Serious Sam: The First Encounter

a game by Gathering
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 9/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

It's the dawn of the 21st Century and Earth makes the only kind of discovery worth talking about: the startling kind. Seems that humans weren't the first people to call Earth home. The other earth dwellers died off long ago, but left lots of techno goodies buried in the sand.

Fast-forward to 2104 and suddenly Earth goes from Universal super-power to sandbox wimp with alternate dimensional baddies kicking our butts from Alpha Centauri all the way back to Mother Earth.

World Leaders have a meeting of the minds and decide to send war veteran Sam "Serious" Stone back in time to Ancient Egypt to pillage Earth's long-forgotten race for new and interesting technology. Of course that race isn't exactly receptive...

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Serious Sam plays like most First Person Shooters, just a lot faster. Excellent default controls make tinkering with the keyboard and mouse set-up unnecessary for all but the most anal of players. And good thing too, because you're not going to have a lot of time to perfect your shot without getting overwhelmed by the seemingly endless hordes of bizarre creatures the game throws at you from the get-go. Did I say bizarre? Well, bizarre -- or any single word, really -- can't capture the truly disturbing creatures you'll find in seething packs in Serious Sam. From chain gun packing mutant scorpions to the large-mouthed horned toads, Serious Sam creatures take the cake for the strangest menagerie you'll ever find in a shooter. I mean this game has not one, not two, but three headless baddies waiting to blow you away with guns, missiles or even by exploding in your general vicinity. Luckily for you the weapons are as bad as the creatures. From twin six-shooters to the awe inspiring cannon, Serious Sam's eight weapons pack a serious fire-power punch.

In the beginning, the game might seem a bit overwhelming -- the first few levels are relatively easy, but it isn't long before the creatures you are facing literally fill the rooms. Rooms that, by the way, lock behind you when you walk into them. But Serious Sam isn't the blood-bath run-and-gun game that it appears to be. Strategy is paramount if you plan to succeed.

For instance, using the mini-gun when faced with three dozen kleer skeletons will eat through your ammo and leave you open to a smack-down. Now toss in a few grenades from the launcher and suddenly your prospects brighten. You'll also find that the more advanced levels require that you pace yourself. Run through a level and the whole screen will be awash in creatures, walk through and snipe the baddies as they appear and you may survive. You would think that with all of the creatures you'll be facing, this game would be chock-full of power-ups, health potions and ammo, but think again. Fact is, Serious Sam is gonna overwhelm you with creatures and there will be times when all you have is your self-replenishing six-shooters. Deal with it. Don't worry -- skill and strategy make it possible... barely.

Multiplayer

There's something satisfying about mowing through dozens of creepy-crawlies with your friend at your side. Luckily Serious Sam's multiplayer modes are as robust as the rest of the game. You can play in cooperative or death-match modes online in a very stable system. The game also features a relatively unique split screen multiplayer option that allows up to four players to play on the same computer and actually works.

Graphics

One thing I love about Serious Sam is the smooth frame rate, you can have 30-40 creatures on the screen and still get even flow, and that's not because graphics are cheap -- it's the engine. The proprietary 3D engine renders the game's enormous levels -- typically wide-open spaces with grandiose pyramids and intricate interior structures -- with little effort. The game does tend to lean heavily on big rooms and desert plains, but where else can you squeeze in all of those creatures? Besides the few villages you walk through more than make up for the slight open-space repetition. This game uses everything on the screen as a platform for bad guys, from rooftops to pits, you have to keep a sharp eye-open for ambush. Overall the graphics are clear and well lit, if not a bit cartoonish. The game's constant eye on detail also adds enormously to the immersion into the game, from reflecting pools of water to spattered blood, Serious Sam has it all.

Audio

I still get chills when I hear the distant screaming of the headless kamikazes. Their approaching wail warns of your eminent demise because as soon as they get with a dozen feet, they explode, taking you with them. The bone-like clatter of the kleer skeletons also freaks me out a bit. I tend to panic and blow myself up when the echoing sounds warn me I'm about to be swarmed. Serious Sam is the first game I've played that makes sound as integral a part of gameplay as the graphics. On top of the sound cues you'll be listening for, the game features fantastic weapons sounds and a really groovy, bass soundtrack that manages to not be too repetitious. Of course there's also Sam's one liners reminiscent of any cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

System Requirements

AMD K6-3 400 MHz or Celeron 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Windows 95/98, Full OpenGL compliant 3D accelerator, and 150 MB free hard disk space.

For Full Experience: AMD Thunderbird 800 MHz or Pentium III 800 MHz, 256 RAM, and a third generation full OpenGl compliant 3D accelerator with 32 MB RAM.

Bottom Line

For just under $20, Serious Sam’s action packed gameplay provides way more than your money’s worth -- but wait, there’s more. They also throw in a nifty, easy to use level editor. It’s like the Ginsu knife of computer games.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I've never been so addicted to a shooter. Maybe it's the fact the game keeps hammering me, but I can't get enough. I can't tell you how many times I muttered "this is ridiculous" or "you've got to be kidding" while playing the game, but I still love it. Serious Sam is a serious shooter -- wimps and momma's boys need not apply.

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