Serious Sam: The First Encounter
Review by p1r4t8r
"This is Serious..."
The first person genre has been crying out for something original in the wake of a sea of ‘Quake’ and ‘Half-Life’ clones. While there have been some memorable games in the genre, such as ‘Deus Ex,’ the majority of shooters available are just re-hashes of an old concept. ‘Serious Sam’ however, is a breathe of fresh air for the first person shooter genre, one that adds rather simplistic ideas that work extremely well, and distinguish ‘Serious Sam’ from most other games. What ideas you ask? Read on!
‘Serious Sam’s story is rather atrocious, and obviously not the focus of the game. You are ‘Serious’ Sam, sent back in time to ancient Egypt to find a time altering device, and save the future. Sound clichéd? Well it is, but luckily it is not the focus of the game, and most will just ignore this aspect altogether. I know I certainly did.
The characters lack any sort of depth, and overall the story is more akin to that of ‘DOOM.’ You simply fight hordes of demons and the like, but no real reason is given as to why. To top it all off, the villains name is ‘Mental.’ Go figure.
‘Serious Sam’ represents a huge technical leap forward for the genre, with a game engine that is effortlessly able to display huge maps that spread out as far as the eye can see, without even a hint of fogging. The icing on the cake is by far the games ability to display hundreds of enemies onscreen at the one time. While the AI does leave a lot to be desired, this is truly a technical marvel for the genre, and is reminiscent of earlier games such as ‘DOOM.’ In fact, ‘DOOM’ was clearly the inspiration for the ‘Serious Sam’ team, as the game even recreates certain aspects of that classic. The map that is shown when you change levels for example, is the same style as that seen in the ‘DOOM’ games.
The graphics engine is fast and versatile, allowing for huge numbers of enemies onscreen at the one time, even on slower machines. You’ll want at least a Pentium 3 for this game, rather modest considering the visual eye candy on display. The textures are sharp and clear, representing the Egyptian theme very well. The tombs and temples look excellent, and the lighting effects are breathtaking. Truly the developers ‘CroTeam’ have outdone themselves here. The colour palette is at times very colourful and bright, but then again this game isn't meant to be true to life or anything.
The enemy designs are amazing, from galloping bulls, to leaping skeletal beasts, and giant lava creatures. Some of the bosses you fight are massive, such as the final boss that is roughly a thousand times bigger than your character. If you stand right underneath him and look forward, you will only see his foot, he is that big!
The weapon models are nice and chunky, and they look and feel very powerful. My personal favourite is the double barrel shotgun, which is a treat to use. The rocket launcher fires rockets that leave a realistic smoke trail, which looks very cool.
The AI as said earlier, isn’t the most advanced yet seen and is at best; simplistic. Enemies simply run at you or shoot at you from afar. While it may sound rather lame, this appears to have been the intention of the developers, and when you have a hundred skeletal beasts running at you, you will see that.
Each enemy features realistic and fluid movement, particularly the bulls. The death animations aren’t quite as good, as there are only a few for each enemy.
‘Serious Sam’ has some great sound effects and music, that add immensely to the games atmosphere.
The music is a collection of Egyptian themed drum beats and the like, however I can’t say I really noticed the music in the game. When you have a hundred enemies onscreen trying to kill you, you tend to forget these things.
‘Serious Sam’ has some very shoddy voice acting as well. Much like Duke Nukem, the main character yells out one-liners throughout the game, and while some of them are rather amusing, others are downright annoying.
Otherwise, the sound effects are great. You can really feel the power of the double barrel shotgun as you pump both barrels into the face of an oncoming bull. There were some problems towards the end of the game with the final boss, where my speakers decided to turn all the sound into a garbled mess of bass and thumps. This wasn’t a fault of my soundcard (SoundBlaster Live!) so I can only fault the game. I actually had to turn my speakers off it was that bad.
Innovation is a hard thing to come by in a genre ruled by clones, and luckily ‘Serious Sam’ is one such innovative game. It takes an old concept, and turns it into something that is new and refreshing. While most first person shooters can only display around ten or so enemies onscreen at any one time, ‘Serious Sam’ allows for hundreds. To truly appreciate ‘Serious Sam’ you really have to see it running, words cannot express the sheer adrenaline rush of having this many enemies onscreen all out to get a piece of your hide.
‘Serious Sam’ is highly linear however, there is only one path that you can take, and most of the action is scripted meaning that when you get to a certain location something will happen.
Each level is nicely detailed, and there are heaps of secrets to be found in the way of weapons, items and Easter eggs. As for weapons, ‘Serious Sam’ has a nice arsenal, which includes pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, laser weapons and even a cool chain-gun. While hardly original, they each have their own various uses and are great fun to use.
The enemies are varied and challenging, with everything from headless kamikaze bombers (who run at you screaming, figure that one out!) to giant machine gun toting scorpions. A different strategy is required to take each one down, but expect to be strafing a lot.
One of the highlights of ‘Serious Sam’ is the multi-player mode. Those who play games on a LAN are in for a real treat. There is the option to play your standard death-match modes, as well as the whole single player game in a co-operative mode. This is great fun for those wishing to add some variety to the game, and it really is bucket loads of fun. You can also play up to a four player slit screen mode on the one monitor, much like on a console. This is a very cool option for those who don’t have access to a LAN but still want to get in on the multi-player options.
Sadly though, ‘Serious Sam’ is not without its flaws. The single-player game is short, and dare I say, rather easy. While the game is fun for the first few hours it does start to become repetitive, and lacks the depth of other games, such as ‘Deus Ex’. The multi-player options go some way to extend the life span of the game, but without them, this is a very bare-bones package.
Game Play: 8
Life Span: 7
+ Innovative design
+ Game engine
+ Enemies onscreen
+ Multi-player modes
+ Budget price
- Lame one-liners
- Simplistic story
Overall, ‘Serious Sam’ is a very cool first person shooter that offers something new to those people sick and tired of all the ‘Quake’ and ‘Half-Life’ clones on the market. While the game is short, it is also very sweet, and coupled with the multi-player mode, will provide you with a few cheap thrills for a couple of hours at least. However, it lacks the depth of other games in the genre, and quickly becomes repetitious. Considering the budget price of the game (it can be picked up for around AU$15) it is well worth a purchase for fans of the first person genre.
‘Serious Sam’ is best described as a modern version of ‘DOOM.’
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/01, Updated 04/19/03
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