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Matt Bassos
29 Dec, 2009

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter Review

PC Review | Seriously.
We weren’t really expecting an updated release of Croteam’s 2001 shooter Serious Sam. This isn’t a bad thing mind you. On the contrary, having a version of Sam in high definition glory for PC and Xbox 360 is a lovely bonus, whether or not it was needed. For those who missed Serious Sam the first time around, it’s a trigger happy first-person shooter with plenty to shoot. And we mean plenty to shoot. Eight years old, with certain design principals even older, this HD remake still manages to be a whole stack of serious fun.

What made Serious Sam so entertaining was Croteam’s ability to nail old-school shooter action reminiscent from the days of Doom. But it had more; like its own style, visual flair and just flat out intensity. With the release of the update we forget about only holding two weapons, recharging shield systems or elaborate mission objectives and get ready to shoot pretty much everything that moves.

You remember Doom’s plot right? Marine sent to kill all demons. Serious Sam is similar, except an evil alien overlord named Mental wants to eradicate all humans in the future. Our protagonist Sam ‘Serious’ Stone is the only man bad enough to stop them. He’s sent back in time to Ancient Egypt to kick Mental's army and alter history, hopefully preventing them from ever coming to destroy humanity in the future. That's the story in a nutshell and for most it won’t even matter, as waves of enemies charge their way into the barrage of bullets you spew forth at them.

Shoot first, ask questions later.

Shoot first, ask questions later.
Close
Overwhelming odds is what Serious Sam prides itself on. It certainly starts off modest with a few enemies here and there, but as you progress it truly goes off the Holy !@#* metre at times. The levels themselves become shooting galleries where players must get Sam from point A to point B alive. There are plenty of weapons and plenty of powerups and did we mention plenty to shoot at?

Not everyone is going to dig Serious Sam’s style though. You have to know what you are getting yourself into. The environments can become monotonous as they're all set in Egypt, and for all the inspiration the game takes from Doom, the level design is nowhere near as intricate. Corridors, mixed with large open arenas with dozens of swarming enemies is what you'll be seeing. Rinse and repeat with areas of ammo, health and the odd secret and you’ve got the stages down pat. It sounds basic and this will be enough to put off many gamers. Those who understand that everything is just a means to shoot more bad guys will certainly have fun here though.

The biggest difference between this release and the original are the updated visuals. Running on Croteam’s very own Serious Engine 3 which is also being used for Serious Sam 3, it looks amazing. There's a big upgrade here; much more than just a simple coat of paint. It runs just as well too, and while there are better engines out there, this one won't skip a beat. This is important when lasers, missiles bullets are flying and 50 enemies are coming straight at you. Serious Sam will always keep up, even when you can't. There is plenty of customisation to be found as well for those tinkerers. The game does a good job at detecting your settings, but there is a massive list of what can be changed by the user, which is very handy for those with older systems. The music is catchy and gets you pumped for round after round of slaughter. Unfortunately, many of the audio samples have not been redone and this becomes obvious with the weapons, which lack some grunt to go with their visual upgrade.

Come get some.

Come get some.
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Speaking of the weapons, they get the job done but don't expect anything relatively exciting. Double barrel shotgun, chain gun and rocket launcher are all in. It's a generic weapon roster, but they each have a purpose and their simplicity reflects well in a game where you'll be firing a lot. The enemy design on the other hand is fantastic. They won't be smart, but they know how attack and that's all that matters here. As with everything else, enemies now look much more detailed. Our favourite, the beheaded kamikaze guy looks better than ever, as he somehow screams at the top of his lungs with his suicidal bombs. Updated gore is another plus, with foes spraying blood or getting split in half, making it more satisfying to shoot at stuff. And that can only be a good thing in a game where you'll be shooting all the time.

The challenge will have you itching to come back to Serious Sam. It won't take you days to beat, but Sam has a great arcade feel to it where you'll want to play it again. Even pros get the bonus of new super hard difficulty included in the remake. The design of the game also makes it perfect to jump in for 30 minutes and have some fun to get your shooting fix. Single player is fine and dandy, but multiplayer is the next level with Serious Sam offering up to a whopping 16 players in cooperative play. Sounds good in theory, but you'll find it hard to get that many people into a game. Still having a few mates play with just makes it better in every way, as you work together to survive seemingly impossible odds. Online matches can be set up easily and voice chat is included as well, though we did experience laggy sessions even with Australian games which is a dissapointment. This is further compounded with no dedicated server support or deathmatch at the moment, with Croteam saying they will be patched in down the track.

It's hard not to like Serious Sam. It's an old game, but what it does it does well. It reminds us of a simpler time and becomes a test of shooting skill and reflexes. It just has that special appeal and is a great pick up and play sort of game. It certainly is no evolution, but ironically that's what makes it so fun and stand out from the shooting pack. It's hard to say no to this prettier version of Serious Sam. For it's budget price it 's even harder to say no to Sam this time around, than it was in 2001.

Note: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter requires Steam for registry and download.
The Score
Played it before or not, Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter belongs in every shooter's fan library for its brilliant throwback to older days when killing things was all we needed to do.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 Comments
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
It's a generic weapon rooster
awesome - i love me generic weapon roosters.

CUCKAW CUCKAW!

Chickens don't clap.
4 years ago
Are you sure ;)

I'll be fixing that one up cheers.
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/11/2009 (Tentative)
Publisher:
  Direct Online by Publisher **
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2009

Read more...
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