Within seconds of starting Serious Sam 3: BFE’s Single Player campaign, you’ll have a face to face encounter with your first extraterrestrial enemy. You’re unarmed. The beast in question is a charging, snarling, muscluar cyclops with shoulders as wide as a truck. Within the next few seconds, you are plunging fists into the abomination’s face and tearing out it’s singular eye with your bare hands, the corpse collapsing to the floor in a bloody mess. This approach to getting the job done pretty much reflects Croteam’s approach to the whole game.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Serious Sam series, it has roots in PC gaming history as being chaotic, over-the-top FPS action. The gimmick has always been expansive and open level design which Croteam fills with incredible numbers of enemies who set about simultaneously charging and attacking you. Unlike any other FPS I’ve experienced, the Serious Sam games really do pit you as the centre of the action. There are no misconceptions, no stealth – everything is out to kill you as quicky and brutally as possible. Handily, Sam is a bit of a badass.
Flying in the face of pretty much the last decade of action games, the only cover Sam has is his T-Shirt. This is all about taking on insurmountable odds with a satisfying and powerful arsenal whilst keeping moving at all times. There’s no time to hide, no where to camp and no where to stop running to catch your breath – unlike some modern military shooters.
This third installment in the series, originally released on the PC at the end of last year and recently launched on the Xbox Live Arcade sees players once more take control of Sam and his T-Shirt to do battle and hopefully protect the Earth from complete alien domination. Sam seems to have stepped up to fill in some of the gaping chasms left in gaming by the polygonal abortion that calls itself ‘Duke Nukem Forever.’ Sam is the epitome of a steroid ridden, wisecracking, fearless headcase, always happy to punch evil straight in the balls.
The opening levels prove frustrating, especially if you are aware of what you can expect from the weaponry later in the game. After the aformentioned eyeball ripping, you quickly find your starting kit of a sledgehammer, a pistol and a woeful shotgun (don’t worry, there’s a better one later) and you are stuck with these for a touch too long. They feel ineffective and lightweight which goes against the grain when the game’s core mechanic centres on going into action all-guns blazing.
The pace picks up eventually, as the enemy headcount rises dramatically and the weaponry improves to counter this. The weapons on offer are FPS stalwarts, shotguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers, with only the mystical leash offering anything fresh in terms of mechanics. Even the leash will feel familiar if you’ve played Bulletstorm but it’s implementation is slightly different, given the numbers of adversaries facing Sam.
So far, so Serious Sam. It’s more of the same essentially, but with a good level of graphical shine. The engine has to be capable of coping with the high number of attackers and long draw distances, which it does so admirably. This is presumeably possible as the AI is about as basic as it gets and although textures and enviroments look good, the level of effects is pretty average. To be fair to the AI, it doesn’t really need to be much more than ‘Head for Sam > Attack Sam’ to tick the right boxes.
Audio is nothing revolutionary either, but it is worth noting that the bestiary is very distinguishable through clear audio clues. The approaching suicide bombers’ incessant “AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” will haunt you, as will the boney, clattering gallop of the Kleer. These subconciously help you to switch to an appropriate weapon and aim in the right direction, all helping to tighten the experience
Multiplayer has been well catered for, with the entire Single Player campaign being playable co-operatively, including local split-screen, with the number of enemies being increased exponentially. The highlight (with the right players) is the excellent Survival mode, which pits players against wave after wave of nasties, serving to really highlight the strengths of the game mechanics.
The core gameplay will fulfill but not exceed the expecations of the series’ fans. The increase in graphical finesse is welcome, but is also not going to set the world alight. Ultimately, for 1200 MS Points, Serious Sam 3: BFE represents solid value and a predictable, but very enjoyable, pure arcade FPS experience. Fans of the series are well catered for and will be pleased to see Sam has not gone the way of a certain Mr. Nukem. Newcomers to the series, well, you’re in for some sweaty palms and swearing, but also a grin.
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