Review by Kobold Warrior

"Shotguns, chainsaws and serious bombs... oh my!"

Some first person shooters (such as Ghost Recon) enrapture gamers by providing a realistic take on armed combat, with actual weapons, items and real world locations. Others (like Halo) pull us in with stunning visuals, intricate A.I. and superbly crafted storylines. Serious Sam does none of these things… and yet, it still manages to succeed.

Gameplay

So what makes Serious Sam such a blast to play? Part of the reason is the simplicity. The game’s developers just drop you into a location, give you a few weapons, and then promptly release wave after wave of bloodthirsty baddies to tear you to pieces. You aren’t suppose to marvel at the environments (which often look quite good by the way) or particularly care about the advancement of the story, you are just supposed to stay alive long enough to reach the level’s exit.

I like to think of Serious Sam as having the soul of an old school 2D shooter trapped in a first person shooter’s body. Essentially, you are constantly under attack, with the only thing between you and staying alive being lightning quick reflexes and impeccable aim. You have a pool of lives just like in those old shooters, and even respawn immediately after dying with a brief two seconds of invulnerability. Enemies swarm you from the front, back, above, behind and anywhere in between. Because Serious Sam provides such simplistic, frantic gameplay, it is just an extremely fun game to play.

One of the coolest features of Serious Sam is the multiplayer cooperative campaign. Just like in Halo, you and a buddy can play through every single one of the game’s levels together and, unlike in Halo, you can even use the system link feature so each player has a full screen (if system link is used, the co-op campaign in Serious Sam allows for up to 8 players to play at once!). Every first person shooter should have this option, yet very few developers actually take the time to include it. I tip my hat to the folks at Croteam for putting forth the extra effort. Besides the co-op campaign, Serious Sam also includes a hearty deathmatch mode that includes ten different maps designed specifically for multiplayer and the ability to link up multiple Xboxs for some 16-player frag-fests.

Story

The game does try to concoct some sort of storyline, in which our hero Sam is attempting to save the world from alien invaders by going back in time. But right from the opening cinema the developers at Croteam plainly show that they aren’t trying to be... ahem... serious. We see muscle bound Sam pull an entire arsenal of weapons out of his back pocket and chase a group of enemies off screen. A few seconds later, Sam comes screaming back in view followed by an even bigger host of baddies (yep, just like that scene with Han Solo chasing Storm Troopers in the original Star wars). All of the cut scenes scattered throughout the game follow a similar theme, with slapstick comedy overriding any semblance of actual storytelling.

Graphics

While certainly not a visual masterpiece, Serious Sam is surprisingly easy on the eyes. The levels are all large and varied (with locations ranging from frigid mountain villages to underground lava caverns) and feature zero draw-in and even some nice texture work. The game’s enemies are light in polygons, but this allows hordes of them to be on screen without a hiccup in framerate. The game is devoid of any extraordinary visual effects (dynamic lighting, etc.), but because everything is so smooth and crisp, it still looks good. There is a fair amount of blood and gore in the game, but it’s portrayed in an over-the-top style like we’ve seen in Mortal Kombat and Unreal Championship. If the blood and dismemberments are too much for some gamers, there is an option to turn them off completely.

Audio

The aural presentation in Serious Sam is similar to the visuals - not outstanding, but well above average. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the game’s soundtrack, which features a nice mixture of moody ambiance and adrenaline pumping guitar riffs. The music appropriately parallels the action on screen by picking up in intensity every time a new wave of enemies is unleashed. My personal favorite song in the game is a forceful guitar riff that sounds like it was lifted straight from the soundtrack for Guilty Gear X.

The voice acting in the game is pretty much limited to Sam’s numerous one-liners (which he spouts quite regularly throughout the game). His quips range from simple observations like, “Oh man, it’s cold. My nipples are like pencil erasers!” and “Didn’t I kick your ass two rooms back?” to taunts such as, “Die when I kill you!” Despite their cheesiness, Sam’s one-liners do manage to keep the game light as you battle through the seemingly inexhaustible masses of enemies, so I consider them a welcome addition.

Closing Comments

Overall, Serious Sam is an extremely entertaining first person shooter that successfully combines straightforward, frenzied gameplay with surprisingly good visuals and oodles of multiplayer options. This game currently sells for a mere 20 bucks at most retail stores and is an absolute steal at that price. If you can stand swallowing a bit of cheese with your first person carnage, then Serious Sam is most certainly the game for you.

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Review Recap
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Gameplay: 9 – This is an old school 2D shooter in the body of a FPS. It’s fast, furious and seriously fun.
Visuals: 8 – It doesn’t really push the Xbox, but the drawn distance is vast, framerate is smooth and environments are huge. The enemy models aren’t very detailed though.
Sound: 9 – Voice acting is superb (though cheesy) and other sound effects are spot on.
Music: 8 – Some Guilty Gear-like guitar riffs and moody, ambient tunes supplement the gameplay nicely.
Lasting Appeal: 9 – With both Serious Sam 1 & 2 crammed onto one disc and oodles of multiplayer options (both co-op and deathmatch), you’ll be playing this game for a long time.
Fun Factor: 9 – Take one part Gradius, 2 parts Doom, add a pinch of oregano and what do you get? A kick-ass game that is an absolute blast to play.

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Final Score: 8.7 (rounded up to 9 for GameFAQs)
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Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/04/03, Updated 06/29/03


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