Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter Review
Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Croteam 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Majesco Entertainment 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept. 22, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 (2-8 Players Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Seriously Dated
by J. Matthew Zoss

Serious Sam may have never reached the same heights of popularity as some of the other first-person shooter heroes, but there are still plenty of gamers out there with fond memories of the hero and his fast-paced, deliberately straightforward games. Earlier this year, a HD remake of Serious Sam: The First Encounter made its way onto Xbox Live, and an HD update of the second game hit PCs this summer. Now, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter has launched for Xbox Live Arcade. So is it worth your time?

Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter screenshot

The answer will really depend on how much nostalgia you have for the early days of first-person shooters. The genre has changed immensely since the early days, with more engaging stories, cinematic moments, careful weapon balancing, and more. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter has none of these things. It’s a straight-up run-and-gun fragfest with little in the way of depth, plot, or variety. You shoot hordes of enemies, endure a little bit of dreaded first-person platforming, and that’s really about it.

That’s not intended as an insult – the Serious Sam games have always been designed to be old-school, with the focus much more on gunplay than story or problem-solving. That’s not to say these qualities are completely absent from The Second Encounter. There’s a story, although it’s primarily told through menu screen text. There are puzzles, but they mostly involve searching for hidden rooms. Sam himself does have a personality, but it’s limited to a few short one-liners – some of which break the fourth wall and poke fun at other game characters or gaming in general.

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What you’re then left with is the opportunity to run through expansive levels and blow away everything that moves with a huge arsenal of (often ridiculous) weapons. You’ll seldom go more than a few seconds without an enemy attacking you, often from behind or above. If you don’t stay on your toes, you won’t last long. Fortunately, you’ll amass a ridiculously large selection of weapons quickly – so many that it can be tricky to find the gun you’re looking for in your arsenal. There’s a quick-save feature mapped to the Y button, something you’ll want to remember when you get past a difficult section. There are no checkpoints to be found in The Second Encounter, so forget about that quick save button, and you’ll soon regret it.

Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter screenshot

In some modes, The Second Encounter’s basic gameplay works, and in others it really doesn’t. The core campaign mode is usually my favorite part of a shooter. Here, it’s my least favorite. Moving from point A to B through a large, sparsely populated map with the trigger constantly depressed is just not what I’m used to anymore. Today, the best shooters have highs and lows. They feel like a roller-coaster. There’s no drama to The Second Encounter, no variety or surprise. I love shooting enemies as much as the next guy, but a little diversity would be nice.

However, you could probably say the same thing about any classic FPS, so I don’t want to judge The Second Encounter too harshly for staying true to its original (severely dated) design. Fortunately, while the campaign did bore me to tears, there are plenty of other gameplay options in Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter, the best of which is Survival Mode.

Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter screenshot

Screenshots / Images

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