Serious Sam: The Second Encounter Review

Serious Sam took the action gaming world by surprise.  It was developed by an unknown group from Croatia of all places, and appeared quietly on the market as a budget-priced title.  However, its great graphics and furious action quickly pushed it to the top of a lot of people's play lists.  Now Croteam brings us another Serious Sam game - one that comes in with a higher level of anticipation.  Does it live up to these high expectations?  In a word, yes.

Serious Sam : The Second Encounter picks up right where the first game left off, with Sam aboard a spacecraft he hijacked in Ancient Egypt.  Unfortunately, he does not quite find himself on the way to the planet Mental after the ship crash lands in South America during the height of the Mayan civilization.  The story is absurd and shallow, but that's OK.  Its main purpose is to give the pretext of an excuse to move Sam from one imaginative and action-packed level to the next.  You'll be having so much fun blasting bizarre creatures that you won't even care about the story.

The Second Encounter also adds new enemies and weapons to the game.  Three new weapons are added to supplement the eleven appearing in the first game.  The first is a chainsaw, which is good for close in fighting and is more entertaining than effective.  Next is a flamethrower which Sam can use to barbeque his enemies.  This weapon produces great visual effects along with its carnage.  Flames will run along walls and set fire to objects as well as enemies, and enemies which have caught on fire will continue to take damage as they roast in their own juices.  The last new weapon is a sniper rifle, complete with a telescopic site.  Needless to say, this weapon is great for taking out enemies at a distance, sometimes before they even notice that Sam is nearby.  The variety of weapons provided - from miniguns to rocket launchers and shotguns to grenade launchers - gives the player a lot of options when confronting enemies and adds a tactical element that requires the player to choose the right tool for the job.  Each weapon has it's own sound, firing characteristics, and feel, and each requires a different approach to battle.  There are also some new power-ups available, including the serious bomb.  This powerful item will destroy all of the enemies around Sam without causing any damage to him, and comes in handy when things get very hectic.

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter throws a dizzying array of interesting, bizarre, and wildly imaginative monsters at the player.  In addition to the 20+ monsters from the first game, there are seven all new enemies, including Cucurbito the Pumpkin, a huge chainsaw-wielding, jack-o-lantern headed maniac.  The different enemies each have their own attack style - from kamikaze creatures that run into the player and explode to rocket-firing monstrosities that like to keep back and pound Sam from afar.  The game will send waves of enemies at Sam in different combinations, forcing the player to constantly adjust his/her tactics to confront the different variations of combined attacks.  Not all attacks are massed, though, sometimes the player will find Sam under fire from a distant foe or a hidden enemy sniping at him from under cover.  

On the game's default difficulty level, the game is quite challenging.  Some battles can last for quite a bit of adrenaline-pumping time, and casual FPS players can easily feel overwhelmed.  Luckily, the game comes with two easier settings (and two harder ones for the truly insane), that will still prove challenging, but will give players a better chance to complete the game.

The levels in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter are all massive, beautifully rendered, and very imaginative.  The game takes the player to ancient Mayan cities, Babylon, and Medieval Europe, with indoor and outdoor environments in each area.   Sometimes Sam has an incredible amount of room to maneuver, and at other times he is packed into tight corridors laden with traps.  The levels are packed with secret areas and power-ups, and it is fun trying to find them all.