Review: Serious Sam HD: 1st & 2nd Encounter

Once upon a time there was a 16 year old girl whose early gaming experiences had comprised of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. She longed for another title that provided such mindless pleasures and for some reason hadn’t really paid much attention to Quake or Unreal during that period of time. Then she met Sam. Sam reckoned he was a Serious soul. He wasn’t. He was brash, excitable, cheesy as hell and loved to shoot everything that moved. Kind of like Duke Nukem but without as much misogyny.

As you might have guessed by now, I’m talking about myself. I loved Serious Sam, once upon a time. It was mindless but so much fun. The perfect antidote to the relatively hefty tales within Deus Ex and Baldur’s Gate. In the harsh glare of 2011 and an older, not exactly wiser me, I can’t help but think that Serious Sam is more than showing its age now.

[drop]This edition features the two XBLA releases – Serious Sam: The First Encounter and Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, both with a glorious HD makeover and the obligatory HD tag to their name. They’re typically enjoyable in brief doses and fantastically enjoyable when played co-operatively but alone, you’ll notice just how dated everything is.

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The first one is set in Egypt. That’s about all you’ll bother to notice. Much like the original Doom, there’s no need to pay much attention to the storyline other than that the things that move need shooting. The variety of enemies is indeed impressive. Headless suicide bombers come running at you, peculiar skeletal horses approach at speed while throwing projectiles at you and some thunderous bulls do all they can to trample you. And that’s just in the first level or two. By the end, you’re up against huge robots and demonic type creatures.

It’s forever frantic, particularly on higher difficulty levels. Reacting quickly is essential. Fortunately an aim assist option helps enormously here and while old hands might laugh at the thought, it really does boost the enjoyment of the experience. It’s not like there’s any cover to hide behind here. You’ll be typically circle strafing to try to dodge bullets. This isn’t an intelligent shooter; it’s one that completely depends on your reflexes. Gun types are similarly frenetic, ranging from dual revolvers to miniguns and a cannon with balls that slice through anything in their wake. All that’s missing from The First Encounter’s arsenal is a chainsaw.

[drop2]The Second Encounter makes up for this by providing you with a chainsaw within minutes of starting and a flame thrower. A ridiculously effective flamethrower that makes you want to keep it clutched in your grasp for as long as possible. Ultimately though, The Second Encounter is much the same. Open spaces still mean that any second now, a huge flurry of creatures after your blood will leap out from nowhere and you’ll still be required to react extremely quickly. There is the odd addition of a sniper rifle though which feels a little disjointed compared to such mental action elsewhere.

The Second Encounter also comes with a Survival option which is essentially Endless mode, or a simpler form of Horde mode and many other clones. Of course it was first (or at least one of the firsts) but it does feel lacking in functionality compared to newer and better titles. There are more multiplayer options in the form of Capture the Flag and Deathmatch but don’t expect to find much of a community any more. The time has passed unfortunately.

Pros:

  • Ideal antidote to thought provoking games
  • Great fun with friends
  • Perfect way to destress after a long day
  • Doesn’t take itself too seriously

Cons:

  • Only great fun in short doses otherwise it begins to grate
  • Multiplayer is pretty dead
  • Clocks in at only 3hrs or so per game
  • The memories are better than the reality

Serious Sam is old. It’s sad to admit. Much like when your beloved pet is getting on a bit and you really, really don’t want to admit that their time is running out. There’s still fun to be had here but in a nostalgia infused sort of way. If you play it for too long you begin to notice just how monotonous it can get. There’s just no development with the first and last level of each game offering the exact same gameplay. Released at a budget price makes it easier to recommend but even then, to be truly worth the price, you need to make sure that you have keen friends to play co-operatively with. It’s just not as much fun on your own as it used to be.

Score: 5/10

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7 Comments

  1. There are so many games (including this one) where we have to be honest about how things have moved on. The natural evolution of the industry means we, to a certain degree, change with it. It’s inevitable. Some games transplant well into a remake, others worship at the ass-master altar of crap. Sadly, and much like a rotund date stepping off the train, I think a huge number of us could see this coming a mile off.

  2. What a shame. It looked like a lot of fun back in the day. Somehow, I can’t help but wonder if this is a forewarning for DNF.

  3. Nice to meet you. :)

  4. i loved this game when it came out. but like you say, things move on.

  5. I was an amazing game when it came out (of Croatia), and it was dirt cheap £10 for nearly an entire game. Man the LAN game we had on this game at work were almost as epic as Doom and Quake 3.
    But sometimes you convince yourself that it’s still a great game and the rose tinted beer goggles are working fine.

    • Type IT (not I was an amazing game).

  6. I like the four armed alien doing the Alan Partridge ‘Aha’ stance in the second screenshot.

    Good review too. I never played SS I think out of some weird loyalty to Duke Nukem so perhaps I’ll give this a miss as well.

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