|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Croteam||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Croteam||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 13, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (Co-Op)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
With games that daringly straddle the past and the present, there can be a fine and delicate line between being old-school and being freaking obnoxious. First-person shooters are pretty fancy these days, and modern gamers have been spoiled with newfangled ideas that push the genre in new and occasionally exciting directions. However, once you've progressed beyond a certain point of innovation, it's sometimes best not to look back and revisit the "good old days." Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter really drives that point home with a spiked gauntlet.
Even when it was first released about a decade ago, Serious Sam was a throwback to the early FPS days of Doom and Duke Nukem. Having experienced both of those fine games in their full glory when they first came out on what now seems like the most ancient of home computing technologies, we can appreciate the way Serious Sam seeks to emulate the classics while also providing a flashier experience. But the original winning formula was old back then, and firing up this HD remake of The First Encounter just feels like an extremely painful exercise in "how not to design a first-person shooter." It's 2010, right?
As a character, Sam "Serious" Stone is a poor man's Duke Nukem. His cheesy one-liners pack far less of a punch than the ridiculous weaponry he wields. Personality-wise, he amounts to nothing more than a testosterone-infused piece of meat with a bunch of big guns, and that's clearly by design. The game kicks off with Earth in the midst of a crisis, as a bunch of alien invaders are tearing the place up. Serious Sam is the poor bastard picked to get sent back in time, to ancient Egypt of all places, in an effort to stop the aliens from hatching their evil plan to wipe humankind off the planet. That's about all you need to know of the plot, because the rest is about blowing the crap out of everything in sight.
The one major thing that does immediately stand out as being new about The First Encounter is the superior HD visuals. A ton of shiny new textures have been added to the weapons, the level elements, and the crazy monsters you'll fight, as if someone dumped a bucket of magic HD paint all over the game. As a result, the action does look a lot better than the original. Unfortunately, even with some added dazzle to spice things up, the extremely linear level designs still leave much to be desired and add to the growing sense of repetition that sets in the further you venture.
Killing lots of stuff is basically the only point of Serious Sam, and in that endeavor the game gratuitously succeeds. Sam starts off with a bowie knife and picks up some standard monster slaying apparatus early on (pistols, shotguns, rocket launchers, etc.). By the end he's carrying around an actual cannon (like you'd find on a civil war battlefield or a pirate ship) to turn adversaries into a gory pulp, which should give newcomers a general idea of what to expect from the absurd humor found in the game.
Enemies range from boringly mundane to freakishly magnificent. Fast favorites include re-animated humans that have been retrofitted with buzz-saws where their recently decapitated head should be (they actually attempt to head butt you, by the way) and the equally headless suicide bomber guys that come running at you screaming with explosives in each hand. There's also an assortment of walking robo-mutants, zombified skeletal bull things that charge at you, swarms of hopping toad creatures, and towering, multi-limbed alien creatures to battle.