Serious Sam 3 Review
Get ready to give your trigger finger a workout.
Serious Sam 3 was released for PC last week and I was excited to get my hands on it, as I am a huge fan of the original games on PC and even the XBLA HD remakes. In the latest entry in the series, Croteam don’t hold back when it comes to giving you a massive arsenal of weapons, or when it comes to filling the screen full of hordes of enemies, but do hold back when it comes to evolving the series.
Serious Sam 3 is actually a prequel of sorts, taking us back to the time of the events that started the orignal game, where Aliens have taken over Earth and Sam Stone is the government’s last chance at saving the planet. It’s basically a way for them to give us a little more back story to the events in Serious Sam 1, without actually being a prequel, as some of the events don’t seem to line up. Either way, you aren’t here for a story, and the story doesn’t even really matter in a Serious Sam game. You are here to get some big guns, and blow up enemies. It’s that simple, and it stays that simple. For better and for worse.
The game starts out like it’s evolved with environments that are much more dense, with plenty of buildings and tight alleyways to navigate, which is a change from the large-scale, open desert type areas of past Serious Sam games. All of this goes away fairly quickly though and you’re right back into those larger areas, and fighting some battles that feel like they are never going to end. Luckily you have access to plenty of weapons such as a Pistol, Shotgun, Rocket Launcher, Mini-Gun, Grenade Launcher, and a new Assault Rifle with a Red Dot Sight, which is a great addition to Sam’s arsenal, and many more.
Everything about the game from the environments (the graphics are great but the locations are too familiar), weapons, sound, level design, to the enemies and frantic pace of the game is good, it’s just that most of it is the same as it was in the original games and it would have been nice to see the game evolve to something more than just run here, shoot them, shoot some more and then while you’re at it, shoot some more. What about adding in some big action set pieces? You ride in a helicopter a few times, why not stick a gun on the side and let us rain down terror on some enemies? These moments have become a standard in first person shooters and it’s a shame to see Croteam almost think of them as a downside when making the game, when they are usually quite fun. At some point the action needs a change from just running around and shooting people for 10-12 hours. Even something as simple as adding a level where you drive a vehicle with turrets would have been a nice change of pace.
The enemies are made up of mostly familiar faces as the Harpy, Gnaar, Arachnoid, Kleer, Headless Kamikaze, Werebull and more return with some new friends such as the Technopolip (parasite octopus looking creature that attaches itself to a helicopter), Scrapjack (a big fat creature with rocket launchers for hands), and maybe the most annoying enemy ever, the Witch. She flies around you and her attack puts you in this weird state where you move slow and she raises you off the ground slightly, then she disappears and you can’t attack until she comes back, only to have her now behind you with her grip on you again. Plus she takes quite a few hits to kill, and ended up frustrating me the every time she appeared.
Something that is new to the series is a melee system that lets you tear out hearts, eyeballs and break some necks. Whenever certain enemies get close enough, you can melee them for an instant kill. If you melee a Kleer you rip their head off, if you melee a soldier or Arachnoid Hatchling you snap their neck, if you melee a Gnaar you rip out their eyeball. Visually, it’s both disturbing and awesome, and it’s also quite effective, and a great way to conserve some ammo if you’re running low. The funny thing about the melee system is that the enemies don’t even have to be that close, and you can end up being say 10ft from them and if you press to melee you will just instantly be in front of them (with no movement animation) and kill them. The game moves too fast for you to really sit and think too much about this, but it’s noticeable enough to make you laugh.
The game feels like it should have been a nice hold-over game while we waited for the true sequel, as it doesn’t add enough new content (minus a few weapons and enemies) to the series, and ends up feeling like a great remake, more than a true new sequel. One other small new thing to mention, and something a lot of people complained about in the original games, is that there are now arrows to help you figure out where to go. While they are a bit small and hard to notice sometimes, they are there. I’ve heard from quite a few people over the years that they hated that it felt like they didn’t know where to go, as there is no map, radar or anything else to help you find the path you are supposed to take. So this should change that, until about the 6th level or so where the arrows are either no longer there or so hard to see I missed them all, but the levels aren’t quite as hard to navigate as previous games. So it’s 50/50 for the 2nd half of the game.
There is also a Survival mode where you have to see how long you can last against an increasingly insane amount of enemies, with plenty of ammo and health pick-ups along the way. This mode was in the XBLA HD remakes too and is fun, but nothing spectacular, and you will likely forget it’s there after a few runs.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast with the single player campaign, but I was hoping for more. I wanted to see something new added to the series (vehicles, big action sequences or something), and not just another long run of holding the trigger down the entire time. While I had fun with the campaign, the multiplayer was another story.
The multiplayer in Serious Sam 3 is pretty much just a rehash of what it was like before, with nothing new added. You have game modes such as Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Last Man Standing and Beast Hunt, which are all good, but the problem is there is no reward, or reason to be invested in the online modes. You don’t earn XP, you don’t level up, you don’t unlock anything, you don’t have any perks, and you don’t really have a reason to care whether you win or lose.
The great thing about the modern-day online shooters is how they have evolved and become so deep that it’s almost like adding RPG elements to the game. You earn XP, you level up, you unlock new weapons, gear, perks, and you have control over what style you play the game, and what your character can do. Serious Sam 3 is straight out of the early 2000’s where you just kill people and die. That’s it. I prefer the way that current shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo give you a reason to keep playing, and a reason to be excited to keep playing and earn something for a job well done. Even some challenges would have been nice, but no Serious Sam 3 online is as basic as you can get, and I had no reason to want to play it over any other shooter out there. Even Halo 3 from 2007 had a ranking system to work your way up, and that came out 4 years ago.
What Serious Sam 3 does do right with its online features, is let you play the campaign with up to 16 players. 16 Player Co-op! Now that’s awesome, and Fork Parker can shoot off all he wants to the other games for that one. That’s an achievement right there, and it’s also really fun. It’s the best thing about the game, and it’s how you should play it. Even if you only have 2 or 3 friends, it’s still just so much more fun to play online with some friends.
Playing the game on Steam means you are still going to earn Achievements, with 59 of them up for grabs. You’ll earn them for melee killing different types of enemies, finding secrets, playing co-op, completing levels and the game and more. Following the tradition of having ridiculous achievements in their games, Serious Sam 3 has one for Beating the game in Single Player without manually reloading, aiming or sprinting. This will take a lot of heart and dedication to complete, something I’m not sure too many people will accomplish, or want to.
Serious Sam 3 is a run and gun gamers dream game, with plenty of big guns, crazy enemies to kill, and a no holds barred attitude. The problem is that even though they included things like 16 player co-op, which is awesome, they don’t really take the game to the next level. With a shallow multiplayer system straight from the early 2000’s, and a campaign void of any big time action sequences or vehicles, hardcore Serious Sam fans will have a blast, but if you didn’t like the games before, you probably won’t find anything new to make you like it now.