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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Gotham Games

 

Developer

Croteam

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- For fans of Doom-style gaming, it doesn’t get any better
- Great controls
- Hours and hours of gameplay

 

 

- Gameplay can get repetitive
- Damn this game gets hard!
- “Cheap” ending

 

 

Review: Serious Sam (PC)

Review: BioShock (360)

Review: TimeShift (360)

 

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Serious Sam

Score: 9.3 / 10

 

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Imagine if you will that the Xbox first-person shooter Serious Sam is just like that blind date your friends have been trying to set you up on. You know what I’m talking about, guys: that blind date with the girl who you’ve heard has a “nice personality” and a “great sense of humor.” You’ve also seen pictures of her not-so-attractive older sister. And to top it all off, there’s only twenty bucks in your pocket to take her out on the town with. Also imagine that after reluctantly agreeing to finally go out on the blind date, you find she’s not only got a “nice personality” and “great sense of humor” but she happens to look just like Jaime Pressly, your twenty spot gets you dinner and drinks followed by a movie, and to top it all off you hit a bedroom homer at the end of the night.

What’s all that got to do with Serious Sam? Serious Sam is a port of a “older” Doom-style PC title that wasn’t too visually appealing. Instead, it merited reasonably good reviews on the strength of its addicting FPS gameplay (which doesn’t always translate well from PC to console) starring a personable lead character with a

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wisenheimer attitude. And when a console game drops from $50US to $20US not long after its release, it’s not usually an endorsement of the game’s quality.

But those supposed warnings of impending gaming-mediocrity doom mean little, because Serious Sam is one seriously awesome game, with greatly Xbox-improved looks to go along with the superb gameplay that

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happens to translate well from the PC to Xbox, and an unbelievable amount of fun gaming packed in. Serious Sam is so good, I’ll even go so far to say that it’s one of the top five best Xbox games released in 2002 that blindsided everybody with its unexpected excellence.

Serious Sam continues in the great line of FPS titles that were spawned from the first Castle Wolfenstein. If you like Doom, Duke Nukem, Unreal, or Quake-style gaming, then you’ll know what kind of action to expect out of Serious Sam. There is a story in Serious Sam but, in the FPS tradition that has preceded it, the plot takes a co-starring backseat to the real star of the game, the FPS gory mayhem of blowing up/shooting/chain-sawing/hacking every enemy in sight.

That plot, and the dialogue contained within, makes the title of Serious Sam a misnomer. Just like Duke Nukem, nothing in this game should be taken seriously and you could almost believe that the game’s hero, Sam “Serious” Stone, could be Duke Nukem’s cousin. Stone’s got the whole Duke Nukem attitude going for him, right on down to the smart-alecky remarks he’s always tossing around alongside a few well-placed projectiles. Stone is the earth’s last hope against the monster master from another dimension, MENTAL. In his quest to defeat MENTAL, Stone gets to travel throughout time with the Time-Lock relic, visiting exotic locales from ancient Egypt to merry old England of days gone by.

All kinds of bizarro enemies are after our hero Stone, including Kleer Skeletons, Cucurbito the Pumpkin (complete with requisite pumpkin head), Zumb’ul From Planet Ras-Ad-Nyk (say that five times fast), Bio-Mechanoid, many beheaded denizens, Gnaar, and the ever-charging and scary Sirian Werebull. There’s always plenty of baddies to keep Stone on his toes and sweat on your palms. This is one tough game. You’ll never find anybody that’s played Serious Sam complain about not being challenged by the game’s artificial intelligence.

 

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Filling those huge levels is wave after wave of bad guys. The game gets really intense near the close of each level. Stone gets placed in an enclosed arena-type battleground. You literally need to kill over 500 enemies, 25 or so at a time, to complete the level and move on. Let me tell you, the loud sound of the onrushing hooves of 25 enormous Sirian Werebulls is enough to get your heart beating and your brow sweating. The only downside to this is that the gameplay can get repetitive, because this is how every level ends. But with so many opponents to worry about, you’ll have precious few moments to reflect on repetition.

To assist fighting that bevy of monsters, Stone has the arsenal to do the job. There are rocket launchers, grenade launchers, flame-throwers, laserguns, cannons, bombs, shotguns, chainsaws, pistols, revolvers, and machine guns all at Stone’s disposal. There’s also tons of power-ups and items to help make annihilating MENTAL’s minions easier.

The game’s levels are HUGE. I couldn’t believe how long it took to complete the entire game, and I mean that in a very, very good way. This game, which I expected wouldn’t last me more than 10 hours of game-time to complete, took me over 30! And that has nothing to do with my FPS game skills either. The development team did a great job bringing a long-lasting, enjoyable gameplay experience to the gamer.

The ONLY negative I had with the long game-hours was the ending. After going through all that shooting and killing, and squaring off against one tough-mutha ending boss, the game gives you the bad news that MENTAL is still on the loose. How’d they do that? “To be continued” comes up on the closing screen. The good news is a sequel, the bad news is a feeling of being letdown.

Graphically, the game is unbelievably excellent, especially for anyone that had a passing glance at its source, the original Serious Sam for the PC. The PC version looked a lot like Doom II, and believe me, with today’s rendering power of the PC, that’s not meant as a compliment. The developers of the PC game were more concerned with creating a great playing game instead of a great looking game. If any area of the game could have suffered from port-itis, the visuals would have been it. But the Xbox version of Serious Sam must have had its port-itis booster shots, because Serious Sam underwent a complete graphical transformation from the PC to the Xbox. This surprisingly (or maybe not-surprisingly, considering what the Xbox is capable of, visual-wise) is one fine-looking game.

On top of everything else that Serious Sam does great, the game’s controls are nice and FPS-tight. A lot of people complain about the original Xbox’s bigger controller. Personally I think it’s perfect for FPS games and Serious Sam is no exception. This game’s controls rival Halo’s almost-perfect FPS setup. And the final cherry on top for Serious Sam is a four-player multiplayer deathmatch mode and a co-operative mode such as is seen in Halo. Whether it’s Serious Sam’s single-player or multiplayer modes you play, you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

There’s no other way for me to say this: Serious Sam is a great game. Seriously. If I knew this title was this good when it first appeared in stores, I would have gladly paid $50US for it. All the better bargain for me that I spent just a mere 20 bucks for Serious Sam. While it isn’t the Game of the Year, Serious Sam surely must be the Gaming Bargain of the Year 2002. Great gameplay, great graphics, great levels, great lead character, great amount of gaming-time hours: you name it this game does it GREAT. Everybody that owns an Xbox, go out and buy Serious Sam. It belongs in your gaming collection NOW. Oh, and if someone has been trying to set you up on a blind date, don’t hesitate. Just remember this Serious Sam review and you may thank me later.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(February 10, 2003)

 

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