly considering the pace of the action, and avoiding enemies when you run out of ammo is nearly impossible. Explosions do way too much splash damage and you'll often be killed by your own rockets. The game's aiming system automatically snaps you on to targets, which is nice, but it's only a token offering considering how frustrating combat can become.

The game has a very annoying over-use of monster traps, meaning when you go to pick up health or ammo monsters spawn from everywhere and attack you. Serious Sam's monsters are so fast and aggressive that this is a major problem, since the game gives you no warning whatsoever and enemies will often spawn right next to you.

The Bottom Line

Action-packed but generic and forgettable, Serious Sam is bargain bin material. There's not much of a game here and even on its own terms it is frustrating for the most part.