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A serious letdown
Serious Sam - The First Encounter (PC)
Member Name: Ian Proudfoot
Serious Sam - The First Encounter (PC)
Date: 04/06/01, updated on 04/06/01 (93 review reads)
Advantages: Good Graphics, Initial Fun
Disadvantages: Tedious , Repeative
There’s nothing like a good First Person shoot em up (FPS) to while away the hours. I’ve probably played most of them on a variety of platforms beginning with the legendary Wolfstein through Doom to the trilogy of Quake games stopping off the way to play Duke Nukem, Unreal, the classic Half Life and a slew of others (Blood, Shogo and Requiem to name a few). There’s something engrossing about these games that always draws me back to the genre. Maybe it’s the immersion fact, maybe it’s the style of game play or maybe it’s because according to Right wing American pressure groups I want to be turned into a mindless killing machine. What ever it is I also seem to come back to FPS over any other game genre.
Anyway I digress, recently there has be a movement in the software industry (intentional or not) to bring the FP back into the single player arena. As everything seemed to be heading for the online extravaganza experience as shown by the success of a thousand on-line mods for Half Life, Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. Games like Kiss: Psycho circus and Clive Barker’s Undying and now Serious Sam have but the emphasis back on the single person experience. Which for people like myself who haven’t the time or willing for on-line gaming gives us a much needed break for bot matches (bots being computer controlled opponents) and hideous ping rates (real time delays in on-line gaming).
Serious Sam was reviewed as being a great one player experience and a good game to boot as well. So with when I received by wages for the month I popped down to my local games emporium and purchased it. First thing that struck me was the price, 29.99. I was led to believe that Serious Sam was to have a retail price of 19.99. Well initially it was, but the publishing company saw all the good reviews the game and decided to jack up the price. Which is nice! Just imagine the same thing happening with a CD, just because an a
lbum got heaps of praise thrown on it. “Well we decided to charge an extra fiver for the new album by artist X because the critics love it”. You don’t offen see games publishers knocking their prices down if the game is bad do you?
Anyway I decided to purchase Serious Sam anyway and after a smooth and easy install. I was ready to rumble. As with all games there are for me three key factors that maketh the game, the graphics and game engine, the playability and the overall enjoyment factor. Well I can tell you that Serious Sam passes on 2 of the 3 but falls considerably short on the other. Want to know where, then read on.
First up the graphics and games engine. The first thing of merit with Serious Sam is that the Croatian based Croteam have build their own 3D games engine for Serious Sam. Which makes a break from the normal modified Quake or Unreal engine used in the majority of FPS. The thing is it Croteam have created a very good engine The 3D modelling is excellent, with the game featuring a variety of different enemy models of different form and size from the small humanoid ground troops to the massive creatures and end of level bosses which dwarf anything seen in FPS before. The game also handles wider spaces very well , there is none of the slow down you get with the Quake 3 engine when you move to a more open environment.
Add to this a good physics engine which maps expertly the movement of the enemies and the variety of weapons you have in your possession. The grenade launcher perhaps shows the engine at its best. The grenade launcher allows you to launch grenades as either at short range or as a mortar. The projectory path is sublime, taking it the angle of launch as well as any reflection or bounces off walls etc..
Serious Sam however really shines in one region over other FPS engines and that is that it can deal with hundreds of characters and models moving on screen at once. Where as most g
ames can only copy with around 10 enemies at the most on screen at once, Serious Sam’s engine can deal with hundreds with easy. For the first time since Doom, playing a FPS is about the number of enemies and dispatching them on mass.
The engine and the fact it can handle a huge number of on-screen models helps make Serious Sam a highly playable game. The first thing when playing Serious Sam you will notice is the frantic nature of the game. Where as more recent FPS have gone for AI based enemies, Serious Sam reverts to the old school bundle style of game play, where the enemies just run straight towards you all guns blazing. Well nearly all the Suicide bombers scream at you then explode rather than shoot. This initially caused me great confusion as I have developed more stealth orientated tactics for FPS. So after being forced to get back to old style tactics (strafe and fire) I was quickly engrossed in Serious Sam. Playing on Normal skill level I found the game a serious challenge (pun intended) but also and most importantly an enjoyable and occasionally inspiring one.
So far so good for Serious Sam, it may lack any plot (No Half Life or Undying scripting with Sam) just a simple battle to the end of the level and if it moves kill it scenario, but it does it good job of carrying it off. Well for the early levels it does. However as the game progresses the level design and game play is stripped to the minimum. Early levels involve moving through ruins rife with tunnels, stairs and elaborate architecture, Which not only makes the game gorgeous eye candy but also gives it variety. Later levels on the other hand just seem to be one large area followed by another open area. These open areas just become a tedious stream of move 10m fight off a attack of a ever increasing numbers of creatures before moving 10m to pick up my ammo and health to fight off the next swarm of monsters and ad infintum until you reach the end of the level.
The thing is this is not an easy at it seems the sheer bulk of attacking creatures means that any slip up in aiming or using the wrong weapon at the wrong time means your dead. This leads to a policy of resorting to quick saving the game every time you beat off a wave of creatures. After a while it all leads to a massive lack in variation in game play. As the game progresses the only thing that changes is that you face more and more creatures at the same time and you save your progress more and more. Occasionally you get a new type of enemy or a new weapon but apart from that there’s nothing that really pushes you on to play the game further. The game as seems fairly short and on a easier skill level I could imagine the game only taking a few days to complete (which might explain the originally cheaper price tag).
There is one thing that Serious Sam does impress with though and that is as a multiplayer experience. The game can be played on LAN or remotely as a co-operative game or as Death match (with several variations of play available). I also suspect the mod community will create a good set of Counter Strike type games sooner or later. The biggest blessing is that the game can be played multiplayer on one computer using a split screen view for up to 4 players like Goldeneye on the N64. I’ve yet to try this out (having no friends in the real world) but the though of 4 people crowded around a single keyboard and a mouse does seem a bit strange.
To sum up Serious Sam is a game with a great engine and is highly playable, but is let down by being one dimensional and tedious in it’s game play. A shame really as there is potential for something very special to be created with the game engine. My advice is try and pick up the game cheaply if you can and then disengage your brain and glue your finger permanently to the fire button. Let’s hope that someone somewhere does something more interesting with the game engine next t