Serious Sam 3: BFE PC Review
Next to rhythm games and pet simulators, no other video game genre is dominating the market like first person shooters. And yet for all the success these games are making commercially, they do little to stir the imaginations of gamers creatively.
Hard to believe that over a decade ago, FPS games focused more on taking out supernatural forces instead of Nazis (or in Wolfenstein 3D’s case, supernatural Nazis), not to mention finger-mashing action over cinematic presentations where a giant “follow this guy” marker takes up the screen at all times.
After two HD re-releases and a balls-to-the-wall 2D Indie game, Serious Sam returns with a new sequel that strives to remind everyone of the golden days of LAN parties and 56k modems. Utilizing a current generation polish while sticking to oldschool twitch gameplay, can the marriage of old and new lead to a new kind of nostalgic mix? At the very least, it can’t be as bad as Duke Nukem Forever….right?
Despite being called Serious Sam 3, BFE is actually set before The First Encounter (hence the subtitle “Before First Encounter”), chronicling the invasion of Mental’s forces upon the earth. Sent in by the military (but apparently given special privileges not to follow their dress code) Sam “Serious” Stone must shoot his way through a war-torn urban city, dense deserts, dimly-lit corridors and a planet’s worth of alien bodies left behind his wake.
New to the series are cutscenes and characters that put Sam in a more interactive role beyond his cheesy one-liners (although there are still plenty of those). The banter between Sam and his fellow companions (including Quinn, a new female superior who communicates through telephone) is all done with a tongue-in-cheek tone, though thankfully the game never reaches DNF levels of self-indulgence or obscenity. That said, the cutscenes depicting Sam in third person are unintentionally bad, as human character models are clearly not developer Croteam’s strong suit.
The rest of the game, however, holds up quite well graphics-wise. While it certainly won’t give any of the Triple-A First Person titles a run for their money, the new engine does result in some impressive colours, a stark contrast to the limited colour palette found in other games of the same genre. All of Sam’s classic disposable enemies return (such as the one-eyed Gnarls, the screaming Kamikazes and my personal “favourite”, the highly-damaging Kleers. May they rot in hell forever) and are looking better in ever…particularly when they are blown up into smaller chunks of red jelly.
Once again, Serious Sam is all about the shooting and dispatching of millions of monsters, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the modern makeover, the game still employs its oldest tricks, from collecting health packs and armor to discovering secret caches of weapon ammunition. New to BFE is a melee button that allows Sam to wield a sledgehammer as well as instantly take out most enemies with a quick-killing melee attack (which are also unique to each monster, such as tearing the eyeball off a Gnar or snapping the neck of a soldier drone). If you’re expecting to duck under cover, regenerate health, or nab instant kills through headshots, this is the wrong game for you. Also, you’re a sissy and girls laugh at you.
Like previous games in the series, combat in Serious Sam is all about attrition. The enemies may have basic attack patterns, but they have the advantage in numbers…many, many numbers. The various encounters players must shoot their way through go for such long periods of time it almost feels like they are respawning infinitely. In truth, though, you must endure the hordes of bloodthirsty beasts and hope you can scrounge up enough ammo for your strongest weapons to pull through. At least the areas are wide open enough to run around and pace out a good defensive.
Too wide, actually; the biggest issue with BFE is that each of the game’s areas are simply too large and too similar in design, to the point that the only way to get your bearings straight is to run in the direction that Mental’s monsters keep spawning from. Even when your path is clear, the level designs are simply too lackluster and barren that they make the lengthy battles drag out even longer (and even go so far as to delay the amount of time before the next shoot-out. A quiet Sam is a sad Sam). The checkpoint system, which usually updates after every major encounter, can occasionally take too long to autosave considering the length of the encounters, requiring manual saving more often than not.
If you have the patience and energy drinks to withstand the magnitude of forces dedicated to destroying you, Serious Sam 3 delivers more heart-racing action than any other FPS on the market. And if you prefer shooting it up with friends, the game’s co-op modes can create more hours of carnage with up to 16 (!) players working together in either the main campaign or a “until the last man” survival mode. Don’t expect the difficulty to get any easier with 15 other shooters, though; there are plenty of trigger-happy aliens to go around.
In today’s market, there is still a place for games like Serious Sam that focus purely on gun-toting gameplay over big budget cinematics. In its effort to create a more visually relevant engine, however, the repetitive environments and obnoxiously big areas makes Sam’s journey to find more aliens to shoot drag longer than necessary. The frantic and exhaustive action is still there and looks better than ever, but you are now required to take extended breaks for the sake of sanity.