Written by  :  Nick Drew (370)
Written on  :  Aug 16, 2007
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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A fun shooter, without the usual pretensions.

The Good

Serious Sam Second Encounter is just what Doom 2 was to the original, not so for being a true sequel in the strictest sense, but rather more a retread of the same formula, with some new content.

So moreover, this won’t deter fans, which this is squarely aimed at, and I for one am glad Croteam didn’t mess with the fundamentals, which made the first outing such a refreshingly unpretentious shooter, that was simply FUN to play. And this is where I feel the beauty lies here, those humble three letters that are so important, but are so often lost in an abyss of pseudo story telling, meaningless interaction, or the hammering of whatever gimmicks are hot to trot in each passing month.

Alas, the current state of the market leaves me very jaded, and cynical about the future of the industry. Just call me a dinosaur, but games like Resistance: Fall of Man, Halo 2, or the latest installment of Half-Life 2, make me want to throw up with their systematic pedalling of what is said to be gripping narration or seemingly innovative game-play, but peel away the layers of superficial bells and whistles attached, and you are left with the basest of Doom clones.

Serious Sam SE doesn’t try to hide its identity in a myriad of superfluous plots or throw a plethora of shallow characters you’re supposed to care about. Instead, this game simply embraces its roots, is self-conscious, and even has a friendly self-mocking sense of humour about it to boot.

One of the changes you immediately notice in this entry is the somewhat enhanced game engine. The first game was admittedly really a technical achievement, pushing the boundaries of what could be accomplished with the Open GL. graphics rendering system. Croteam has pushed it further here with higher poly counts, longer drawing distances, greater detailed landscapes, and generally pushing the limits of onscreen mayhem. I only got around to checking this game out in the last month, and needless to say, the visuals left me suitably impressed.

The game begins in the Mayan jungle, and this perfectly showcases the advances of the engines’ abilities. With lush amounts of detail in the trees and foliage, over hanging vines, glimmering lakes strewn with Lili pods and there is even somewhat realistic looking grass. Having done many a tour of duty sneaking around dark corridors, this game can prove to be a virtual breath of fresh air.

Concerning your newly added implements of destruction, the first to take prominency is the beloved Chainsaw, which is almost as satisfying as the one in that little chestnut I mentioned earlier.

So, um, you can joyfully carve up the weapon-impaired nasties if you like, or even lop down the trees if you ever fancied yourself a lumberjack. On a rather frivolous note, much unlike Turok: Evolution, there is no purpose for doing this here, where as in the aforementioned game you could cut down a palm tree to get to seemingly inaccessible areas, and so on. Wasn’t that an interesting tidbit? , . . . no. All right then, moving right along.

Probably the chief new component here is the inclusion of a sniper rifle. You might think such a weapon seems a bit strange for a purebred shooter such as this one, but it hasn’t just been added as a token gesture.

To expand on this, - enemies which sport somewhat long range attacks are strategically placed in various devious spots in the vast play fields, which you then have to keep in mind, whilst also dealing with all the immediate threats. The game presents plenty of opportunity to exploit this neat facet and does bring an extra dimension to the overall feel of the proceedings.

Finally, a flamethrower has been thrown into the mix, and offers a hot and crispy way of dealing with the hordes. Um, er . . . I don’t know what else to add about this one.

In terms of level design, there are some genuinely outlandish spots here that definitely leave a good impression.

An example of truly innovative design that left me well impressed was a bit that took place in a confined tunnel-like contraption, which would fully rotate in an unsettling manner when you move left and right, and concurrently you are tackling clusters of nasties from all directions, which sees you fighting sideways or even upside down. Moreover, this game long proceeds Human-Heads’ much acclaimed ‘Prey’, of which was much touted by the press for its “originality”.

I enjoyed this game lighthearted sense of humour, which mainly comes in the form of Sam’s quips during the game - for example, when you first encounter the new pumpkin-head chainsaw wielding guy, defeat him, move a short way, and he subsequently reappears to repeat the process, and Sam says “didn’t I kick your but a few rooms back”, obviously making light of how repetitious enemies are in all FPS games. Also, your guide, Netrisca, points out “It’s nice we are fighting mutants from outer space, and not human soldiers, isn’t it?”, a definite poke at half-life and countless others.

The Bad

Perhaps a bit much of the original textures and environments, e.g. a few may temples and courtyards, is recycled too frequently, and things can get a little dull in this respect in the early stages of the game. Considering the relatively short time in development, this isn’t too much of a surprise in truth.

The Bottom Line

Serious Sam SE is just a good-natured FPS, which doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. The action is fast and frantic, moves along well, and is in essence run and gun reflex twitching action in its purist form.

I thought the length of the single player campaign was quite reasonable, with around twelve levels to explore, and there are of course the usual assortments of secret places to discover, so this side of things is bound to keep you ticking over for a while at least.

This really doesn’t break too much new ground, and ultimately just feels like a stand-alone expansion-pack with an obligatory lick of paint. Admittedly, there are a few genuinely memorable moments, and the sniper rifle is certainly a worthy addition, and adds some extra depth to the otherwise orthodox tried and tested formula. No great shakes really, but I still feel there is much here to recommend.