Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter PC Review

With all the HD remakes of classic games coming out, gamers have a chance to revisit the classic games of generations past, witnessing the foundations that laid out the current games we presently enjoy as well as experiencing antiquated but still enjoyable gaming mechanics. But what today’s players may find most surprising of the classic games are the brutal, if downright impossible difficulty found in these old games. Companies back then were less concerned about catering to the casual crowd and more interested in challenging their hardcore audience with as many controller-tossing obstacles as their fresh minds could conceive.

For the current generation of FPS fans, the high def remake of Serious Sam was probably the biggest proverbial kick in the teeth; focusing less on immersive environments and realistically modeled weapons, the Serious Sam games primarily focused on nonstop, visceral action, literally cramming each area with aliens, demons, cyborgs, skeletons, and every other inhuman horror that has defined the FPS genre since the ‘90s. It was brutal, it was loud, and it was a hell of a good time. Looking to strike while the iron is hot, developer Croteam has quickly released the second of Sam’s HD hijinks, a direct sequel that is no less serious but even more chaotic than his first.

Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter leaves the titular hero still stuck in the past, momentarily sidetracked from his quest to eliminate alien overlord Mental. Beginning in Central America, Sam must travel through historic civilizations and temples, collecting ancient artifacts to help him succeed in his mission while fighting off the near limitless armies of Mental’s army. From reanimated corpses (many with bombs attached to their headless bodies) to rampaging bulls and multi-limbed hellspawns, everything but the kitchen sink Is thrown in Sam’s path, but with the help of some paradoxical weapons picked up along the way, those old Mayan temples will soon be packed with the charred chunks of unfortunate aliens.

On a technical level, Serious Sam follows the simple FPS conventions that have been commonplace since the early days of Doom and Duke Nukem; players will navigate huge outdoor areas and labyrinthine temples, often having to find an obscure switch or item in order to open the locked doors leading further on. Naturally, a host of enemies stand in the way of your progress, but to describe them as relenting would be an understatement: enemies will routinely appear and attack with almost every step you take, and while their patterns are basic enough to figure out, their strength lies in their numbers. The sheer volume of adversaries pouring out of the woodworks can become quite exhausting, but also exhilarating. In most games, this kind of chaos would be reserved for a game’s endurance run, but for Serious Sam, its only level 3.

It’s a good thing your arsenal has increased, as taking down the scourges of the universe has never been so satisfying. You’ve got the standard pistols and shotguns, along with rocket launchers, miniguns, and an old-timey portable cannon, but the sequel tosses in a few familiar-but-welcome additions including a chainsaw and flamethrower. Knowing which weapon is most effective against each enemy type goes a long way, but keeping your health up and your ammo plentiful is the real key to survival. Fortunately, there are ample supplies of both scattered throughout the area, but even that may not be enough to deal with this horde of foes. Fortunately, there are tons of hidden supplies and weapons found under each suspicious looking nook and cranny, but for every extra helping you stumble upon, an extra batch of monsters are waiting to attack your freshly healed hero. This is one game that makes you work for every ammo you find, and every step you take.

The “HD” in the title isn’t just for show, as the colorful environments and re-textured models results in an eye-popping experience (filled with plenty of other explosive body parts). It may not measure up to the graphical splendor of today’s FPS games, but the real priority lies in the manic gameplay. The outside environments are quite large for a linear shooting experience, and oftentimes drag a bit with seemingly endless roads. Cutscenes have a tendency to drag as well, consisting of extended camera sweeps to point players in the right direction after an activated switch. The story is mercifully light and mostly relegated to database entries, while Sam’s growl-induced one-liners deliver just the right kind of cheese for a game like this. Sound becomes quite important at determining the kind of enemy lurking behind the corner, and you will grow to fear the howling cries of suicide bombers surrounding your screen.

With an online multiplayer mode as well as replay features, not to mention several difficulty options that’ll make players thankful for a quicksave button, Sam’s second outing is for serious gamers everywhere.

8 out of 10
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