As video games evolve, our view of them as mere entertainment has grown, with many games challenging what is possible in an interactive medium. Arguably, first person shooters have seen the most radical change out of any other genres in the past decade. Some notable titles have put meaning behind all the bloodshed and managed to carve out some honestly impressive works of art. Serious Sam 3 is not one of those games. Acting like the past 10 years in game development never happened; Serious Sam packs some heavy retro charm, yet stands out as one of the more refreshing releases of this year.
To say Serious Sam has a story would be a generous statement. There is a plot, in which Sam is sent to Egypt to kill some aliens and discover the secrets of some long lost civilization, but it is so paper thin that is it barely worth mentioning. Nonetheless, it is unobtrusive as to allow for the action to keep a constant pace no matter what. Something that does stand out are the hilariously bad one liners from Sam, which are never repeated and spaced out enough so that you don’t grow tired of them. His selfishness and overconfidence come off perfectly. In a way, he is what Duke Nukem should have been.
The gameplay is maniacally simple. Literally the entire game consists of blowing away hundreds of enemies as you find better weapons. While it may seem like a crime that a game like this can exist in this day and age, developer Croteam have crafted a nearly therapeutic experience. The level of challenge does not increase with smarter enemies or clever puzzles, they just send more enemies at you at an even faster rate. One does not think as they play Serious Sam, they simply shoot. To add to the compulsion, at the end of each level you will be presented with stats of how you did as well as a par time, begging the manic completionist to come back and better their run.
Staying true to its roots, Serious Sam does not include regenerating health. Health packs and armor will be your only salvation from the hordes of enemies vying for your flesh. Iron sights were added to certain weapons, but it seems like an irrelevant tweak meant to appease some angry blogger. The only notable new additions are melee weapons and attacks, which can get you out of some seriously tight situations when needed.
Despite the old school charm, the game does suffer from the same flaws games faced back then. The enemies are as dumb as a box of rocks, they will simply charge at you until you shoot them. The few puzzles you do encounter seem out of place and act as a poor way to break up the action. There are some obviously cheap moments as well, with very little health and scarce ammo forcing you to reload an earlier save.
The game runs on the Serious Engine 3.5 and it scales beautifully. Texture work leaves a lot to be desired, yet there are some fantastic smoke effects at work. The animations are laughably bad, but add to the charm of the experience. However, the crowing jewel is the amount of enemies it can produce. The odds placed against you are staggering, with literally hundreds of enemies littering the screen at once. Thankfully, there is never any slowdown, even on a medium range machine.
Multiplayer is back, with the classic deathmatch and capture the flag game modes feeling as tacked on as ever. On the other hand, the co-op presents a ridiculously good time. It supports up to 16 players at once in both survival modes and the entire campaign. The game does slow down significantly when multiple players are playing at the same time, yet the commotion present is unlike any other.
When Serious Sam 3 was announced, many fans feared that Croteam would try to apply changes to their formula as a means to attract a wider audience. Amazingly, yet somehow not surprisingly, Croteam has not changed a thing and Serious Sam has not aged a day.
BLAST FACTOR: Throwing away literally every modern shooter convention, Serious Sam 3 stands as a time machine to a simpler time. Croteam have shown that simple gameplay coupled with a well balanced engine can deliver some seriously good entertainment. Hardcore to the bone, this arcade shooter will entertain anyone who has ever found enjoyment in blasting a virtual foe.