Review by gatewalker

"Sometimes, you just want to shoot things."

Serious Sam = humor + great multiplayer + fun + guns + more guns + a few alien hordes

Serious Sam is another one of those games that I bought on sale, and knew very little about to begin with. I wasn't impressed with the cover art or screenshots on the game case, but it was a very good price. I've bought a crapload of games on sale, and many turned out to be just crap. Serious Sam was not one of those crappy games. It turned out to be a real diamond among many a lump of coal.

Sometime a while back, someone decided we needed more realism in our first person shooter games. Well, as much realism as you can have in any game featuring invading aliens, supernatural forces, or honest politicians. I think a lot of this kind of thinking got started by Halo. I'm not sure on that, but that is about when I started noticing the trend. Realism, yah – that's what I want more of in my games. I can barely wait for the coming time where I'll have to punch the clock or fill in a time sheet to start playing my game. Very soon I bet, they'll even start making you fill out virtual tax forms to cover the money you collect in-game. Next treasure chest you plunder, you'll get a pocket full of gold and a W-2. The future of gaming. Sure sounds like fun, eh?

Ok, back to Realism in current games. So, somewhere down the line it dawned on some random game developer that it was very unlikely that someone could run around toting three different types of shotguns, a rocket launcher, a rail gun, a plasma gun, a chain gun, a voodoo doll, and a pocket full of pistols all on their person like you could do in say Half-Life, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Hexen, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Redneck Rampage. Not to mention the many boxes of ammo each weapon required. So they started limiting the number of guns you could carry. I remember there was a lot of hoopla about them doing this in Halo. It seems as if nearly every shooter I played since then has had this two gun restriction, or some variation of it. Every game that is, except Serious Sam.

Personally, I like escapism in my games. Throwing humor in, along with a big does of silliness is a really big plus too. Mix all of these in with a massive alien invasion army and a crapload of guns and you have a recipe for some serious fun. Some Serious Sam fun.

Ok, to the vitals:

The basic story is this: Earth is being attacked by aliens and you need to stop them. You will go back in time to try to find something to help get rid the alien menace. Along the way you will fight many enemies using a huge array of weapons. You will face enemies taller than skyscrapers, and whoop their ass too. You will face hundreds of creatures charging at you across vast fields, and enemies that teleport behind you out of thin air. You will do of this wearing nothing but a pair of jeans, a pair of red sneakers, and a shirt that somehow has about a dozen weapons packed into it. Woo hoo!

The game has a strong sense of humor. Your character often delivers humorous one liners has he hands out punishment. The game generally parodies the shooter genre in general, but also branches out to reference movies, one notable scene being a play on the boulder rolling scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The design of the enemies you face is outlandish too. You have pumpkin headed chainsaw wielding abominations to deal with. Soldiers that hold their head in one hand and shoot at you with other. And there are completely headless grunts with bombs for hands that charge at you constantly. The grunts are particularly amusing to tackle. If you shoot one in the middle of a group of other grunts, they'll all blow up and take out anyone around them giving you a big multi kill bonus.

The graphics are pretty decent for an older Xbox title. There were some areas in the first stage I thought I saw some weird clipping going on, but I never noticed it later in the game. I never noticed any serious distracting graphic issues, but I also didn't see anything all that awe inspiring either, except for that boss that was as tall as a skyscraper. I thought he was pretty impressive. The character models (you, your enemies) that you interact with (ok, mostly shoot) seemed a little simple. They weren't really bland, but weren't exquisite either. They did their job and that's all they really needed to do. No real complaints on the graphics then. Could have been better, but then again, things often can be. I was satisfied with what I got.

The stage maps in which you play are often huge and massive. Some maps are complex dungeons and cities; others are huge open plains and fields. On the dungeon and city maps it can be easy to get lost, especially if you have a complex set of objectives to accomplish. The open fields often sort of tunnel you to where you need to go. All you have to do is shoot everything between you and the exit. From time to time, the game even shows you a giant yellow arrow to point you in the direction where you need to go, or point at something you need to interact with (press this big button). This often happens in city maps. Other than the frustration anyone feels when they get lost, I have no complaints about the game stages.

The sound is acceptable. I can't really say I found the music in the game to be anything grand. Most of the background music sounded a bit generic to me and not really tied to the scene where it was being played. The game does make use nifty musical transitions though, to indicate something big is about to go down. Every time you hear a sudden change in the music being played, that's usually a clue that you need to get your big guns out!

The sound effects I thought were well done. Lots of grunts, groans, roars, screams, and yells coming from your enemies to go along with all of the bangs, pows, booms, and ratta tat tats coming from your guns. Sound effects play a very import role in the game. They often serve to give a warning and help let you know where any enemy is coming from. Some monsters you fight start screaming before you can see them and you can usually determine from that noise where they are coming from. Others just warp in, with a different sound effect. Sometimes they warp in right on top of you, other times you don't see where they appear, but that warping sound lets you know that something ugly is near.

Sound wise, I think the game did a decent job. The music didn't get me excited, but I found it adequate. The sound effects on the other hand I thought added an important dimension and additional depth to the game's gameplay.

Gameplay in this game very good. Control of your character is simple but solid. It is a variation of the control theme used on many of titles of the shooter genre. You move with one thumbstick and aim with the other. The left trigger jumps, the right trigger shoots. The black and white auxiliary buttons activates switches, zooms, centers your view, and brings us your in-game status computer. All of the other four action buttons deal with managing your many weapons. I had no difficultly with this system and found that it worked very well.

The game is also very forgiving about your shooting. By default the game locks onto the target nearest to your aiming crosshairs and hits them automatically when you fire. While some shooter purists would consider this cheating, it greatly helps those people who are not typically good at these types of games, and lets them to enjoy the title also. The game also makes use of a checkpoint and lives system. The game is saved at the beginning of every level. In addition to the initial level gamesave, throughout the game there are red telephone booths that serve as savepoints for your progress. You also have a number of ‘lives' at your disposal. When you die, instead of having to start over from your last checkpoint, you respawn instantly near where you died. These lives carry over from stage to stage.

The game has a point scoring system, something I haven't seen in a shooter in a very long time. As you defeat enemies you gain points. As you play, you will find many secret areas that hold either secret weapons or treasure that gives you even more points. The most important thing about these points is that they give you extra lives, which come in very handy against certain bosses.

All of this, the humor, the graphics, the sound effects, and the control makes for a very enjoyable single player game.

But, this game really shines as a multiplayer game, especially the co-operative mode. You can go through the entire game with up three other friends, or start form a stage that has already been complete. There is no Xbox Live support, and only two players are allowed per Xbox so you have to hook two Xboxes together using system link to allow four people to play, but it is a real hoot to do so. When you are on an open field having a hundred headless zombies charging at you, having a chaingun handy is very handy. Having three other people with you who are also holding chains is even handier.

The minor issues I mentioned aside, this game as a whole is a real joy to play. The fun I had fun playing this game in single player and multiplayer mode nearly makes up for any points I'd knock off for music and graphics. A fantastic title and a tasty dose of escapism. I highly recommend.

Remember kiddies, you CAN have your plasma cannon, and shoot it too!
(And the rocket launcher. And the shotgun. And the chaingun. And the...)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/07


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