Serious Sam Replay

Reviewed by Arep | 19 July 2007
Genre: FPS | Publisher: Gotham Games | Developer: Croteam
TOG Score
Members (av.)
The Good
  • Well worth the low priced fee they ask
  • The replayability even adds to the style of all Serious Sam series
  • Co-op mode never loses its flavor or challenge and it’s a great way to introduce your friends to the game.
The Bad
  • SS1 was initially buggy
  • SS2 doesn’t have the wide open spaces of its predecessors
  • SS2 music is lacking compared to the other games
  • Modern PCs will have trouble running them

* Authored by Deadfyre *

Are you Serious?
Croteam sure are.

Starting in 1993, this once little known Croatian garage development team began making games for the Amiga system. They remained ‘small-fry’ in the gaming world until 2001, when Serious Sam was thrust upon the world. It was an instant gaming classic that literally changed the gaming industry overnight. Croteam’s more than evident success in 2001 extended later in 2002, when Serious Sam, the 2nd encounter (a new chapter in the series, but not a fully fledged sequel) was unleashed upon the now suspecting gaming populace.

For what it’s worth, these two US$20 games were a test against the marketing and might of the big-boy game makers. That a little known gaming company from Croatia (follow the coast East of Italy) could rise to the level they achieved, is a testament to the raw mix of game play and graphics that even to this day leave non-gamers astounded.

In the past six years, the Serious Engine has been remodeled and revamped continuously, while Croteam has morphed into a high-powered name in game creation across a variety of gaming platforms. The Serious graphics engine is even available for licensing.

In 2005, Croteam released Serious Sam 2, a full fledged sequel to the originals. This high powered, fast paced shooter evoked much mirth, mind blowing graphics, and wickedly awesome action sequences. The engine itself was rewritten from the ground up for SS2.

For those who have been under a rock for the past several years, the Serious Sam series offers single player, on line multi player and co-operative mode matches. Sam ‘Serious’ Stone and his cohorts must battle their way through awe-inspiring environments such as luscious jungles and temples, over populated cities, deserts, and even the entirety of Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Mayan territories.

There is no such thing as having enough ammo. Most traditional shooter games might toss three, four or even five critters at a player at once upon a screen. This is where Croteam got serious. At times, literally hundreds of creatures can be thrown upon you at once! Of course, this is not really a problem, as players can use and abuse a wide variety of high power weapons, including shotguns, mini-guns, chainsaws, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, flame throwers, grenade launchers, even bird propelled bombs! There are also a multitude of power ups along the way.

While single player and on line death matches are commonplace in this day and age, what makes the Serious Sam Series shine is the cooperation mode. Co-op mode supports 2-8 players in the same match, which makes this an absolutely brilliant LAN and Internet game. Co-op allows you and your mates to blast through hordes of bad guys, which afterwards can leave you feeling drained. In some cases, the odds seem so insurmountable that co-op mode is almost needed in order to simply survive.

"Never underestimate the power of stupid creatures in large numbers" - Sam The Serious Sam series is raw, nonstop action and adventure through a variety of landscapes that can take your breath away and leave you craving for more. To assist Sam in his seemingly never ending trek across Earth and beyond to save the 21st & 22nd century, is a computer brain implant NETRICSA (short for NEro TRonically Implanted Computer Situation Analyzer). NETRICSA assists Sam with a variety of input and data management. Along the way, Sam must use every tool at his disposal to survive the challenges that await.

Originally, Serious Sam the 1st Encounter, started development in 1996 as a PC only game, but didn’t begin to hit shelves until GOD Games (Gathering of Developers) published it in late 2000. It was worth the wait and Croteam’s hard work paid off. Eventually they branched out, and respectively licensed the ports of SS to the PS2, Xbox, GameCube and even the Game Boy Advance. The First Encounter of Serious Sam won awards from editorials and consumers alike, with an astounding 83% review rating, six years after its initial release! SS also won awards from the media, including GameSpots: Game of the year in 2001, and three awards from IGN in 2001 (Editors Choice, Surprise Game of the Year, and Outstanding Achievement in Technology). This was no mean feat for a virtually unknown gaming company from Croatia.

Was Croteam here to stay?
Seriously? Yes!

Serious Sam the 2nd Encounter hit the shelves in early 2002, and while a slightly more pronounced version of the 1st encounter, it included several new weapons plus a variety of new meanies and levels to explore. To top that, Croteam even added the ability for Sam to battle more meanies at once, as if there weren’t enough critters on the screen in the 1st Encounter. The second encounter added some of the best weapons to date, namely the sniper rifle and, my personal favorite, the flame thrower.

Serious Sam the Next Encounter was an exclusive console version of Serious Sam, which was released for the PS2 and GameCube. Developed by Climax, under license from Croteam, the Next Encounter added vehicle support and a variety of new levels from different eras in history. Climax also inflicted Sam upon the Game Boy Advance. Like the rest of the Serious Sam series, the low retail price of US$19.99 was a bargain for a console game (or a PC game). These console versions of SS even offer up to four way split screen for co-op mode (extra large TV optional).

In October 2005, Croteam released Serious Sam 2, the first actual sequel to Serious Sam (as the 1st and 2nd Encounters were chapters of a larger story). SS2 was unleashed upon the world for the PC and Xbox. For the Penguin geeks, there is even a current beta of a Linux adaption for SS2 in the works. In SS2, Sam ‘Serious’ Stone must once again prevent a universal apocalypse at the hands of the vile Mental. Like its predecessors, the objective is fairly simple. Defeat hundreds of bad guys at a time, and survive. Sounds easy right? Wrong. As always, there’s never enough ammo for the big guns sure, the shotgun is great, but give me a rocket launcher any time! And this time, they’ve even thrown in vehicle use! Of the three, I felt that 2 is truly the most difficult for a variety of reasons, but mainly due to splash damage from explosions. One must be careful with rockets and other things that go boom! Ammunition is is a lot more scarce compared to the previous SS games, so make every bullet count! Although there are a couple of weapons that have infinite ammo, (ray gun, dual revolvers and the blade saw) none of these can chew through bad guys like the higher powered weapons.

SS2 also switched to a life based system, which is a change from the old ‘Save. Die. Load’ system that most of us are all too familiar with. SS2 also introduced several new weapons for Sam to use and abuse through the course of his travels. Perhaps the funniest of which, is my favorite: the Clawdovic Cacadoos Vulgarisv essentially a parrot that holds a bomb in its talons and dutifully flies towards Sam’s adversaries to detonate with an explosive bang of shrapnel, feathers, bloody gibs! Another of the new items included in Sam’s deadly arsenal are hand grenades which, when used properly, can save Sam’s life as much as any rocket launcher can.

Croteam’s humor is apparent in all of the Serious Sam series, as the voice overs and hidden gems can bring a grin to even the most sarcastic of gamers. The music is always upbeat, though the tracks in the first and second encounter are slightly heavier, the score of the series livens up the mood of an alien obliterating extravaganza.

One of the Serious series strongest points are the easter eggs, secrets, and as always, humorous comments from Sam. I always felt he was a fun loving guy, who enjoys his work. Apparently Croteam enjoyed their work too, and it shows in the content of their finished products.

In retrospect, none of the games are without their blunders. SS 1st encounter was actually quite buggy back in 2001, but I account for this for having to support so many varieties of now defunct graphics cards (R.I.P 3dfx). Older computers did not run SS 1 or 1.5 very well either, but it was a lot to ask of my 500mhz AMD k6-2 with 128mb of RAM and a Voodoo 3 to run well when there were 100 or so critters charging at me (K7’s and P3’s didn’t suffer this as much). Due to the current standardized assembly of computers (Moore’s Law), this has pretty much been eradicated from the Serious Sam series in general. This was not really a blunder on Croteam’s part, but more of a need for hardware technology to catch up with what Croteam had accomplished with their engine.

SS2 has not received as much praise from the gaming community as its predecessors. This is likely due to the original retail version of SS not having on line support at retail. SS2 has an average rating of 80%, as some feel that it is too cartoon-like and can be repetitive. Computer Gaming World gave SS2 a 4.5 out of 5 stars, while GamePro rated it at 4 out of 5 stars. Gamespy tossed up a tanking of 3.5 out of 5, while IGN awarded it a 8.2 out of 10.

I feel that SS2 does not have the wide open spaces which the first and second encounters allowed, as most of the scenes are cut into small rooms and walled outdoor chambers. The huge outdoor encounters are what really allow the 1st and 2nd Encounters to truly shine. I think that the music in SS2 lacks some of the ‘oomph’ as well. With the patches Croteam has released, all three of the series are very stable. In Serious Sam 2, I find myself ducking behind balls and columns for protection from fire. The strafing effect also seems to have diminished over time and this is why I feel that Serious Sam 2 is much harder then the originals - it is not nearly as easy to dodge bullets, rockets, lasers, bombs, missiles, flames, footballs (yes there is a linebacker mob with spiked cleats who rushes you while tossing football bombs at Sam). I honestly believe Croteam tried too hard on SS2, and thus violated the basic rule of any game, K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid). Game companies that violate this rule tend to suffer on ratings and reviews, no matter what services they offer.

Of the three, Serious Sam Two is the most story and plot driven, as it follows an incredible story spanning five different planets as Sam seeks to find and destroy Mental. While the 1st and 2nd encounter were mere shootem ups, SS2 has an incredible amount of movies and screen cuts, which offer insight in the story, as well as a vast use of humor and mirth. From planet Kleer, to Hong Pong, Sam’s travels spans galaxies in order to save the five pieces of the medallion which unlocks the freedom of the Universe.

Is this righteous series of games worth the hype, the investment, the playtime? Seriously yes!

The enjoyment these games can invoke is well worth the low priced fee they ask. The replayability even adds to the style of all Serious Sam series. Co-op mode never loses its flavor or challenge, and it’s a great way to introduce your friends to the game. Add in the fact that most games retail for US$50-60 and that each of these started at US$20. That’s a value we are all shooting for - all the more bang for your buck.

Serious Sam gives good meaning to wide open rendering of spaces, beautiful levels (to this day I’m still in awe of the beauty of Karnak, Luxor, and the Sacred Yard levels), gargantuan bosses, frantic humor, powerful weapons, and amazing shooting action. All three are fantastic, and yes I recommend them to anyone who enjoys shooters. If you have access to a LAN, load them up and get your friends in on this awesome frag fest of goodness.

I would easily rank Serious Sam the 1st Encounter, 10 out of 10.
The 2nd Encounter, I would rank 9.6 out of 10.
Serious Sam 2, I would rank 9.5 out of 10.

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