First Level: Serious Sam HD: TFE

It was early in the millennium, back when LAN connections, fat monitors and beige computers were commonplace. My fascination with FIFA 94 had long-since died and the era of LAN gaming was well underway. With my (dad’s) home set-up, it was easy to be involved in many a LAN party, which included losing several days playing Serious Sam.

Powering through the huge ice-ridden level of Land of the Damned (which seemed to be populated by more enemies than we had bullets) my friend and I would skid across the slippery surface beneath our feet, mini-gun in hand, and mow down as many foes as we could before sprinting in the opposite direction and repeating the same series of events. Waves of opponents continued to advance with their behemoth-like dimensions scaling proportionally with time (or so it seemed). The speed, the weapons, the characters, the difficulty, the levels, it was all great fun over and over again. Along with Duke Nukem, Doom and Quake, Serious Sam was a staple of my childhood gaming so I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into the revamped HD version.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

After the first level of Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, deflated and disappointed only begin to describe my displeasure. Perhaps my memories of how the game played when I was a kid have become warped, or maybe I just expect more nowadays; probably a bit of both. The entire first hour of play was truly frustrating and disheartening.

It’s as fast, wacky and humorous as the rest of the franchise. Being a fast paced shooter, the aim-assist really helps when using the analogue sticks over the traditional mouse. Visually, it looks reasonable for a XBLA title, but nothing to shout about.

From here on out though it’s just as fierce a descent as one Spaniard’s fall from grace at Merseyside this season. One of the worst things has to be the audio, it’s atrocious. With spamming random noises that sound like a hyperactive cat has scampered across a synthesizer, it creates a horrible jarring cacophony of squawks. There’s a variety of sounds that I assume are tied to the enemies as they spawn and die, but they have no spacial placement and no consistent timing involved. This just makes it all feel awfully disjointed and clumsy.

One thing that is worse than the sound design is the spawning of enemies. Whilst mid-air appearance of enemies directly in front of you is annoying and carries the risk of cardiac arrest, at least you know what you’re up against and can fight them off. Enemies that spawn behind you on the other hand, are just cheap and aggravating. You end up being battered about and losing health with no clue as to why. The variety of different foes is overwhelming and silly like any previous Sam title but the varying difficulty given your particular location just adds to the frustration. If you’re indoors then the fast moving creatures become increasingly hard to shoot and that makes each section feel cramped.

Things do keep getting worse though. The penalty for getting additional health was the final straw for me. You see it out of the corner of your eye, some health packs and armour. It’s a welcome relief from the barrage of attacks that have been endured so far. You run over to get them but without warning an instant-kill boulder set off by some Dr. Jones inspired trap drops on your head, re-spawning you to the last checkpoint which is a good five minutes back. To avoid hurling my controller across the room, a time-out was called.

The child in me hopes that the game picks up and it gets back to how I remember Serious Sam being. Unfortunately though, my initial taste of Sam in the glorious HD era is far from glorious. This is not how I remember Serious Sam.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –