The genre of the first person shooter was born with simple elements in mind: shoot, strafe, win. Since then it has moved on to loftier frontiers, better stories, bigger things. Despite this it's an lot of fun to go back to the basics once in a while. 2001's Serious Sam was the kind of mindless fun that a PC gamer needs every once in a while. No long cut-scenes, no intricate plot, just the opportunity to turn some harpies into feathered confetti. The sequel, Serious Sam II, has a lot of potential but manages to miss out on the essentials that made Croteam's first encounter a success. Read on for my impressions of Serious Sam II.
- Title: Serious Sam II
- Developer: Croteam
- Publisher: 2K Games
- System: PC (Xbox)
- Reviewer: Zonk
- Score: 5/10
The problem comes with everything between coming to a new area and moving on. I'll get to that in a moment, though. I'd like to paint an overall picture first. Gameplay is very much like that of the original title. The title sports pure FPS-standard controls. You use the controls to aim a bevy of weapons at oncoming hordes of enemies. Where Half-Life 2 places enemies intelligently and Doom 3 had them leaping at you from the shadows, SamII throws wave after wave of unintelligent monsters in your direction, daring you to take your eyes off the prize for even a moment. The fun factor of the original Sam, at least with this facet of gameplay, is still sound. Having to deal with over a dozen critters moving in your direction at once is both intimidating and amusing. Death doesn't hold much fear, as you have multiple lives and can respawn if you do end up meeting the grim reaper. Tossing death back at your foes is accomplished with a dizzying array of weaponry, from the standard rocket launcher to a paired set of submachine guns all the way to a parrot-bomb. Each weapon, besides having an amusement factor, is capable of taking out different types of enemies. Enemy types are varied, and in addition to keeping you on your feet make you think a bit as well.
Besides running and gunning, there are some vehicles sequences as well. You'll have the option of piloting a hoverbike, a jet fighter, and a dinosaur over the course of the game. The Boss fights themselves are also a nice change of pace from the normal scenarios. As fast as you have to think with multiple incoming, you almost have to think faster while holding down your fire button to continuously fire at one creature. Aside from huge Boss fights to break up the game itself, there are mini-boss fights throughout the game. Though there isn't necessarily one each chapter there are enough of them to give a small sense of satisfaction as you make progress towards the end of the game.
These frustrations could have been overcome, though, if the sense of pace to the title was anything like that in the original game. Just as quickly as you tore through a mapful of enemies, you were off to another locale with more bloodthirsty hordes to slaughter. In SamII you do the incredibly fun activity of walking to your destination a great deal more than I would like. At some points there is even an MMORPG level of travel involved. While I guess I can understand wanting to show off your new graphics engine, it absolutely kills the game's pacing. To add insult to injury, several levels have cutscenes to fill us in on what exactly it is we're doing as we move through the game. In almost any other title, I'd be glad to listen to plot and learn more about my surroundings. This, though, was Serious Sam! While the scenes are skippable, whenever I made the mistake of sitting through one I regretted the decision. As laughable a plot as the amulet thing is, when I actually took the time to listen to a cutscene it was like watching a joke that no one had let the writers in on. The blue midgets talking to the gravel-voiced psychopath just went on and on, when all I wanted to be doing was squishing some evil with whatever came to hand.
Despite my frustrations with how it was put to use, the Serious engine is relatively pretty. It's not Source, Unreal, or Doom, but it stands well on it's feet as a modern FPS engine. The shiny saturated look of the original game has been mostly preserved, with the monsters not only looking creepy and weird but managing to do it with style as well. The audio environment is pretty much a wash. There isn't any music or orchestration worth mentioning, and the sound effects only managed to be good enough not to annoy. Some of the weight of the sound effects from the original game seems to have been lost, as well, leaving weapons fire somewhat hollow.