Review by antseezee
"One of the few intense shooters that gets the heart pumping for more action."
With so many first person shooters available on the market, certain games have to make a stand out from the rest. Sometimes you'll find that unique experience like Halo, Quake, or Doom. Other times you'll look for a realistic military-like game. Serious Sam goes beyond the realm of your typical first person shooter, and really exemplifies it beyond belief. The basic storyline behind Serious Sam is that you're a big, tough, super hero. Suddenly, an evil alien race attacks Earth, and it's all up to you to save the planet. Why? No one cares. Playing the role of Sam, you have to use a ''time lock'' to go back in time, in order to fight the evil alien race. Serious Sam tends to be more of a cheesy shooter, where you rely on big guns and tons of ammo to blast your way through hordes of monsters.
Somebody give me a chalupa, this game has got the stuff. Serious Sam utilizes the X-BOX to nearly full potential. To start off, the framerate in Serious Sam is absolutely amazing. Not once did I get a slowdown in the framerate. It was almost like playing in a pristine chapel. There's no ruptures, blurred motions, nothing like that. Each map is huge, scaling over thousands of feet. Environments are very, very lush with plenty of colors and shading to go along with it. Even the ground is detailed with plenty of bushes, trees, and grass plantations. Enemies can pour on to the screen in hundreds, and the framerate is nearly the same. This is an important aspect in a first person shooter since real-time battle means everything.
Enemies are very detailed, with eye-bulging muscles, devious eyes, and odd weapons of choice. The special effects are an absolute galore that can't be ignored. Explosions make bright flashes of light, with nice sparkling effects to go with them. A chainsaw getting cut against a wall produces nice spark effects. Even your powerups shine and sparkle in the distance of the sun. Serious Sam was not only designed to be cosmetic, but even the blood, guts, and dead bodies look appealing. You don't find many first person shooters that go into this much detail. FMV sequences provide plenty of attention to background. The only nagging problem is that map environments tend to look the same, and are often very widely spaced. Many maps are linear-designed, with straight forward movement. This means there's not much to explore, or where you can decide to go. Either way, SS is a masterpiece in this department.
When you're a big tough superhero, it's almost a necessity that you sound cool. Serious Sam sounds exactly like that. The voice actor of this game did a great job reenacting Sam as a meathead. Many cheesy jokes and short liners sound with the right tone of voice, and Sam does seem like a big goomba head. There's tons of monster groans, grunts, and explosive sounds from weapons to keep you listening for more from this game. Serious Sam makes a good use of different sounds to let the gamer know when a certain event is going to occur. For example, when you hear a screaming ''Aaah!'', that usually means there's a kamikaze guy running towards you. And since kamikaze guys do tons of damage if they hit you, the gamer becomes aware of the situation, and frantically searches for kamikaze guys. These sorts of sounds can really make a difference in the way a gamer reacts to situations.
Music, while not as drastic, still does a good job of fitting the level. Egyptian music has the Arabian tone, and puts the player in the atmosphere. Most levels have different songs, although some tend to loop on a few over and over. Background music isn't inspiring though, and won't put something memorable in your mind. Whenever you face bosses, they'll usually have their own theme song to get you in that butt kicking mode. Croteam did a good job in modifying the sound department to the actual gameplay.
As with any first person shooting game, there's got to be plenty of action and blood thirsty gameplay to go along with it. Serious Sam not only squenches that bloodthirst, but it probably does it a little too much. The basic system of the game revolves around Sam and his arensal of guns. You can wield over 10 guns including pistols, shotguns, chainguns, rocket launchers, and even a serious bomb. Each mission has an objective (although objectives are very simple), and you basically have to blast your way through the level until you reach the end. Levels are filled with enemies, sometimes up to 400 enemies in total. While many missions are large, there's plenty of save points to load from in case you die. You get bonuses for performing multi-kills, finding secrets, and gathering points. There's plenty of powerups and ammo reloads throughout levels, so you shouldn't have to worry about running out.
Serious Sam tends to combine the gameplay of previous first person shooters like Quake, Doom, Duke Nukem, and Halo. There's different enemies like your pitiful commoners, to your mini bosses, to mid bosses, and finally an episode ending boss. While all of this blast and shoot gameplay may sound exciting (and it is), there's practically no strategy involved in Serious Sam. You don't have to outflank your enemies. You don't have to think about sniping from a ledge. The entire game is very linear based, meaning that you basically unleash all your ammo, and find more. The game is quite comical at parts, with voice effects occurring after blowing away a wave of enemies. At the end of each level, your points are tallied, and continue on to the next mission. There's a fairly large amount of missions per episode, and the game has decent playing time. Trust me, the urge to kill is satisfied ''very well'' from Serious Sam.
With all the exploding gibs and narrow-based gameplay, Serious Sam does provide a really fun gaming experience. It's not like you're going to get bored all of a sudden. Serious Sam was designed for pure carnage, and it shows when the player has tons of satisfaction in nailing down monsters. This is what makes SS so different than your traditional shooter, it has added elements of comedy and cheesy jokes to give it a more lackadaisical approach. You don't have to worry about failing mission objectives. Nor do you have to think about what to do when you run out of ammo. It simplifies shooters so that the player has more enjoyability out of actual shooting skills, rather than actual wits.
Even if you do beat the game, there's enough to make you come back for more destruction than there previously was. You can also play a two player co-operative mode with a friend to beat the game, and can play up to four players in co-op mode with an XBOX system link. The game becomes a true blast when you have your best friend toting down evil aliens with a shotgun in hand. There's plenty of secret rooms and wall panels to discover in your own time on each level. The advantages to these secrets is usually more powerups and weapons you wouldn't normally have that early in the level. It's fun finding a Serious Bomb and incinerating the final boss with your last gasp for air. Codes can make the game a bigger blast as long as you don't over do it. There's just enough to keep you hooked with Serious Sam for a couple weeks. But don't overlook the facts. Serious Sam is just a first person shooter with linear-based blasting. Don't confuse this as a tactical shooter or anything.
While there are varying difficulty settings that the game can be set to, Serious Sam doesn't provide an overwhelming challenge to the player. Quite simply, enemies are easy to kill with nearly any gun. You'll rarely run out of ammo since there's ammo boxes practically loaded over entire levels. It's a rarity to run out of ammo for a particular gun unless you dancing around like a gypsy or something. Bosses aren't seemingly difficult since their life meters are visible, and you just have to keep shooting. Weapons seem too powerful at times, and may cause more havoc than needed. However, this is the style of Serious Sam. It was designed to have big explosions and gibs flying all over. Simply though, nearly any player who gets experienced with the gameplay system in SS probably will be able to beat the game within two weeks. It doesn't challenge the player enough, but it does provide darn good entertainment.
Final Factor [8/10
With straight forward hardcore shooting, Serious Sam is a must-have shooter for any devout FPS gamer. It's one of the few games that expands on pure shooting and guts/ammo rather than wits/skills. Sometimes you might have more fun blasting an alien race to oblivion than trying to find a way to knock out a guard. Serious Sam provides a unique first person shooting experience that any gamer should at least give a chance to. If you see this anywhere, try to buy it if you can. With a low $20 price tag, you can't go wrong.
Be warned that there have been confirmed reports of glitched copies which have some problems. I myself had a glitched copy when I tested the game. You can find out more on the Serious Sam message boards, but some of the glitched copies have slowdown in mission loading, laggy gameplay, and freeze while playing.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/03, Updated 07/15/03
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