It’s been about 12 years since Serious Sam first hit the scene. Serious Sam is a game that dazzled thousands with its frantic, relentless, manic, monster-explodey, non-stop action. Several years in the spotlight have gifted Sam with two HD remakes, a sequel, and a new sidescrolling shooter. Well now there’s one shiny box that contains them all. That’s right, The Serious Sam Collection is currently available for Xbox 360 consoles around the globe.
This amazing bundle comes with Serious Sam HD: 1st Encounter, Serious Sam HD: 2nd Encounter, Serious Sam 3: BFE, Serious Sam 3’s Jewel of the Nile DLC pack, and Serious Sam Double D XXL. These four well received games and a DLC pack at a nifty little discounted price. Well, we’ve got four games to talk about here, better hope straight to it. Let’s start from the…start.
Serious Sam is a game about Sam “Serious” Stone and his efforts to defeat the alien scourge terrorising Earth’s past. Now that is just about as much story as you’ll get in this game. Much like Painkiller: Hell & Damnation, you’re dropped into rough terrain with a huge arsenal of weaponry, and you have thousands upon thousands of enemies thrown at you until you can’t stand it.
Now the gameplay, the enemies, the level design remains completely unchanged from the 2001 iteration. Quite frankly, the game is completely simplistic. Again, exactly like Painkiller. Serious Sam is an obvious homage to other games from its time such as Doom and Duke Nukem. Put simply, it’s all about racking up a Saving Private Ryan-esque body count rather than attempting to reach any kind of objective.
The entire game takes place in what resembles the deserts of ancient Egypt. The lack of a change of setting does nothing to distract from the fact that the game is completely mindless and repetitive. Now this is not to say that it is a bad game, not at all. It can actually get quite deep once you discover what kind of enemy you’re going up against. Different kinds of aliens have different weaknesses that are all exploited by various weapons, and you will be going up against all different kinds, at one time. So it’s safe to say that some form of strategy definitely needs to be employed in order to become victorious. There is also another form of strategy that can be used to take down different hordes of aliens at any one time. Online co-op! That’s right, online cooperative play has been the saviour of many games, and it is what makes some games so damn playable. But then again, there really isn’t any challenge to the co-op. The game will merely send more monsters at you, and you respawn immediately after you die with no penalty. So it’s just as mindless and repetitive as playing by yourself. But hey, at least you get to have fun with friends.
Let’s get to the graphics. This is called Serious Sam HD, after all. This isn’t just an updated ratio or a new fancy layer of paint. This is an actual HD remake. That means new character models and environments. As well as brand new environmental effects all powered by the Serious 3 engine and displayed in glorious 720p. Now these graphics won’t compare to the majority of games today, but they do perfectly capture the garish and cartoony nature of the Serious Sam series without sacrificing gameplay at the hands of poor frame-rate.
Serious Sam HD: The 1st Encounter is a manic, fun, challenging shooter. It’s definitely repetitive and dated, but if you feel like you just want to shoot stuff without having to think at all, this is the perfect game for you.
Time for the second encounter. There really isn’t much to talk about here since this is almost identical to the first game, in terms of graphics and gameplay. So let’s talk about the differences, noticeable and subtle. The very first big change for Serious Sam HD: The 2nd Encounter is the difference in location. The first game entirely took place in an Egyptian setting. Whereas this sequel has many different locales that serve to keep the game a tad fresh and keeps it from feeling like mindless dreck. There are many areas that will do nothing but remind you of the first game. But Sam jumps through time to beautiful jungles and caverns, as well as some visits to the medieval era. I could be wrong here, but the level design looks a smidgen cleaner than the 1st encounter. There are less jaggies and the environments are definitely smoother and prettier.
Certain things return from the first, like co-op and multiplayer. We’ve even been treated to some new modes here. Such as Survival Co-Op and Coin-Op Co-Op. Survival Co-op drops you into an arena and pits you against endless waves and hordes of enemies, much akin to Call of Duty’s zombie modes (please don’t bite my head off for the comparison, I know there are plenty other games with survival modes). Coin-Op Co-Op is where it gets interesting. You and your team of ragtag alien ‘sploders have but 3 lives between all of you. Once those 3 lives have been depleted, so has your fun time. This is certainly an interesting addition that will force you to play smart and tactically, using your teammates as a buffer for excellence.
All in all, Serious Sam HD: The 2nd Encounter isn’t that much of a far cry from the 1st Encounter. However, the addition of Survival and Coin-Op Co-Op are very welcome and should help to promote longevity.
After two HD remakes that people clamoured for, it was about time the series received a real sequel. This came about on the Xbox LIVE Arcade some time ago. This was the only one of the Serious Sam games I was yet to play upon writing this review. I immediately noticed that this one looked a lot better than the previous two HD remakes. The weapons have a nicer sheen to them, the environments…*sigh*
That’s when I noticed the environments. Egypt. Egypt, again!?
You’d think I’d be really annoyed, but I wasn’t at all. The gameplay made up for it. I noticed that everything felt noticeably smoother. I found it a lot easier to strafe and shoot something down within the blink of an eye. Speaking of shooting things, I much prefer the things I was shooting at in this game. Giant roaches and zombies, hulking cyclops’ that made my buttcheeks flap harder than a fan in the hand of a geisha. For the first time, I was truly enjoying part of this collection. I literally felt fear at certain points. There is no feeling like the view of hundreds of different kinds of monsters, be them big, small, or really big, all making a bee line straight to you in the most intimidating slow motion Reservoir Dogs style walk. The first two games were hard, but this one was really unforgiving. I found myself hiding in corners and crevices throughout the duration of the game. I even flipped out and turned the game off at one point in a rage, and that is an emotion that has not been evoked in me since my teens.
BFE features all the usual multiplayer and co-op trimmings. Such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Last Man Standing, and Beast. You can play with up to 8 players in these modes. A word about Beast Mode, I found this to be a very unique and enthralling game mode.
Serious Sam 3: BFE is the best entry in the series by a country mile, and should be given the headline of the cover art…if that were ever a thing. It is the only game in this collection that I legitimately enjoyed, and it even comes with a three-level campaign expansion called Jewel of the Nile. If you don’t plan on buying The Serious Sam Collection, you should ‘seriously’ (hehe) consider picking up SS3BFE from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
Now this game is nothing like the previous three. I have actually had the pleasure of reviewing this one before. For an extensive look at its features and our verdict, please click here.
If you’d like a quick overview of my opinion on this side-scrolling shoot ‘em up from Mommy’s Best Games, here’s a quick excerpt from that very review.
‘I’m just not impressed by it. I think it’s a good game, I had fun. But I think it’s good in the sense that a free-to-play mobile phone game is. I would not pay money for it. But I also cannot say it’s a bad game by any means. This is definitely a catch-22. Unless you know for a fact that you will be making good use of the co-op, I’d say you’re not missing out on anything by skipping Contra: Duke Nukem Edition. Sorry, Serious Sam Double D XXL’.
So there it is. The Serious Sam Collection features four games and some DLC. But is it worth your time? Well, yes and no. The first two HD remakes are only worth playing if you’re a fan of the series and want to tickle your nostalgic senses. Double D XXL is merely alright, but it’s nice to play to have a break from the norm of this FPS craziness. Serious Sam 3: BFE is pretty damn good, and a laugh-riot. I recommend making an effort to play it for yourself. I’m quite conflicted here, I can’t go all out and say that this is bad, but I won’t say it’s good either. It’s definitely hanging out on that line and waiting for personal opinion to push it either way. So basically, if you’re a Serious Fan, go for it. If not, pass on it and pick up BFE.