Serious Sam II
Phew. I've just won a titanic battle with a large robotic two-legged cigar-smoking T-Rex and it feels good. This ridiculous scenario could only happen (a) in one of my usual wheat beer psychotic nightmares or (b) in Serious Sam 2.
If you're familiar with Croteam's series you'll already know this, but Serious Sam is famous for gathering dozens of crazy enemies dredged from the deepest recesses of the developer's Eastern European mind and charging them wave after wave towards you. Dumb? Oh yes. But when you're armed with big and beefy weaponry, such as a powerful mini-gun and pirate cannon - then throw in a decent physics system, destructible scenery, ultra gore-splatter and technicolour explosions that singe the eyeballs - it becomes bloody fun too.
The story - as such - has Sam tracking down parts of a mysterious medallion throughout the galaxy, which bestow him with the power to defeat his nemesis Mental on his home planet of Sirius. With a total of seven worlds and 24 levels, you rocket, grenade and bomb your merry way through dense swamp, futuristic cityscapes and hellish underworlds. But don't worry, you're not alone - to help you there are various indigenous NPC tribes who give you useful pick-ups such as health.
Jumping into an early level set on the tropical forest world of M'Digbo, I immediately begin delivering instant machine-gun death to various creatures including giant robotic spiders and a rather large albino Cyclops. Every dead enemy splits apart with a satisfying crunch, sending legs, heads and machine parts spiralling into a shower of red goo, while any nearby trees crack open, their leaves scattering in every direction. Subtlety has gone out of the window, down the street, into a taxi to the nearest airport and flown to Belgium - this is fast, furious, visceral stuff, with over 50 enemies on-screen at a time.
I soon warp into a different area of the planet - a colourful Land Of The Giants affair packed with huge mushrooms and other over-sized flora and fauna, populated by cackling witches zooming about on broomsticks. A change of weapon (the auto-shotgun - see Serious Weaponry', above) and a volley of lethal bullets wipes the smile from the wizened crones' faces, as they explode in a bright maelstrom of sparks. As well as his armoury, Sam can also now climb into and use stationary turrets. In addition, new power-ups give him extra abilities such as super-strength, good for throwing massive objects at foes.
Big bosses, always a feature of Sam games, are also back with a vengeance and promise to be the largest in-game enemies ever created. We can't confirm this - most are under wraps at the moment - but we've learned of a King Kong-style ape called Kwongo, who will batter anyone in sight. Or maybe throw giant lumps of shit at them. Either way, it's pretty grisly.
Next up, is the planet Magnor and Hong-Pong (yes, you read right) - a city with an eastern flavour, from the wooden architecture to the large zombie ninjas chucking razor-sharp shurikens at you. Here, I get a taste of the puzzles in Serious Sam 2, which to be honest, won't really tax even the most brain-dead of electrical department store employees, simply consisting of block-moving and lever-pulling. Still, the action continues at a blur, Mental's minions pouring out to attack and now including helicopters and large metal balls that roll around trying to mash your potatoes.
As the difficulty ramps up, Croteam introduces a hover-bike with fast-firing lasers that Sam controls in third-person. Over ten vehicles are set to feature, including a surf-board and alien ship, but you also have the opportunity to ride and fight on the back of numerous animals and fantasy beasts.
Finally, Sam and I touch down in Siriusopolis, a Deus Ex/Blade Runner-inspired neon future city with giant colour screens displaying bizarre adverts such as 'Live Bacons' - a Croatian joke maybe we're not supposed to get. A psychedelic assault of multi-coloured enemies follows, including demons on caterpillar tracks, floating spy pods, marauding skeletons and what can only be deschbed as big pink globes on legs spurting green globules. It's an ultra-violent Fantasia.
To be brutal, Serious Sam 2 isn't going to change the world. Don't expect to be drawn into a masterful sci-fi story as in Half-Life 2 or thrown into a disturbing, scary psychological thriller such as appears in F.E.A.R.. However, the charm, silliness and exuberant fun of the original series is still very much alive and kicking if this playtest is anything to go by. In just a few months we'll discover whether this latest no-nonsense shooter is a Painkiller (good) or a Will Rock (very, very bad).
Download Serious Sam II
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Imagine Spending Several hours locked in a room, incessantly swatting away swarms of flies that circle around you like you're a giant turd, while listening to Hulk Hogan spew out over-acted, cliched one-liners.
I'm guessing that - with the exception of those six readers who do actually spend their free time like this - this doesn't sound like too much fun. Sadly, this is exactly what a protracted session of Serious Sam 2 is like.
Just A Quickie
Now don't get me wrong, it is fun in its own special way. As relentlessly action-packed as the first two games, it's the kind of old-school blaster that throws wave after ever-larger wave of enemies at you from every direction (and gives you ever bigger weapons to kill them with), over the course of numerous wacky-looking levels. You can even play them through with some friends. Which is nice. And quite fun. In short bursts.
However, the problem doesn't lie with the game's lunchtime blast funfactor, but with its utter lack of invention. Within an hour, you're not only starting to get bored of the blatantly made-for-console gameplay, but irritated by the countless shortfalls too...
Don't Play It Again Sam
...Like the atrocious acting where accents slip more than a sock on shit. Jokes that are less-funny than turning up in New Orleans and shouting, "Have any of you heard the one about the hurricane!" through a megaphone. Physics sporting less weight than an anorexic with a helium balloon stuck up their arse. Enemies that charge at you in a straight line. Worse still, is the total overdose of satire that pokes fun at the very conventions that drive the game - bosses at the end of levels, a square-jawed, gravelly-voiced, incessantly wisecracking hero etc - which only highlights how simplistic and dated a shooter this really is. Sure, SS2 doesn't take itself too seriously, but that's only because if it did, it wouldn't be that good.
Quite frankly it's an insult to have to pay 35 quid for something that starts getting irksome in under half a day and is only genuinely entertaining in 20-minute bursts. Mindlessly fun and manically intense it is, innovative and essential it seriously isn't...
While I didn't get into the craze started by the first Serious Sam title, I can definitely appreciate its impact. Catering to the hard core, Doom 1 style mindset, Serious Sam has furious, outrageous, overpopulated battles that simply looked chaotic, let alone playable. Fortunately, the sequel doesn't disappoint as far as this is concerned, providing more of the same, piled higher and deeper.
My one serious complaint about this title is that the voice acting, story, and cinematic elements are truly atrocious. But heck, this is Serious Sam, who said anything about good acting?
This time, the graphics have been upped yet another notch. I was quite happy to see that when the graphics were turned down, the game ran incredibly smoothly, and yet when notched up to full, not only provided some really beautiful graphics, but also killed my framerate like you wouldn't believe. As far as I'm concerned, this game has graphical staying power, and should run great on next gen hardware. But you didn't come here to find out how good the game looks. You probably came here to see how it played.
Every bit as fast and furious as the original, this game kicked my ass. I thought I was a good player, and then I tried Serious Sam II on Serious mode. The single player mode in this game is essentially a sadistic path to destruction of the ego, but at the same time it really trains you to be on your toes. It really emphasizes a classic FPS style where reflexes, the twitch factor, reigns supreme.
So, I give it a thumbs up, this game is worth getting. It does have some drawbacks, I consider it a bit of a weak recommended buy, but I don't think you can find a game that takes more serious effort to play well.