Serious Sam Review

Serious Sam has made two appearances on the PC.  Although both games were budget priced titles, they were well-received for their fast action and great graphics.  Now Serious Sam is making his way to the Xbox, and his self-titled game brings console gamers all of the action from Serious Sam and Serious Sam: The Second Encounter in a single game.

The PC games were not heavy on storyline, and the tradition continues on the Xbox.  The basic premise is that aliens have taken over the Earth and the only way that Sam can stop them is by traveling back in time and destroying the aliens in the past.  Why?  Don't ask.  I don't even think the developers know.  This is all left unexplained by the game's opening cinematic which has some nice action scenes unfettered by the need to set-up the story or explain what is going on.  But that's OK, the original PC games were light on the story and heavy on the action too.

The enemies attack in hordes.

When I say heavy on the action, I'm not kidding.  Serious Sam is all about facing attacks from many enemies from multiple directions at once.  This is no stealth shooter; it's an adrenaline rush of near constant combat.  Sam must face over twenty different enemies, each with its own style of attack.  Hack, slash, swarm, snipe, shoot, bomb ... you name it and there is probably an enemy that utilizes that attack.  Some of the imaginative enemies include a headless, bomb-wielding kamikaze guy that screams the entire time he comes at you (don't ask where the scream comes from),  a psychotic, chainsaw-carrying brute with a jack-o-lantern for a head, and rolling skeletons that throw boleros.  The furious action gives the game an arcade feel, but there is actually some strategy to it.  When faced with multiple attackers of different types, you need to make an accurate threat assessment when deciding which one to shoot first and with what weapon.  It's not a good idea to pick off kamikazes at long range while taking missile hits from an enemy camped out on a hillside.

To help you fend off your attackers, the game gives you 14 different weapons from which to choose.  Most of these are standard first-person shooter weapons that you've seen before; pistols, shotguns, rocket launchers, etc.  However, the weapons are implemented well, and each has its own distinct feel, sound, and effectiveness.  Since some weapons are better than others for certain enemies and ammo is limited, good weapon management is key to success.  Luckily the controls are well implemented and it is easy to switch between weapons in a pinch.  You can even set your favorite weapons to the X and Y button so that you can equip them even faster when needed.

The environments in Serious Sam are pretty large, but they merely hide the fact that the game is in fact pretty linear.  This is not too surprising for a game that is focused on the shooting action, so don't expect much in the way of puzzles in the game.  The game gives you a computer display that you can bring up to view objectives, but they can be easily accomplished as you follow the path through the level.  The game does have a fair amount of bonus items hidden in secret areas.  These can usually be reached by some acrobatic maneuvering and provide some incentive to do a little exploring as you move through the levels.  However, finding the hidden items do not provide you with a critical advantage, and if you can live with seeing the number of undiscovered hidden items on the level completion screen you will do just fine without them.