Welcome back, Sam

For maybe my first hour in Serious Sam 3: BFE, I worried I’d made a big mistake. The game only cost me $20 thanks to a Steam sale, but already, I was beginning to regret the purchase. Boredom was setting in. This was not the Serious Sam I remembered.

Sure, it all looked familiar. Sam wore his trademark T-shirt and jeans, the environments were expansive and brightly lit, and I recognized the enemies from the first two games in the series. Something was missing, though. For a moment, I wondered if my tastes might have matured. Had I outgrown the arcadey action of old-school shooters? Did I need something more?

Indeed, I did: more enemies, more guns, and more ammo, all of which began to appear in greater volume once Serious Sam 3 really got going. This turned into a game of epic proportions, and I can’t help but giggle a little just thinking about it. I haven’t matured one bit, apparently.

The Serious Sam franchise has always been defined by wide-open spaces filled with hordes of enemies, and BFE eventually fits the bill. As your arsenal grows, so does the number of monsters around every corner. There’s no attempt at realism here; bad guys spawn out of thin air, sometimes right before your eyes, and you’ll often come across huge clumps of them just standing around, waiting for your arrival. What these opponents lack in intelligence they make up in numbers. Through nine of 12 levels, over 3,600 bodies have been left in my wake—more than 1,000 on one level alone. I haven’t been swarmed like this since Left 4 Dead, and then I had three NPCs watching my back.

Up to 16 people can play Serious Sam 3 cooperatively, and one gets the impression the single-player campaign was designed with that many folks in mind. To survive the onslaught on your own, you’ll need to scour the environment for health, ammo, and armor. You’ll need some mad skillz, and you’ll have to be more tactical than one might expect. Waves of different enemies attack all at once, and each breed presents its own set of challenges. Some combinations favor unbridled aggression, while others call for a quick retreat and regroup before a more measured attack.

Although enemies typically come from multiple directions, most of the action takes place on a horizontal plane. The levels are strewn with liberal amounts of cover, but it’s spaced well enough to leave players plenty of room to maneuver. I’ve probably spent at least a quarter of the game circle strafing, usually while throwing my entire body left and right in a desperate attempt to dodge volleys of incoming rockets. I’ve also spent a lot of time reloading the last checkpoint after meeting a violent end. Serious Sam 3 isn’t brutally difficult on the "normal" setting, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you’re not on your game. Few things are as thrilling as surviving a big battle with just a sliver of health and a handful of shells, though. The challenge is part of the allure.

BFE‘s arsenal offers ample power for the task at hand. Still, I wish developer Croteam had taken a few more liberties with the payload. The cannon is a brilliantly comical addition to the assortment of standard-issue shooters, but it left me wanting more outlandish departures from the norm.

The more I play Serious Sam 3, the more I get the sense that Croteam didn’t want to step too far outside its comfort zone. If I didn’t know better, I might have guessed this was a high-fidelity remake rather than a proper sequel. The middle-eastern environments remind me a lot of the earlier games, and the enemies are pretty much carbon copies. There’s a lot to be said for bringing back old favorites with better graphics, but I wish BFE felt more like a new game and less like an old one dressed up with new technology.

To be fair, that technology produces impressive visuals. The individual elements and effects aren’t particularly stunning on their own, but things look pretty good when the screen is filled with dozens of enemies charging through a hail of gunfire and rocket exhaust. Just don’t pay too much attention to the structures and architecture. They feel a little short on detail, perhaps because Croteam wanted room in the polygon budget for more adversaries.

Thankfully, Serious Sam 3 has plenty of graphics settings that can be easily tuned to suit different system configurations. The menu system is excellent, and it’s loaded additional tweaking and control options. Despite being available for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, BFE feels like a PC game through and through. It even has mod support, plus a couple of things borrowed from the console crowd: split-screen multiplayer and a survival mode that trades the slow ramp of the campaign for an instant barrage of baddies.

After a sluggish start, it didn’t take long for my initial doubts about Serious Sam 3 to be buried under a pile of corpses. For the most part, this is exactly the game I hoped it would be: an old-school shooter with a coat of fresh paint and absolutely zero pretense. Unsophisticated? Absolutely, but that’s not the same thing as being dumbed down. If anything, Serious Sam 3 is a game that hasn’t smartened up. It’s also a whole lot of fun—big, stupid fun. I hope I never outgrow whatever juvenile tendencies cause a smile to cross my lips at the sight of a minigun, a pile of ammo, and a herd of approaching monsters.

Comments closed
    • b_naresh
    • 8 years ago

    Does it have Sam’s trademark cheesy one-liners?

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      Just a few, the game sets a tone [i<][b<]far too serious[/b<][/i<] (no pun intended) for my taste.

    • plonk420
    • 8 years ago

    has the audio engine improved? that’s my main concern.

    after being spoiled by L4D’s AMAZING audio engine (you can almost tell where behind you a zombie is running up to from … on TWO speakers), i was SORELY disappointed by Serious Sam HD 1/2’s audio engine. enemies seem to be dead ahead, directly to the left/right, or directly behind you. or seemingly that bad.

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      Yes. There’s semi-realistic frequency masking, doppler (tuned again so it’s less ridiculous than we remember), and echoes, I found it pretty nice.

      Might not be as good as Valve games under all circumstances, because Valve also does that frequency suppression trick the farther you get from something, which I also like.

    • Jambe
    • 8 years ago

    Hm, in line with the Wot I Think from some RPS chap — a sluggish start, and a formulaic end, but totally worth it if you wanna get some nonsensical shoot-and-punch on.

    • just brew it!
    • 8 years ago

    Damn… as I feared, I must now set up a dual-boot so I can play this!

      • I.S.T.
      • 8 years ago

      That would be wise. The first few levels are kind of eh-ish, but they improve quickly. Do expect it to kick your teeth in at first. It’s harder than any of the other FPS SS games.

    • CuttinHobo
    • 8 years ago

    It’s been a long time since I played a Serious Sam game… thank you for reminding me of how much fun it was. 😀

    Now that Sam is back on my radar, I’ll be on the lookout for a sale!

    • phileasfogg
    • 8 years ago

    Hey Geoff, you know those green ‘ thumbs up’ and red ‘thumbs down’ icons that accompany each post/comment? How come those icons don’t appear for the story/article that everyone’s discussing?! 😉 If you add those icons to this article, I’d click on green 100 times if I could 😉

    • bcronce
    • 8 years ago

    I wish the optimized the game better. 30-40fps is painful. I get the same FPS no matter which graphics settings I use. Low CPU + Low GPU give me the same results as high.

      • Dposcorp
      • 8 years ago

      Maybe that Pentium 3 and Radeon 7500 are starting to show their age 🙂

      • I.S.T.
      • 8 years ago

      Sounds like a bug somewhere, or something you’re running in your system is cutting you off at the knees.

        • paulWTAMU
        • 8 years ago

        I’ve had real problems wit this, and only this. I have a 460GTX and a decent quad core CPU. ANd I only game at 1680×1050, but this game stutters painfully.

          • I.S.T.
          • 8 years ago

          Strange… I don’t really stutter much and I play with medium settings on a GTS 250 at 800×600 or 1024×768(I don’t recall which offhand).

    • Meadows
    • 8 years ago

    So apparently, you’re one of the hipsters who’s not bothered by the ridiculous need to reload weapons.

      • ShadowEyez
      • 8 years ago

      Reloading? Lol.

      I’ve played the first two, and they’re awesome. If you’re playing a game where you run around with a cannon blasting endless aliens who appear out of thin air, I doubt you’d care to have to “reload”.
      You’re not doing it for the realism (that’s what real life is for – realism) but it’s still fun.

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        In Serious Sam 3, you HAVE TO reload. I see you haven’t even played the game, and chose to misread my comment instead.

      • I.S.T.
      • 8 years ago

      I dislike it myself, but it’s a small complaint. I am more annoyed at the terrible sound effect they use for most weapons’ reloading animation. Well, that and the generally poor looking reload animations.

    • Dposcorp
    • 8 years ago

    Thanks for the write up……….in split screen mode, can you use two keyboards and two mice?
    Also, how adult themed is the gore……I am wondering if I can let my young kids play this a bit.

      • ludi
      • 8 years ago

      Assuming this follows previous releases, the gore can be set to different colors or a “hippie” mode in which gibs become pumpkins and carrots, and the blood spatter texture becomes flowers.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This