Serious Sam, much like Duke Nukem of old, is a series that doesn’t take itself very seriously, throwing all that serious nonsense – and likewise those boring, human enemies – out of the window, opting instead for rapid gunplay against alien foes. Serious Sam 3, however, much like Duke Nukem Forever, is a game that feels stuck in a by-gone age where a game like this could be acceptable to face the big-hitters of the time.[drop]That’s the thing about Serious Sam 3 though; the game isn’t trying to take on those triple A titles to gain the crown of the biggest and best shooter: instead, it’s following the path of the previous Sam games, by being purely fun. Serious Sam 3 is funny, it’s very enjoyable, it’s bloody and gory, it’s ridiculous, yet it’s oh so repetitive. The third game in the series – dubbed BFE (though Croteam have yet to explain exactly what that means) – is actually a prequel, set before the events of the first game, in the 22nd century. It takes place on an invaded Earth – in Egypt, overrun by Sam’s bizarre alien foes.
I found a lot of enjoyment in my time with Serious Sam 3; from the very first few steps in the game it manages to be hilariously gory. Sam isn’t afraid to pull out a monster’s eyes and still-beating heart or smash them to a pulp with the sledgehammer he obtains in the first level, with blood splattering everywhere as he carries a trophy (read: body part) onwards. It’s all a very fast-paced affair; as hordes of enemies in large environments close in on Sam, a press of the shift key will have him speedily sprinting away, before you fire your entire ammo supply into them in a matter of seconds.
Cover isn’t a familiar word in Sam’s vocabulary – there are obstacles with enemies behind them but the areas are, for the most part, large, open spaces filled with creatures. Even when you’re pushed into a dark basement you’ll find it leads to an open underground environment rather than small corridors. And the dark basement sections can actually be quite creepy; having one or two enemies chasing you down a corridor might be unsettling, but when you’re overcome by a crowd of enemies in a large, near pitch-black room it can turn out to be quite scary indeed.
Oh, of course there’s guns too – there’s lots of guns, in fact. Although the melee attacks are extremely powerful, and sometimes the best option is to hammer the E key when a swarm attacks, these guns are useful for taking down the bigger opponents. In Sam’s arsenal there’s the standard pistol, shotguns and a machine gun, or some bigger weapons such as rocket launchers and explosives; the weapons are all quite nice (and very useful), though none of the guns that I got my hands on blew me away – they all felt quite standard.
Right, what is it that makes BFE brilliant then? Well, it’s hard to explain without me having to come round to your house and show you, but there was one moment where I was smiling from ear to ear the first time I played it – and then still smiling the few times after. After killing a singular, headless, screaming enemy holding bombs in his hands, hordes of the same enemy appeared and heavy guitar music began to play – it was my task to exterminate this crowd of suicide bombers, before they reached me, and it felt absolutely awesome.[drop2]The game is clearly unfinished; the build I played was still beta and there were a few noticeable problems – long load times, trees that you can walk through amongst some animation issues. It’s easy to see why Croteam delayed its release until the 22nd of November, instead of it releasing this week as planned.
It’s not just the bugs that provide the only problems, though – truthfully, the game isn’t really anything special. Yes, it’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t feel like a modern shooter. I suppose that’s the point, it doesn’t really need to, but all I’m saying is from what I’ve played, it lacks a certain quality we’re used to, and it soon becomes repetitive, throwing hordes of enemies at you in similar – albeit different – open areas.
So, Serious Sam 3 is a bit hit and miss. On one hand the first half an hour or so is brilliantly fun, yet it becomes rather stale soon after this. Fighting swarms upon swarms of enemies in different locations around Egypt is far from spectacular. Still, the sixteen player co-op should be an absolute blast and I’ve only played three or four levels of the game fully (there’s twelve in total). It’s obvious that BFE doesn’t stand for Best F-ing (game) Ever, but here’s hoping that the final game manages to bring some variety to the fast-paced, enjoyable structure of the levels I played.