|Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter|
|Platforms||Windows, Xbox 360|
|MtAMinutes to Action||4|
Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter is a recent remake of the fps classic, Serious Sam, both of which were developed by Croteam. While I own the original Serious Sam Second Encounter, I really never played it, being somewhat put-off by the seemingly cheesy nature of the game along with mindless waves of ugly enemies. But I recently purchased the update fairly cheap and decided to give the series another shot. After quickly running through the 'demo' level, I start the actual game here, so here we go...
And if you wish, you can follow along with the youtube video playlist at http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=40ADF19B6F04C62A&playnext=1&play...
(minutes are in bold)
00 - The panning title screen shows off some of the environments with a filter haze, although also including some odd flickering graphical issues. I noticed this earlier and it's not indicitive of any problems in-game but it's interesting nevertheless. Starting the game, we get a menu with Sam on the side, being all solemn and Serious. We receive the base options: Single Player, Cooperative, Deathmatch, Options, Extras.
01 - It's time to get started on single player. Let's start on the first level, Egypt (versus the demo stage). We're immediately shown an intro cutscene sequence, complete with space backgrounds and scrolling story text. Kinda cheesy but it looks sharp. The human race expands and finds some technology but seemingly gets attacked by aliens because of it (Mass Effect anyone?). Humanity fights and loses rapidly, but has one bright spot in Serious Sam, a monster killing machine. Our last hope is a long-lost artifact which lets one person travel back in time. "The choice of whom to send is obvious..." Pan to a pretty shot of the earth (complete with lens flare)
02 - Dayr el-Bahri, Egypt, 1378 B.C. Pan around the desert to an ancient egyptian structure, cue music. A portal opens.
03 - Enter Sam, who arrives with a grunt. Intro sequence may be cheesy but it's also well done, in both directing and technically. The menu pops up and tells us that we need to find some centers and power and magic elements in Egypt. I only assume they really mean to tell me to shoot things.
04 - "Ready for battle!" Sam's voice acting sounds like an orcish grunt from a movie. I get control, and look around a bit, equipped only with a basic pistol (with seemingly unlimited ammo). The creation of the portal seems to have caused a storm. I find a second pistol and hear some doom-esque monster noises around, eventually a decent-sized imp pops up in front of me. Not even gonna bother wasting time shooting, I learned from the demo level that the knife one-hit kills most basic enemies and quickly dispatches it. No secrets back here. Quickly killed some other basic projectile-throwing enemies with my double pistols.
05 - The storm seems to be letting up and I enter the structure. The music seems to change depending on my combat status as well. Heading up an elevator, I find a new guy that shoots multiple projectiles on the ground, can probably jump over them or just avoid. More egyptian scenery up on top, it looks pretty nice.
06 – The thing I really liked about the game is that it feels very precise, like a pc fps should. I find some shells and armor hidden behind some pillars. On the other equivalent side I find a hidden area and double shotgun, very nice. Takes forever to reload but is very satisfying.
07 – The large imps have no chance with the double shotgun. More Sam voice acting quotes. I get to an open pool area, with a new enemy that throws grenades. A bunch of little armor pieces around. I hate little armor/health pieces :-\ New open area, perfect for a setup. I find the regular shotgun and a horde of enemies shows up on cue.
08 – A new skeleton enemy shows up, with bull-type charging. First level completed as Sam walks out. Now for the sand canyon.
09 – Kamikaze suicide bomber enemy attacks, quickly dispatched with pistols. Sam does not seem amused. Uh oh. Tons of them now. I mess up a bit on pistol accuracy and pay the price, almost dying here. Those enemies have great positional sound as well, showing off Croteam's custom sound engine. I head over the cliff with 30 health.
10 – The next group is fairly easy to dispatch, I pick off most with pistols and shotgun the skeleton charger. Look around for some health, don't find much. The armor helps though. Heading down to a foggy room, hear some skeletons charging nearby...
11 – Even without being able to see their charge, some simple juking takes care of the problem. Uh oh, more kamikazes. Too bad they're too dumb to see me, and Sam mocks their futility. The gate opens, and nothing attacks surprisingly. I almost get crushed by a boulder and Sam whistles Indiana Jones. I manage to get up on a ledge for a single point of health.
12 – Heading back the other way now past the boulder. Delicious shotgun giblets. More kamikazes, one shotgun sets off an explosion chain that gets rid of them all. I head to the center of the room and get bombarded with a swarm of jumping frogs. Wow, these look annoying. Heading out of the room, I take care of some more imps and a skeleton.
13 – Finally almost have my health back up after losing it all at the start of the level, lol. Take care of some more imps, delicious giblets. Full health/armor now.
14 - Skeletons down, dunno where that bird noise keeps coming from. Heading up a ramp. Oh ugh, more frog things. Pistols almost seem better for them once you clear out groups with the shotgun. Looks like I'm heading outside now, take out a couple enemies with the pistol.
15 – Imp down, more shooting practice, find a couple items in a corner. They seem to be stocking me up. Lol, an actual bull. Double shotgun does wonders, nice that I got it so early.
16 – Run right into a armor trap lol. Hear a skeleton, a boulder comes out of nowhere to smash it. Could've died there. Giant streak of blood after I finish a basic guy. Whoa, a laser-shooting alien pops up with a new wave. I keep at range and pistol it to death. It decomposes pretty well, nice to see aliens are so green.
17 – Looks like I just missed an imp that was chasing me. Cutscene triggers as Sam walks into a structure and picks up a power orb. That's one of four I think? Probably for the Egypt level.
18 – Now heading to the Tomb of Ramses III, fun. Nice lighting effects going on here. Giblets/blood smearing looks great on ramps. I pick off the enemies in the room, lots of choices of places to go.
19 – I head up some stairs and get ambushed from behind. Switch to single shottie to avoid the massive reload times. Couple more imps around, lots of enemies in this small room.
20 – Taking some damage, but nothing too terrible yet. Lots of single items hidden in the sides. I figure this is the main path so I head back to find what I missed.
21 – And it was a good decision, secret area! Only armor though... and a new type of enemy, a floating imp head apparently. Very few moments of peace in here. As I head back on the main path I see a heart which I have no idea how to get.
22 – Pretty good shape again, game seems to give you plenty of items when it thinks you may need them. A wall opens to release a handful of enemies. Single shotgun seems to be working pretty well, much faster than the double and still plenty for most enemies, although I can't say, one-shot the skeletons with it. For the big enemies there's no comparison. I head into a dark room and a health items runs into the corner. I chase and gobble it.
23 – Skeleton trap. Aint no thang. Miss a few times but don't take any damage. Small hallway, I smell enemies. A giant monster with a chaingun appears behind me with a squad of imps. A few double shotgun blasts takes it out.
24 – Heading up I see another one. They seem to be pretty much useless if you keep shooting them, not too bad. Pretty new weapon up there, I want. Can't seemingly jump that far. A "secret teleport" takes me up there.
25 – Nice, a rocket launcher. "Now that's some serious firepower!" Only 7 rockets, better use them on something good. Chaingun enemy in the distance, perfect spot for some rockets. 3 seem to do the trick. These enemies seem to be getting easier...
26 – I pick off a couple enemies from a ledge. Head up to another ledge and a chaingun monster appears, the shotgun takes it down easily. These head things are kinda obnoxious. I see another heard above, not sure how to get it. But I do fall down and get mobbed by more imp heads...
27 – Time to head up, room seems cleared. No idea where the heart went.
28 – Look around a bit for it, can't find it. Oh well. I explore the side room before heading to the main, don't find much.
29 – More enemies, getting randomly shot by a chaingun enemy. It's hiding up on a ledge, not fair. Three rockets and it's gone. Some red armor high up, not sure how to get it. Only one rocket left.
30 – Heading up, continuing on. Get full armor and health, something's probably coming up. Find a giant room with pillars everywhere. I smell a fight. Skeletons and kamikazis everywhere. Couple of them get shot in the face, others take a bit. Fighting skeletons are really hit or miss. Groups of them can be difficult. I see a double shotgun in the middle of the room and grab it. I guess you only get it normally now, too bad for the people who do, since I've gotten tons of good use out of it up to this point. The kamikazis have to run around pillars, making it even harder to get a good grasp on where they are with sound cues in this room.
31 – More basic enemies spawn, not too bad yet. Ugh, skeletons and kamikazis. Not getting clean shots in. These skeletons are causing major problems. And then a kamikazi comes in and finishes me off, great. Well, I haven't been saving and apparently don't get any checkpoints, so it throws me all the way back at the start. Ugh. 14 minutes of level time wasted.
32 – This time I'm just rushing it, full shotgun run. While remembering to save semi-often of course. We'll see if ammo becomes an issue.
33 – Side room seems more annoying this time.
34 – Getting pretty good at the double shotgun to the face skeleton kills.
35 – Chaingun guy isn't so hot without the element of surprise. Sweet rockets again.
37 – Not going to take so long on this big room this time around.
38 – Still no ammo problems, they seem to balance the game pretty well on normal, I'm guessing it's more on an issue on harder settings.
41 – Trying to figure out how to get the red armor, I give up pretty quickly as I get 100 health/armor in a minute anyway. Got back to the big room.
42 – Skeletons still messing me up, new strategy isn't working that much better.
43 – Haven't got hit in a while. Uh oh, sounds like skeletons everywhere lol. Ugh, how do I partially miss these point-blank shots when their back is turned? Maybe they don't take as much damage then, I dunno.
44 – No more armor, still lots of skeletons. Seriously, frogs now? Ugh.... At least mid-range shotgun blasts seem to be able to take out a ton of them, but then you still have a few jumping around.
45 – aosdufpaiosufsd they're everywhere. And taking off 10 health per hit, I can't take much more. I quickly auto-save midfight just in case (and hoping it would load right there instead of the start of the encounter). Down to 30 health and hear a big screech in the corner...
46 – Looks like another old Doom monster, a bright red rocket-firing scorpion... thing. I juke around pillar cover to be safe, and it goes down without a problem. Am I done now in this room? Please? Nope. Wow, a random kamikazi. So evil.
47 – 50 health box. Delicious. Guess the room's clear, heading up a ramp now. Cue cutscene and another orb of magic/power/whatever.
48 – Heading to Valley of the Kings. Lots of shells in my little starting room. The odd mooing outside disturbs me. I draw the nearby enemies into my safe spot and then start picking away at the ones in the distance. The draw distance in this game is also amazing, this game is very impressive technically (even if a lot of things rightfully feel outdated).
49 – Seriously, why the mooing? lol A bull appear. More shooting, more killing.
50 – Still surprised at how useful each weapon seems as I'm still switching to the pistol regularly. Granted, I still only have a few weapons but it's promising. I head back to recharge shells and find some more in a corner outside.
51 – Oh yeah, I should remember to save >_> Few kamikazis come out with a bull, the bull helps me out a bit here. The lazer aliens show up in the distance, I stay at range and pick them off.
52 – A bigger alien shows up once the rest are down. Again, no match for my long range pistol shooting. Shoots rockets apparently. It gets closer but they're never an issue to dodge.
53 – Sigh, frogs. Ugh, and from the side too. I seriously have no idea how I'm supposed to take them out easily. Probably with mid-range shotgun but I just don't know, maybe with a future weapon. Backgrounds still look pretty nice for being basic and plain.
54 – Scrounging around for items, I hear a bulland kamikazis. These bulls have some pretty funny path physics.
55 – Some green dude with asteroids shows up, dunno how I'm supposed to avoid these things exactly. Recharge on health and ammo and head up.
56 – Sweet, rocket launcher and finally some rocket ammo. A green bar pops up on the screen. And it belongs to a giant boss that shows up behind me. Time to put these rockets to use. It has some shiny, incredibly fast fireballs while splash on impact and manages to destroy some scenery while attacking me. All in all, nothing too hard but possibly the first boss and pretty cool, game's starting to pick up if it hasn't already.
57 – Enter a new area with an ankh on a raised platform, a puzzle perhaps? Head right to some armor. Yep, a trap. Bunch of imps pop up, I knife them down, figuring it's faster than waiting on double shotgun.
58 – Chaingun guy popped up in the middle. Actually make that two. Putting rockets to good use again.
59 – And I figure this is a good place to stop, one minute ahead of schedule.
Minutes to Action: 4
What I liked: Honestly, it was a lot more fun than expected. The pacing/learning curve teaches the player nicely and there's enough meat to the gameplay that you aren't quite so offput by the fact that you're going against hordes of the same enemies repeatedly. The game is also superbly technically sound. Croteam has always been a very proficient group of programmers, with impressive engines that support many standards, work well on all supported systems, and are generally free of any bugs detrimental to gameplay. The "HD" graphical upgrade is impressive at times and has its moments.
What I didn't like: While the engine is nice and gameplay solid, it still feels (and is) quite dated. It works fine as a tech demo for their engine and for someone who wants to play Serious Sam, but quite a few items could have used a new coat of paint, which honestly should be to hard to do without breaking things. The weapon holding/animations, overall texture quality, sound samples, and level geometry are fairly evident carryovers of its predecessor. Perhaps they'll add things like dx11 tesselation to Second Encounter/Serious Sam 3 to ratchet up the standard without requiring a complete overhaul.
First hour conclusion: The game is still quite solid so far, displaying its prowess as a fun fps romp to test your reactions and aiming abilities. It sells for a budget price, only going for ~$15 on Steam (and can be occasionally found for cheaper). Serious Sam is what it is and doesn't bother pretending to be anything else. I'm currently not sure if I'll go past the first hour or not, but I'm feeling a playthrough via online co-op; another rare, useful feature Croteam included in the game.
As mentioned earlier, you can watch the first hour playthrough at http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=40ADF19B6F04C62A&playnext=1&play... for the full first hour experience.