No-one could have predicted how successful the original Serious Sam would be. In the FPS genre every title is aiming to create more intelligent AI, create more immersive environments and create a more lifelike experience. Serious Sam focused on just shooting the hell out of whatever you saw. Such was the success of the original that the game eventually landed on consoles and even had a brief appearance on the Gameboy Advance. The developer Croteam has been given a bigger budget to play with this time, but is the first official sequel bigger and better or is it about time they started taking themselves a bit more seriously?
Whilst the first game didn't feature much of a storyline at all, Croteam have tried to implement a reason for your non stop shooting bonanza this time around. Basically an alien race has lost an artefact of great importance and for some reason they have asked Sam to retrieve the artefact for them. In reality though the storyline becomes a distant memory once you play the game for longer than half an hour.
There have been only a few new additions to celebrate the game reaching a second incarnation. There are new weapons and a few of them are specialised weapons that become useful in other certain scenarios. However, whilst there are new weapons there is no real incentive to use them, and most of the time i found myself resorting to the old favourites, such as the double barreled shotgun (which never fails to impress) and the rocket gun. New weapons are great, but when you barely need to use them they become a little obsolete. There is also a co-op mode for those who want to play with a friend, co-op is becoming very common in games lately but the game is definitely more fun with a friend.
Ever since vehicles were first introduced into the FPS genre, it seems a prerequisite for each FPS game now to feature vehicles of some kind and this game is no different. The vehicles are there, but they really aren't as entertaining as going on foot, so it's likely you'll just avoid them for as long as you can.
Gameplay wise anyone who has played the previous Serious Sam titles know exactly what to expect. There are no real silent atmosphere building levels where you wander around ready to fire, from the very beginning of the level to the very end you'll just simply have your hand on the trigger ready to fire. It's intense, and not become the enemies are overly intelligent, but just because there are literally dozens of them coming at you at once. The Xbox version is a little different to the PC version and actually features an auto lock aiming system, this may seem like an annoyance but in reality it is a god send.
Whilst the idea of going around and shooting anything that moves may be extremely tempting, the gameplay can become a little repetitive after a while. The levels themselves are very linear, and whilst they are expansive at times, there is only really one way to go; and that is where all the enemies are. The gameplay also becomes repetitive, because you are essentially just doing the same thing through the entire game. It may seem like this won't be a problem, but when you're just firing through different levels with your hand on the trigger button you may want more depth.
Graphically the game looks fairly good. The graphics engine has been entirely redone, so we appreciate that Croteam haven't just recycled the look of their previous games. The graphics impress mainly because there is so much happening on screen at one time. One of the main complaints is that when it gets intense (and unsurprisingly this can be quite often) there is a little bit of slowdown that brings the frame-rate of the game down. This is a little disappointing, but considering how much is happening on screen it seems like it cannot really be helped.
The enemies look brilliant though, it is not that they are covered in detail, but rather that they are simply incredibly well designed. Some of the enemies just have to be seen to be believed, the enemies in the previous game were great, but we think that they're actually even better in this game. As well as the enemies the level design is incredible as well. Whilst it is noticably linear, there are some truly amazing levels and each of them is significantly different to the other. Throughout the course of the game you'll travel through snow environments and even fairy tale cities. Had the developers stuck to the storyline more it would be impossible to set the game in these environments, if we had the choice we'd rather the incredibly bizarre environments over a deep storyline.
The gameplay isn't the only element of the game that starts to become repetitive after a while though. The sound is very standard, and not much effort appears to have been put in to make the weapons sound decent. The humour of the franchise has always been a highlight, and whilst there are some genuinely humourous moments during the game, the humour is only spot on about half the time. Unfortunately you'll be laughing just as much as you'll be cringing. At times the character banter is also repetitive especially during the latter half of the game, which is a bit disapopinting.
Lifespan wise the single player campaign will last about ten to fifteen hours, depending on your skill with series. The co-op option is always there, but we reckon that you'll either play through the game single player or with a friend once, you're unlikely to play through it a second time just to play alone or with a friend.
Serious Sam II is a paradox, the game doesn't take itself seriously and in a flooded genre it is refreshing to play a game that doesn't put a large emphasis on immersion and a storyline. If you're a fan of the previous game then you're likely to enjoy this title, but whilst other FPS titles are making evolutions in gameplay, this game hasn't really evolved in anyway, but if you just want a no holds barred FPS shooter that isn't going to have you exploring dark canyons or creeping along waiting for the next attack then you cannot really go past Serious Sam II, just don't take it too seriously.