When I saw Serious Sam 3 at E3
I kept mis-typing the title as Serious Same 3. It wasn’t an intentional slight to the game, rather just my mind lulling itself into thinking that the new Serious Sam game was going to be the same game I had played many years ago with updated graphics ans a few new weapons. The E3 demo showed of some of the cool things from the game but it didn’t look like much had changed out side of the new assault rifle.
That’s certainly not a bad thing as the original holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of FPS fans. I remember many a LAN party where a few buddies and I plowed through the game, slaying aliens and fighting giant, over sized boss monsters. Since then we’ve seen other games Painkiller and Hard Reset attempt to capture some of that retro feel with various levels of success
For the most part I thought I knew what I was in for when I fired up the press build of Serious Sam 3:BFE. There would be lots of shooting, running, and an old school health bar. What I found surprised me.
Sure there’s lots of shooting, running, and the afore mentioned health bar but there were also lots of modern FPS tenants built into the game. Things like sprinting, destructible terrain, and a bevy of other small things that gave the game a different feel. It’s like Sam grew up in the last few years. He’s not business casual but he’s at least put on a polo and a clean pair of jeans. The game just feels more than the re-skinned shooter I was expecting, something good. I wouldn’t call it new or innovative but it feels more than some new levels with the same old gameplay.
The press build included almost the entire final game (the last level and boss were held back so press douchebags wouldn’t ruin it). Despite the number 3 in the title, the game is actually a prequel to the others and has Sam saving humanity from aliens against a back plot about humans discovering an ancient alien energy source. But it’s really just an excuse to fight the same group of enemies you’ve fought before along with some new additions.
In most FPS games the enemies all have a consistent look and feel to them as you can see some kind of lineage in the aliens. Well, that doesn’t really exist in the Serious Sam universe as there’s almost no connection between any of the various enemies you face. You’ve got everything from flying harpies to raging bulls with a few humanoids tossed in for fodder. The new bad guys Croteam has tossed in fit pretty well into the existing cadre including an odd helicopter hybrid alien that has to been seen to be believed.
The only exception to this is the new zombie soldiers who kind of stick out a bit. It’s almost as if the designers felt like they needed a new humanoid creature to carry the new assault rifle and just dug something out of the standard FPS toolkit. I’m not complaining but it feels a little too Modern Warfareish for the Serious Sam Universe.
If you’re a Sam fan you’re wondering about how the game plays and if the game retains that balls to the wall feeling of the original games. The answer is Hell yes! You’re constantly battling waves of enemies and while that may seem a bit mindless you have to come up with real strategies to manage the mobs that are thrown at you. (Check out this article
on the game’s strategy at Ars if you don’t believe me).
This means that you’ll spend lots of time running backwards through the games' gigantic levels while shooting and hoping you don’t get caught on something. You have to learn how to get the kamikaze bomb guys to wander into the mobs of the other enemies so that you can take out large clusters at a time. The new graphics engine means that you quickly learn that the exploding guys create mist clouds which can obscure a horde of other guys running at you..
The folks at Croteam do a good job of mixing the groups of enemies up so you don’t get bored. Playing through the demo I never sick, but rather exhausted as the game never lifts its foot off the gas.
Another new edition is that there are a few subtle puzzles in the game that you’ll have to deal with. An example of this is the use of indestructible laser turrets that you have to turn off at a switch as they mean near instant death if you trigger one. They can also be used against the alien hordes if you can lure them into the kill zone and flip the switch. This isn’t Myst but it does add a new element to the game play.
The game does feature a few nasty difficulty spikes in places and there were a few times where I had to step back, take a break, and re-load a save game. Skipping ahead to check out some of the later levels meant a lot of trial and error which might frustrate some folks.
One thing that will help will be playing the game with friends, something that wasn’t enabled in the press demo. I can already imagine the insanity of playing the game with friends in the game’s 16 player co-op mode.
After playing through the majority of the press build I have to say that I’m stunned by what Croteam has pulled off. While the game has some serious old school FPS roots there’s enough modern FPS elements to make it something new and highly enjoyable. It’s not an easy game but it’s a fun game that I think will convert a lot of people.