Review by CTudor

"Laid-back shooter. Seriously cool!"

Bought for a measly £19.99 on the day it game out, Serious Sam was a good game from the start, and this didn't change once I had played the game through. Serious Sam doesn't try and break any barriers, but just takes the old Doom-style FPS and revamps it to today's high standards. Back to the basics seems to be the concept for Serious Sam and it definitely delivers.

The game's engine allows constant mayhem in Serious Sam and it is extremely rare that you will not have something to kill. Even if you don't see anything, the wild screams of Headless Kamikaze's as the run towards you will always be around. Occasionally, Sam himself will blurt out something which breaks up the waves of enemies but rest assured, you wont be left in the dark for long, you'll have something to kill approximately 95% of the entire game. The enemies are totally unrelenting some of the vast levels will contain over a thousand enemies.

Forget about stealth and modern tactics either, the levels are mainly in open spaces, like deserts and temples, and you will not last long if you think you can backpedal and shoot to win the level. Circling round enemies is usually no good either, as, although you will take out the target fairly quickly, all the while rockets and bullets and plasma cells will be flying past, or into, your head.

Sometimes the levels can be slightly daunting, and you feel as if you've been shrunk due to the sheer enormity of the levels but as you get more and more used to it, you'll enjoy the game more and more. This game will satisfy the older gamers more, who remember the classics such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, and will surely bring back sweet memories. Games like these have been lost behind complicated story-driven conspiracy stories or strategic civilization management and it's definitely a breath of fresh air that these games can still entertain.

The enemies are also a breath of fresh air and the Headless Kamikazes, Aludran Reptiloids and Kleer Skeletons will bring enjoyment to most games. Serious Sam Stone, the main character in the game, is equipped in the game with a futuristic computer which does convenientely tell Sam how many enemies he's wasted, how long it's taken him to waste them and any secret areas he's discovered. In the game there are 18 types of enemies, which you can read up on in the game's computer as well as mission objectives and level information, as well as a few big bosses. The big bosses in this game also seem to be taken straight out of the oldie games, and they are enormous. Arcade style bosses often as tall as a ten-storey buildings will turn up now and again at the end of levels, and they can take one hell of a beating and will most probably wipe out all the ammo in half of your guns.

Speaking of guns, of which there are ten in the game, Sam has the original FPS guns, including the Chain Gun, Magnum, Plasma Gun, Grenade and Rocket Launcher and the Tommy Gun, a gun which has been rather unused in computer games to date. Levels seem to have massive fighting arenas followed by a massive amount of ammo, followed by a massive fighting arena, following by a massive amount of ammo etc. and this continues on until you reach the end of the level.

It's often tempting to rush through the levels trying to get to the end as quickly as possible but you will regret this when you see that you killed only 200 out of the possible 600 enemies but also only found 2 of the possible 24 secrets. Also, the totals are cumulative, so by the time you've completed it, and you can glance over all your stats, you will probably regret getting only 5 of the 100 or so secrets and killing only 1000 of the possible 3000 or so enemies. Still, you can play the game over again and believe me, after your first experience, you will want to go through the game again.

Serious Sam uses Croteam's very own 'Serious' engine which brings all the 'old skool' features bang up to date, and the crazy and colourful monsters look stunning. Also, the game's setting, Ancient Egypt, also looks amazing and the level makers have really captured the vivacity of the game. The monsters are also all coloured brightly and are brimming with life. All of the monsters look extremely smooth and well-made too. Lens flare effects and weather effects are also featured in the game.

The most impressive feature of Serious Sam has got to be the 'World LOD' which allows hundred of monsters to be on screen at any one time while keeping a good framerate on most machines and my computer (600Mhz Athlon) had no problems with the hordes of monsters, even on the last level, and if you've been on it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

No more dark and dull levels which, the makers say, 'adds to the tension', Serious Sam has shown that a bright and lively game can also look and feel great.

Sound and music in the game is satisfactory and the background music really keeps the action up, due to it's intelligent implementation into the game. Sound effects have been used to enhance the gaming experience too, insane yelling gets louder as you turn towards the headless Kamikaze and as he approaches you and rain sounds realistic and believable.

The difficulty levels in the game also cater for the most inexperienced newbies to the most experienced FPS players but it can be tempting to try the game on Tourist mode and motor through it in under 8 hours. Whereas some game's very easy modes offer some challenges, be warned, Serious Sam's tourist mode does not offer any challenges and you will be mowing down enemies as soon as you see them. The better options are the slightly harder levels where your abilities will be tested a lot more.

Multiplayer is an amazing experience as well, and playing the game on the internet can be superior than the actual single player game. The game doesn't slow down even with four players in the same level so the game is 56k-friendly, although some some computers will suffer a bit. Although the game is very similar to Doom and Quake in many aspects, the System Specs are very different so don't you your 10 year old computer thinking that Serious Sam will play on it.

At £20, Serious Sam is a definite buy outclassing some other more expensive games and it is a serious contender for Game of the Year. The sheer generosity of the makers releasing the game at £20 puts other makers to shame, especially as some new games bump their prices up to £35.

Although Serious Sam won't last you as long as some other games, you still have all of the secrets to find, some being fiendishly hard to find, and you'll definitely want to see the final boss again. Buy this game, you'll enjoy it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/04/02, Updated 02/04/02

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