- Genre: FPS Large-Scale Linear Arena Shooter. Single, Co-Op & Multiplayer. Modding Support.
- Developed & Published by: Croteam & Devolver Digital
- Platform: Windows, Mac and Linux.
- DRM: SteamWorks.
- Business Model: Single Purchase + Expansion DLC
- Copy Purchased by Myself
A couple of years ago, I decided to tackle the entire Serious Sam series in one go. It’s not something I normally do because I tend to tire myself out with the gameplay when it comes to such a long running series. Still, I was curious about how the series had evolved over the course of it’s lifetime. The intention being that at the end of everything, I was to review Serious Sam 3. I did that over the course of a couple of months and had a lot of fun with it. I did start some work on the SS3 review but held off due to reasons that I can’t frankly remember. Well, here I am writing the review of SS3. It only took me a couple of years but better late than never, right? Right.
Serious Sam started in 2001 as a 3D large scale shooter that emphasized tense action with an impressive selection of weapons and lots of targets. The series has largely stuck with this formula since and has seen a reasonable amount of success. Serious Sam The First and Second Encounters are the beginning entries that laid much of the groundwork for the series as a whole. They were updated a couple of years ago to HD versions and are still very much worth playing. Serious Sam 2 is a much more cartoony, colorful and goofier entry to the series. It’s a strange entry compared to the rest but I think it’s worth playing. Even so, it added new features such as vehicles, alien weapons and more exotic landscapes that, strangely, hasn’t been repeated since. Then, there were some indie takes on the Serious Sam including Serious Sam: The Random Encounter which is an RPG 2D sidescrolling take on the series and Serious Sam Double D, a side-scrolling shooter where you stack guns on top of each other. Both are odd entries into the series that may remain true to the heart of the series, may not be for everyone. They were developed for mobile and consoles to market the next main entry in the Serious Sam games: Serious Sam 3 BFE.
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
Serious Sam 3 BFE (as well as the rest of the entries) are all about Sam trying to save Earth from a never ending army of alien monsters led by a mysterious overlord named “Mental”. The player is tasked with running through arena after arena where they must kill all the enemies in order to keep progressing. There’s a variety of weapons to choose from including a sledgehammer, double-barreled shotgun, RPG launcher, alien laser weapon all the way up to a literal cannon. The challenge isn’t the individual enemies themselves but the constant torrential downpour of them as they charge at you. Add enemies with ranged attacks, a giant open area where they can come at you from all sides and you’ve got a recipe for an intense experience of destruction and survival. The enemy AI is brain dead as they’ll repeat the same attack patterns over and over again. What makes them dangerous the sheer number of them and how much they’ll hurt if they land a shot. Most enemies are dangerous to touch, which makes using the hammer as you go later into the game a dicey affair. Not impossible and a hell of a lot of fun, but dicey. As such, you’ll need to keep moving and strafing to the left or right to dodge their attacks. There are a range of enemies from yelling beheaded kamikazes and harpies to acid throwing giant spiders and two-legged mechanoids bristling with rocket launchers and lasers. When enemies are killed, there’s an explosion of dust that will obfuscate the area behind them. The most aggravating enemy to me are the Kleers, these running skeleton chargers pack a punch and are difficult to avoid. So, not only do you have to keep your eyes peeled for the next enemies coming your way, you have to keep in mind any enemies you dodged/didn’t kill and listen for any you may not have noticed coming your way. Fortunately for Sam, enemies telegraph themselves with loud sounds that are immediately distinguishable from the cacophony of weapons’ firing. Which you’ll need as some of these fights can last for a long time and it can be trying, if not exhilarating to keep up with everything.
Most weapons in the game for both Sam and the enemies are projectile weapons with a few hitscan weapons including the assault rifle. Nearly all the weapons are a joy to use, even the pistol with it’s somewhat weak damage. My personal favorites are the XPML21 Rocket Launcher, SBC Cannon (because badasses love cannons) and XM-214-A Minigun. I’d say my only major complaint about the combat mechanics is that it’s really stingy with ammo for the higher-end weapons while providing a ton of ammo for the shotgun. There are also some enemies that have hitscan weapons that I’m not a big fan of either.
I remain impressive that SS3 continues to hold up today when stacked up against the current kings of the FPS genre. The gameplay design may be simplistic at first glance, but there is a depth and purity to the chaos that helps it to remain enjoyable even five years after I started playing. Dodging and weaving through the hordes still hasn’t gotten old. Even the graphics still hold up even if some minor objects in the environment look a bit questionable. And the badass soundtrack accents the action perfectly as well.
SS3 takes place before the events of Serious Sam: The First Encounter. Humanity is losing the war against Mental and has tasked Sam and his team with locating and protecting a scientist. This scientist believes that he has located an ancient artifact that may turn the tide of war in their favor. The Time Lock, a device that could send people back in time in order to assassinate Mental before the war ever started. What follows is a lengthy campaign where Sam has to locate the Time Lock and the generators to turn it on. Thus transporting him to the events of The First Encounter. The story is pretty simplistic with a lot of the dialogue being handled over a radio conversation with “Command” and in cutscenes. Characters don’t go through any arcs, nothing really surprising happens, it’s just a straight shot (with detours) to the goal of turning on the Time Lock. Certainly there’s a underlying tension about how Earth is losing the war but it never really seems to get to Sam. Jewel of the Nile DLC’s story is about turning on a third generator that’s apparently required to turn the Time Lock on. So I guess we’re supposed to assume that it was done off-screen during the main campaign. Serious Sam is an endearing character filled with one-liners and quips while maintaining a serious atmosphere about himself. He can be a bit simple at times but it’s part of his charm. This seemingly invincible soldier can get the job done. He just needs a few guns and explosives.
Brief Multiplayer Thoughts
There are multiple multiplayer modes ranging from team deathmatch to capture the flag in the game as well as split-screen. From what little I’ve played of the competitive shooting side of this game, it’s ok. Nothing to really write home about. It also doesn’t help that the multiplayer community is all but dead either. It’s just not as exciting as fighting against hordes of enemies in my mind. It’s just shooting other Sams and it doesn’t interest me as much as the single or co-op campaigns. Speaking of which, there is co-op support for up to 16 people if you want to bring your own personal army of Sams to fight their army. This tends to make things even more chaotic but hilariously fun.
PC Settings and Audio/Video
Options confirmed by PCGaming Wiki.
|Game Options||What the User Can Configure|
|Windowed Options.||Windowed & Fullscreen Options.|
|Resolutions: Up to 4K & Ultra-Widescreen Support.||All resolution options are available. 4K requires some file tweaks.|
|Anti-Aliasing & Anisotropic Filtering Supported.||MSAA, FXAA and SSAA options, with AF on/off.|
|Framerate & V-Sync & Field of View.||No framerate lock, V-Sync on/off, FOV Slider from 60-120 degrees.|
|Keyboard & Mouse Rebindings.||All keys can be changed.|
|Full Controller Support.||Including Steam Controller support.|
|Sound supports up to 7.1 speaker systems.||Separate volume controls for Master, SFX and Music.|
The extensive options that the game provides is impressive. If you want to tweak something about Serious Sam, it’ll let you. The Serious Sam Engine 3.5 shows off impressive vistas, lighting and bloody gibs galore while you fight hundreds of monsters. This shooter takes place largely in Egypt. So, expect to see plenty of sand, deserts and pyramids. Though there’s the occasional town and oasis to break things up. There’s even some destructible terrain thrown in at times, though the levels are largely static. The game is very well optimized and I don’t recall having any maddening issues such as crashing or bugs. Even more impressive is the support of up to 16 people in co-op and multiplayer. I’ve always wanted to get a LAN party like that setup just to see how crazy that would be. Alas, I’ve never had the chance. (16 co-op isn’t restricted to LAN but it probably works the best over LAN rather than Internet).
Serious Sam 3: BFE remains one of my favorite FPSes to come back to every now and again. Both the base game and the expansion DLC: Jewel of the Nile are well worth playing through even if it’s only for the single player content. The multiplayer community isn’t worth joining but co-op definitely is if you can get some friends involved. I have no complaints with the campaign, it’s nicely paced and lengthy enough with plenty of interesting combat sections. Same goes for the DLC, though the difficulty is definitely higher than the base game. I think that Serious Sam 3 is well worth picking up even after all of these years. Go get Serious Sam 3 and prepare for War!
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