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Game Over Online ~ Serious Sam: The First Encounter

GameOver Game Reviews - Serious Sam: The First Encounter (c) Gathering of Developers, Reviewed by - Borg #472918433

Game & Publisher Serious Sam: The First Encounter (c) Gathering of Developers
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-300, 64MB RAM, 150MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 84%
Date Published Saturday, March 31st, 2001 at 07:24 PM

Divider Left By: Borg #472918433 Divider Right

Is "Serious Sam" to be taken seriously? No. This is a cheeky first-person-shooter that attempts to bring back some much needed life into the shades-of-black-paletted FPS of recent renown. The short of it is "'Serious Sam' is a fun game". However, one may play "Serious Sam" in third person view, but one would imagine it is much easier to play in the first person view. As the protagonist, Sam "Serious" Stone, it is your prerogative to save the human race from extinction from foreign alien invaders. The plot is quite similar to that of "Doom" where one man desperately fights innumerable odds for the survival of all he holds dear (tear). Sam travels back in time to destroy his enemies thus allowing for the most pre-emptive strike of all history. Once in the past, Sam must collect certain objects to ensure the survival of the future (okay, perhaps I didn't bother to sit through the entire briefing section). At the end of the quest, one may be assured that he will be bathed in blood time and time again.

When attempting to describe "Serious Sam", one may quickly and accurately use the phrase "same old same old". Thus one would do well to compare this game to "Duke Nukem 3D". They both feature a protagonist with many side, snide remarks (shut up, John!). Both protagonists are wearing jeans and a white top. And both games feature a fun atmosphere (note: I did not see any female dancers in "Serious Sam", thus, one will never be distracted). One should immediately note that "Serious Sam" cannot be compared with more recent FPS games as it seems almost all recent FPS games experience the collective folly of shades-of-black palettes. Be assured that one will actually see many bright colours during the game (especially during the outdoor skirmishes on the hot sands of the Ancient Middle East territories).

Weapons are somewhat limited in "Serious Sam". There are only ten weapons. It features the basic weapons: a combat knife, a handgun, a pump action shotgun, a double barrelled shotgun, a submachine gun, a minigun, a rocket launcher, and a grenade launcher. The heavier weapons are a laser gun ( la "Star Wars") and an uranium cannon (yes, it is almost exactly like the ones guarding the city of Caliture during the Portuguese reign of Colombo; except this one has less recoil). One can easily imagine additional weapons that might be useful (e.g.: acid loaded liquid cannon). However, the weapons do kill anything in the cross-hairs (one should note that this game doesn't attempt to be ultra-realistic. there is no recoil from spent ammunition nor a need to manually reload the weapon, thus this prolongs the penultimate thrill of the kill). This leads to the idea of viable targets.

Enemies are not as expected. They do not have an advanced AI strategy that so delighted players of "Half Life". They do not patrol areas to allow you to observe patterns in their movement. They do not expend all their ammunition as they do in "Fallout Tactics". They do not even whisper cheeky remarks for those who enjoyed such comic relief in "No One Lives Forever". In short, they don't do much. But what they are programmed to do, they do well. They will shoot for the head at point blank range. Furthermore, whatever they lack in versatility they make up for in numbers. Swarming is a popular tactic as it is both simple and deadly. Please allow for a more in-depth analysis of the monsters.

A few enemies strike one as novel. By far, the most bothersome enemy is the "beheaded kamikaze" (I wonder why they didn't simply call them "suicide bombers" as the location is the Middle East and not Japan nor USA). Perhaps it is not the manner in which it will explode next to Sam, but rather the fact that this type of enemy is not a popular one in the FPS world. Usually, one may sit back and carefully sniper the incoming swarms of monsters. However, this single enemy will bring fear, if not panic, to the player as sounds of their unique scream fills the room ("aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"). To compound matters, this type of enemy usually converges on Sam's position using different vectors, thus making them difficult to kill in swarms. As a side note, there is a toad (officially name: marsh-hopper from Rigil Kentaurus) which has a similar method of attack but comes in regular swarms of over twenty. Once again, to compound matters, they constantly hop making them difficult air targets. All other enemies are as expected: distance damage devices or melee maiming methods.

As hinted, the levels are quite challenging (I must personally interject. I recommend that if you have never mastered any FPS game {mastered means you can complete the game without cheating AND you can also do so in a timely manner}, then you should not play on the normal difficulty setting. I have mastered a few FPS games, and I regret choosing normal as the difficulty setting). The levels are also packed with secret areas and secret weapon caches (30+ sometimes). Moreover, the levels have hundreds of monsters who warp in at all the wrong times. One will find that he is constantly surrounded by various monsters at almost every turn of the corner. A warning is appropriate at this point: be warned about conserving ammunition as the levels do not feature an abundant amount of items to help you along your way. So stop looking for a strategy to the levels; the only possible strategy is simply to never stop killing (thanks, D, D, and D!).

As mentioned before, "Serious Sam" does not introduce any new major features into the FPS world. However, one does not need to be the inventor to apply it well. On a personal note, I'm very ecstatic about the multiplayer features. "Serious Sam" brings back something that has been lacking in almost all recent FPS games. "Serious Sam" has reintroduced the idea of a co-operative multiplayer option into the FPS gaming world. All though difficult single player levels are now simple and fun to pass as a team of five players can easily overcome any level. So once again, "Serious Sam" features co-operative multiplayer games! For those who insist on killing his neighbours and their pets, there is the ever-so-hackneyed death match. Though, the developers have added a twist. In short, they have instituted a score match. In a score match, points are not calculated in a natural numbered universe. Points are awarded to the fragger weighted to the most recent lifespan of the fraggee. Additionally, this game features some integration with GameSpy to facilitate a networked multiplayer session with stochastic partners. For those who have extremely large display devices, they may play a multiplayer game in split screen mode with up to four people (!) (I am not sure if you can play split screen mode in conjunction with a networked multiplayer game); surprisingly, this doesn't slow down the game play by an unmanageable amount. Thus, this game features a great amount of fun with friends a taste for blood.

Speaking about technicalities; "Serious Sam" graphics are rendered with the help of OpenGL (none of that DirectX junk for me). Sound is processed in EAX or Aureal3D (stereo is also available for those casual gamers). This combination ensures that the game will provide wonderfully efficient graphics in an acoustically vibrant world. One cannot help but stare at the Sun to view the lens flare or gaze upon the stars and nebulae rendered so close (who knew one could see all those celestial wonders from Earth a few thousand years ago...). Being submerged in water is another one of the game's delights (hint: melee inclined monsters can't reach you in water thus making deep pools of water a great place to chill out). The only grave technical annoyances with "Serious Sam" is the extremely long time load up time for saved games even when all data is accessed from the local hard disk. The smaller annoyances include, but are not limited to: 1) key bindings are set by manually editing files, 2) music is not customizable, 3) there is no real use for the third person view (btw: this view reveals the fact that your character does not move fluidly), 4) the cut-scenes are rendered in real-time using the rendering engine which simply highlight the minor clipping problems when panning a scene, and 5) quick saves may seem to indicate many quick saved files when you quick save, but the true amount of quick saves actually saved to the local disk is less than ten. However, overall, the game was very well programmed, thus saying nothing about the experienced game play.

With all this said, is "Serious Sam" a game that one should consider? Yes. Though this game features cartoon-like violence with human creatures to kill, these shortcomings are all culturally based (who says cartoon violence isn't bloody or shocking? and who says we only have to kill humans?). Do not make the initial mistakes many have made; do not underestimate this game based on your current need to play only the most realistic games on your powerhouse of a computer. Right is right. Fun is fun. And "Serious Sam" will entertain gamers in single play mode or in of the various multiplayer modes available. Conversely, do not read too much into this review. It is long and praises a game that brings life into the scene. However, "Serious Sam" will not will game of the year; it just isn't that good (sorry, Roman).

[ 18/20 ] Graphics
[ 18/20 ] Sound
[ 24/30 ] Game Play
[ 06/10 ] Storyline
[ 10/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 08/10 ] Overall Impression


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