The Serious Sam Collection Review (Xbox 360)

First person shooters these days owe a lot to those that came before them. The likes of Doom, Quake and Goldeneye 64 all added elements to the genre that can still be found in games released today. The Serious Sam Collection holds those basic elements, yet seems outdated compared to more modern contemporaries.

The collection contains four games starring the titular action hero as he takes on the armies of his arch nemesis, Mental, in a war that spans from Ancient Egypt to the last days of Pompeii. In this package you’ll find Serious Sam: The First Encounter (TFE), Serious Sam: The Second Encounter (TSE), Serious Sam: Before First Encounter (BFE) and Serious Sam Double D XXL, the latter of which appears to be the best of the lot.

[drop]Both TFE and TSE have been given HD upgrades in this collection to make them more appealing graphically, and for the most part they look good. Colours really stand out and the way enemies fall to pieces is pretty fun to see; even the blood remains on the ground in puddles and spray patterns. However, the looks can’t hide the now outdated gameplay.


The enemy AI only seems to have one real setting and that’s to charge at you with no concern for their own well-being. At first it feels fun to blast away a horde of beasts charging towards you but it can quickly get tiresome, especially when there isn’t really a change in how to play. This charging tactic also makes the game pretty difficult in places, even on the Normal difficulty setting.

On more than one occasion I’d enter an area and be overwhelmed by dozens of enemies charging at the same time towards me and killing me instantly – it became quite tedious very quickly. Luckily, there is a quick save feature you can use at any point, so once a particularly hard area was cleared you can quick save and avoid repeating the same trial.

The Second Encounter did feel like a better title overall than The First Encounter, as there was a lot more weapon variety early on, and it had a much better transition to HD than its predecessor.

The third instalment, Before First Encounter, was first released in 2011, and graphically it shows: the scenery has a lot more going for it with more cover and variety as well as featuring a lot more destruction; the gunplay felt a lot better too, in comparison to the previous titles.

The enemies themselves had been redesigned to look more imposing and the AI felt much more refined too. Of course, there were still some enemy types that would just charge but it didn’t feel as overwhelming as in the previous games. It was good to see that enemies with guns hide behind cover, though they don’t really manage to stay there and soon jump out to be shot. Another addition, in the form of a quick melee kill button also helped.

[drop2]While BFE is graphically good to look at there are some problems too: the game freezes for a few seconds during quick saving, which immediately broke any immersion. Pop-in of level items was also a regular occurrence and cutscenes had some stuttering sound and a couple of glitches with the visuals, including minor freezing.

The final game in this collection is Serious Sam Double D XXL, and this is where the gameplay really seems to click. Unlike the other games, DDXXL is a 2D side scrolling shooter which is fast and frantic. Where the other titles may soon become repetitive, this game proved fun throughout, with one core difference, aside from the presentation.

Namely, that difference is the Gunstacker, which may just be one of the best inclusions I’ve seen in gaming. During the course of DDXXL, you’ll find connectors and weapons; these connectors can be used to attach guns together in a stack of six weapons with no limitations on what kind of firearms can be put together. Combining your armaments added a new tactical element to the game, with different stacks working for different scenarios.

DDXXL really feels like the saviour of the collection, adding a fresh spin to the Serious Sam series. The level design was ace and the small cutscenes and outbursts from Sam were quite funny. The included challenges with leaderboards means there is an additional incentive to play through the game. There weren’t even any sound issues or visual problems as far as I could tell; it was just over the top, side scrolling fun.

What’s Good:

  • A collection of four games that will provide a lot of play time.
  • HD conversions do look really nice.
  • Serious Sam Double D XXL is just brilliant.
  • Gunstacker!

What’s Bad:

  • Can get repetitive fast.
  • Enemy numbers can easily overwhelm.
  • Quite a lot of sound and visual glitches in the 3D games.

The Serious Sam Collection contains three games that serve as a reminder of a bygone era. There’s no regenerative health here, iron sights aren’t common and enemies don’t really think, but rather just do. DDXXL on the other hand was incredibly fun, being a visual feast to look at. Overall it’s a decent collection of games, though more of a nod to the past than a title trying to fit in with the current crowd of shooters.

Score: 6/10



  1. I think you’ve missed the point a bit with the Serious Sam series.. They are basically a ‘tounge in cheek’ recreation of the old fashioned shooters you mention ( in-game gags include the knife being one of the most powerful weapons, in a game that lets you run around with a napolionic cannon!) with mindless enemies that are supposed to be exactly that. I found that where the games can struggle is when they do try to do something clever. The spinning rooms with cherry-bomb-head-men are a personal favourite!

    • I understood the point of it. It’s just that there are better games on the market these days which accomplish the same thing. Bulletstorm comes to mind.

  2. Double D sounds really good; I bought it on Steam last night while it was 59p. Thanks for pointing me to it, Aran.

  3. I agree with Loxstokk I think you have missed the point. To mark it down for for simple AI, and mindless, repetitive gunning is to mark a Battlefield game down for it’s clever mechanics and more tactical play. While I love a good tactical ‘realistic’ FPS, the Serious Sam games are absolutely brilliant for what they are, and i don’t personally believe ANY game comes close to the feeling that Serious Sam gives you….

    …when in many places there are an overwhelmingly ludicrously over the top amount of enemies coming at you in the distance. You hear the clip clop of some kleer skeletons, and the rumbling of a lot of enemies. Hundreds, maybe thousands coming from afar. You catch a glimpse of how many there are and a bit of panic sets in. :)

    You know the enemies are weak, are dumb, and will just charge at you, but that’s what is so brilliant about this gameplay. If the bombers lay in wait for me, or the kleers thought better of it and changed direction to try and flank me, then this would RUIN Serious Sam. I applaud it for the simple nature and overwhelming battles. No other game has this feeling. Maybe the orginal Doom games? but even these were not quite what i’m trying to convey about Serious Sam.

    I appreciate they may ‘look’ a bit dated, but the gameplay is Seriously fun ;)

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