Game Review: Serious Sam 3

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The Serious Sam franchise is on a special sale on Steam right now, which makes this the perfect moment for a game review of Serious Sam 3. The game was released about a year ago for PC, a few months ago for Xbox360 and the Linux and PS3 versions are coming in the near future.

Serious Sam 3 is a Serious Sam game and, by saying that, nothing else needs to be clarified gameplay wise. It’s exactly what you expect it to be and nothing more. For those of you who haven’t played any of the games in the franchise, this is a classic shoot 'em up with a first person view.

A loose script puts the main character, Sam Stone, into mostly open environments where he’s attacked by large hordes of enemies that need to be mowed down to advance. Enemy AI is dead simple, with most enemies and creatures advancing to you and shooting you in a straight line, which is fine because they’re thrown at you in dozens, sometimes they’re pretty big and fast, and if they were a bit smarter and well-equipped you’d be dying all the time.

Naturally, you need to avoid enemies by strafing, sometimes covering, and being as accurate with your guns as possible while not lifting your finger from the trigger. You’re given plenty of ammo to do the job. I find the gameplay mechanics of Serious Sam very fun and entertaining but I understand if some players are not particularly attracted by this kind of game.

If you have never played a Serious Sam game, check out some videos in YouTube to see what it’s all about before deciding to buy. Here’s one courtesy of theRadBrad.

In the center of the this universe sits the main character: Sam "Serious" Stone. When the franchise was created many years ago (released in Q1 2001), Sam was basically a Duke Nukem clone. A tough man with big muscles delivering deep-voiced one-liners as he killed enemies, which would remind us of what we had seen in Duke Nukem 3D.

However, 3D Realms failure to deliver Duke Nukem Forever in time and proper shape, with Gearbox finishing the game and shipping it only to meet fierce criticism, Serious Sam is all we got left and fills the gap very nicely. It’s true that Duke Nukem 3D was not a shoot 'em up, but it shares some similarities with the Serious Sam franchise. Fast-paced action, tons of guns and ammo, jokes, tough guy, etc.

Technical aspects

This is going to be quick. Technically, Serious Sam 3 does not innovate on any front but improves what needs to be improved to bring the franchise up to date. The graphics are fine, with great work on the textures and lighting both indoor and outdoors, the cinematic cutscenes are better, the sound is good. Minor complaint: as I said in the Rage review, quicksaving still pauses the game for a fraction of a second.

Graphics can be customized in detail as it always is and should be on PC, you get a FOV slider (yay!) that appears to configure the real horizontal FOV (boo!). Set it to 106 in 16:9 to get the classic PC FOV. The game properly supports widescreen and multimonitor superwide screen resolutions fine.

Gameplay

Gameplay wise the only criticism to be made is that they haven’t changed anything, which can be bad… or not. The script details are almost nonexistant or forgettable, with only the general idea of an ongoing war between humanity and a powerful creature known as Mental.

Apart from that, the gameplay is as solid as it’s always been and you may find it very fun and entertaining, as it’s always been with Serious Sam. I want to talk about two details which are worht mentioning, IMHO.

The first one is Sam’s character, as it’s the only one that’s truly developed through the cutscenes and frequent one-liners that he delivers. His lines are usually funny, they sometimes reference other games or movies and I think they really nailed that minor aspect of the game. They’re also infrequent enough that you’re not bored or annoyed by them. In the first minutes of the game, for example, after killing enemies with your hands and a sledgehammer you’re finally given your first gun, a pistol. Sam welcomes this fact with joy by exclaiming "Mr. Smith! Mr. Wesson! Glad you could make it!".

Or the first time you meet a space monkey. It crosses the screen quickly, leaving you thinking "What the hell was that?" only for Sam to say exactly that a moment later. At that point, you’re totally in Sam’s shoes.

The second remarkable gameplay aspect is present in all Serious Sam games so it’s not anything new. Yet not many reviews mention it. It’s about the active crosshair. It changes colors depending on the health of the enemy you’re targetting, which is a very simple and effective way of conveying that information to the player in the middle of a fight.

Moreover, when the objects you’re targetting are too close, which may not be that unusual given that you’re attacked by hordes of enemies, the crosshair slightly changes sizes and moves to mark you the exact point at which bullets would impact if fired due to perspective. It’s hard to explain with words, so a video can help. Notice the crosshair when the player gets close to and walks by the blue dumpster. It’s very helpful and I don’t know why it’s not been adopted by more games. Of course, it can be disabled from the options menu if you don’t like it.

Scores

I really enjoyed the game and recommend buying it if you’re into first person shooters and classic shoot 'em ups.

  • Technical aspects: 8.

  • Gameplay: 8.

  • Overall score: 8.

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