As first-person shooters become progressively complicated in an attempt to incorporate new and eccentric gimmicks, others stay true to their old, tried, and true formula. Released last year for PC, the XBLA version of Serious Sam 3: BFE gives fans of the series what they love – reckless carnage, juvenile humor, and blood-drenched violence.
The series returns just as we remember, with unfavorable odds stacked up against the wise cracking Sam “Serious” Stone as he makes his way through open environments pumping lead into a ludicrous amount of grotesque monstrosities. Serious Sam 3 BFE is a prequel chronicling the events leading up to the first game, Serious Sam: The First Encounter. The evil alien leader Mental invades Earth during the 22nd century and Sam travels to Egypt to quickly put an end to his plans. This series has never been known for its compelling story, but cutscenes scattered throughout will earn some chuckles and smirks while breaking up the punishing pace of the gameplay.
Exploring these large levels is encouraged since they are packed with secret items like weapons, armor, health, shortcuts and even new areas. At times players will find themselves confined to tight corridors, but the spotlight always returns to the series signature “Sam vs. the world” encounters. If you are a newbie then I must warn you that the difficulty is rather intense, even on the default setting. There are five difficulty levels to pick from, each with a higher score modifier to reflect your skills as well as more powerful enemies. Dying is something that will happen a lot but the game still allows you to save your progress at anytime – screw you checkpoints. Those saves will come in handy, as your health drains fast and aggressive enemies will overwhelm you rather quickly. Constant saving and quick reloading will become an important part of your combat strategy.
The enhanced graphic capabilities of the Serious Engine 3.5 is evident throughout with the inclusion of bright colors and detailed textures but overall each level lacks any real variety. Without a mini-map or checkpoint arrows, getting lost in the maze like environments is easy especially during punishing series of enemy waves that push you back through areas you previously covered. Players will need to look for visual cues in the environment to lead them in the right direction. The in-game soundtrack alternates between rhythmic ethnic pieces and blaring heavy metal with each selection perfectly tailored to each scenario.
Developer Croteam managed to breathe life into the world, with graffiti covered walls that translate into intriguing little messages and Egyptian mythology. This version doesn’t look as great as its PC counterpart, but it’s certainly a vast improvement over previous Serious Sam titles available on XBLA. Issues like enemies and environment pop-in, screen tearing, and inconsistent frame rate are a regular occurrence and usually kick in when a large amounts of enemies and explosions simultaneously appear on screen. A majority of cheap deaths were caused by enemies appearing out of thin air or being pinned in a corner by a pack of relentless Kleer Skeletons.
There’s also a lot of destruction going on, especially once you start collecting some of the more powerful weapons. The first half of the game is drawn out with your desire for a gun that will tear through your mindless enemies but that all changes once you’ve obtained weapons like the mini-gun, the rocket launcher, and Devastator shotgun. Forget about those shooters where you can only carry two weapons at a time, Serious Sam can carry around a small arsenal. If the amount of weapons is overbearing you can always pull out your trusty sledgehammer and get your “Gallagher” on.
Players will see much more variety in the creatures they encounter with a welcome mix of returning favorites, new variants on old foes, and entirely new creations all together. A new contextual melee attack allows Sam to automatically kill off just about any non-giant enemy he gets close to. Not only is each execution unique to the creature being offed, you’ll sometimes end up with a trophy of the kill in your hand that can either be dropped or tossed like a football.
The action just gets even more ridiculous when you add some friends into the mix. You can team up with a friend for some local co-op or with up to four players online. The enemy count increases too for each additional member of the team, creating serious mayhem in the process. Serious Sam 3 BFE also allows players to make tweaks to the co-op mode like use of infinite ammo, alter enemy spawn and power levels or effect how power-ups appear on screen. You also have access to a Survival mode that will test your skills and your vulgar vocabulary. The competitive multiplayer modes include Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Last Team Standing, and My Burden but they are only accessible if you purchase the The Jewel Of The Nile DLC for an additional 1200 MS Points. The complete experience will set you back 2400 points and some gamers may that is a hefty price tag for a downloadable title, but that amount of content is well worth the price of admission.
Fans of the series will love that the series has maintained its philosophy of over-the-top mayhem and blood drenched violence but newcomers may be put off by its difficulty. Despite its technical issues, Serious Sam 3: BFE provides enough entertainment that you will overlook its shortcomings and just enjoy the ride.
Note: We will be posting a separate review for The Jewel Of The Nile downloadable content.
Release Date: October 17, 2012 • Publisher: Devolver Digital • Developer: Croteam • Genre: Action • Multiplayer: 1-4 players online • Achievements: Moderate • Cost: $15 (1200 MS Points) • Replay Value: Moderate