Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter Review (PC)

Posted by Jim Cook, Nov 28, 2009 23:04

Some of the best games in the first person shooter genre are epic; they have top-notch production values, amazing graphics and level design, in-depth puzzles, tactical combat, and so on. Half-Life, Halo, and the like; you know them, and probably recognize them as classics. But they’re not the only way to do a good FPS game, as Serious Sam proves.

This game has open disdain for that sort of thing, and Serious Sam would much rather entertain you by giving you access to lots of guns, lots of ammo, and sending wave after wave of enemies your way. It’s primarily interested in giving you an adrenaline rush, and if you’re the sort who liked the frantic, highly mobile shootouts from later levels of Doom then you’ll love this. Essentially a remake of the 2001 original, Serious Sam HD makes only minor changes to the game content, hoping that its budget price tag and graphical update will be sufficient. Thankfully, it is.

Serious Sam starts casually enough, giving you a revolver and knife while pitting you against small groups of enemies. This is just to let you get used to the controls, and it won’t be long before you’re wielding a variety of shotguns, miniguns, rocket launchers, and other classic FPS guns against hordes of foes. While there is a basic plot, it’s really just an excuse to keep you moving onward and dealing with dozens of enemies at a time. When you finish one wave of foes, it’s very likely that another will follow, then another still, and possibly one or two more for good measure. You will be almost constantly dodging attacks while unleashing a storm of bullets on countless foes, and your only respite from this will be brief periods of solving very simple puzzles while exploring, healing, and re-arming for the next battle.

That’s just how it goes in single-player, incidentally. The real draw of this game is its sixteen player online co-op, where more players and the ability to customize how the game behaves means you’ll have even more frantic fun with friends. Despite a lack of dedicated servers (one of the players serves as the host), the game seems to work fairly well online. I’ve had occasional minor to moderate issues with it, though the worst of them is the fact that the host player can cause the session to end abruptly if they decide to leave. This is unfortunate, but if you manage to gather a group of reliable friends then it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Suffice to say, teaming up with friends to slam through hordes of enemies is a lot of fun, the sort of thing that really works for killing time and enjoying it.

Since you’ll be fighting so many enemies at once, variety is important and Serious Sam delivers. What starts off as just a few typical humanoid soldiers quickly expands into more creative foes like harpies that fly and either dive in for talon attacks or bombard you at long range, charging bulls, and even massive bosses. Any one of these foes on their own is boring, but when mixed in various ways they become a good challenge and make dodging a vital skill in single-player sessions. The variety also keeps things interesting in co-op play, and stands in very nice contrast to how plain the weapon selection is.

Despite its name, Serious Sam isn’t very serious. It openly mocks ’epic’ FPS games, with the titular hero making all sorts of silly quips as he fights absurd enemies. In addition, you’re allowed to customize (somewhat) the game’s gore; blood is the norm but there’s no reason you can’t have enemies spill flowers or candy if you want. Whenever it’s not exhausting you from waves of enemies one after another, it wants you to be humored or enjoying some exploration.

The ’HD’ part of the title comes from this game’s visual upgrade. It’s not just a resolution stretch of the original graphics, instead running on a new engine. While the graphical quality is matched by a fair number of other games, Serious Sam HD still looks good and I have no serious complaints about how it appears.

Serious Sam HD is admittedly a remake of a dated game. It’s obvious the developers knew that, and wisely offered this game at about $20. With only around a dozen or so stages to play in, the game is a tad limited in its scope. But it’s still fun, and fans of old-school FPS play will love this. I think most people will enjoy it if they can get a few online co-op sessions going with friends, and the only groups I can’t recommend it to are those who don’t like fast-paced FPS games or already had their fill of what the original Serious Sam has to offer. But for newcomers or those interested in reliving the rush of this classic game, $20 is a fair price and I think you’ll enjoy this title.

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter Review (PC)
7.5 Replay
There are several secrets to find in each stage, and online co-op is a great reason to keep coming back every so often.
8.0 Graphics
The HD face-lift looks fine, and it keeps reasonable pace with other modern games in this department.
7.5 Sound
The music is only so-so, but Serious Sam’s various remarks are hilarious and the weapon sound effects are very satisfying.
8.0 Gameplay
Classic ’enemy rush’ FPS gameplay still holds up fine today.
7.5 Multiplayer/Online Content
Online co-op for up to sixteen players usually works fine, but the lack of dedicated servers means the hosting player can disconnect and end everyone’s fun.
8.0 Overall
A thrilling, old-school FPS game at a reasonable price, Serious Sam HD shows the classics still have some spark to them.

Rating: 4.7, votes: 10

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