‘Serious Sam’ shines in reincarnation

Game: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Maker: Croteam

Release Date: Jan. 13, 2010

“Serious Sam: The First Encounter” was released in 2001 on the PC to critical acclaim due to its amazing graphics and high number of enemies on screen.  Nine years and two console generations later, developer CroTeam has resurrected the classic series in a remake released under the original title.

To quell the fires of fandom the game is reworked with the Serious Engine 3, which gives everything a gritty layer of polish. Everything in the game world wrinkles, shimmers, reflects or reacts to the player. The game is gorgeous considering there is little more than a spit shine on the original game.

This is a port, and it is an exceptional example. The only downside is that the game still feels like it came out of the early 2000’s. There is a little more prefacing in the beginning of the eight-to-13-hour adventure, and that’s about it besides the little bit of in-game briefing.

Sam “Serious” Stone is Earth’s future hero as he fights off invading enemies from the mysterious alien Mental. There’s little more to the story; the game quickly turns into a shooting gallery full of blood, bullets magic homing orbs and copious amounts of gore.

- Advertisement -

While the over-the-top violence of the original game is intact in the remake, the set pieces are a little out of order, probably due to flow issues. The game seems to end before it starts, but never lets up. Wave upon wave of enemies bum rush the player, leaving varied attacks and power-ups littering the ground. Sometimes, at the game’s most sadistic moments, finding that all-important health box will spawn way too many enemies ending in cheap deaths.

The game is meant to be the hardest of the hardcore first-person shooter. It only lets up to light the way to the next area.

A major addition to the game is the dismemberment system. Some enemies will just simply blow apart into chunks, but others will have severed limbs along with chunks of body parts. One thing that does return is the “hippie” gore that turns everything to flowers and mushrooms. What’s gone is the combo meter from “The Next Encounter”(a later game in the original series), which allowed for insanely high scores.

The game does show its age with some of the bland texturing and the dated formula of “kill everything to move on.” What would have been welcome is a hint system that wasn’t buried in text.

One last, and surprisingly fun, addition is the Co-Operative mode. From the menu, players can select to play levels with infinite ammo, or be on the hardest difficulty level. It really is such a blast to play with three other people online and listen to them get swarmed by enemies.

Finally, “Serious Sam HD” keeps the PC spirit alive with the all-important “quick save,” which is mapped to the “Y” button. Yes, it does disrupt the game’s flow until it is properly learned, but it is essential to game progression.

In summation, fans of the series will not be disappointed, but newcomers will probably be scared away due the masochistic nature of the game. Still, it is enjoyable despite its age and worthy of any classic minded XBOX gamer.