Laughing In The Face Of The Duke
This year we have had the disappointment of Duke Nukem Forever; a game that many hoped would revamp the classic shooter for a modern player base. In the same year, Croteam are attempting a similar effort with Serious Sam 3: BFE. Although some may still be licking the wounds that Duke Nukem Forever lacerated upon them, be assured that Serious Sam 3 is everything that you would hope for it to be. Seriously.
Your Head Looks Better Squashed
Serious Sam has always been about arcade-style manic shooting action, and has always been incredibly fun because of it. Serious Sam 3 may immediately strike a worry in the pit of every fan's stomach. At first glance the game seems to have lost its brightly coloured charm, instead favouring the dull greys of the many modern photorealistic shooters. The first few steps that the player takes are onto a rooftop in a crumbling city. A helicopter crashes down across the skyline. This could be the start to any generic shooter nowadays. But before the player has any more time to think, they are thrust into panic as a Gnaar charges atop the rooftop, it's bizarre alien look completely contrasting with the rest of the visuals. So this is Serious Sam after all! Just to confirm it, the player is then prompted to melee the charging Gnaar, at which point Sam grabs its huge eye and yanks it out. Just like any perfect visual metaphor, the excessive gore splashes its red all over the contrasting greys; Serious Sam has returned to bring some colour and fun back into the first person shooter.
Continuing to paint the walls of this grey and white city is managed more aptly with Sam's new best friend - a sledgehammer. Raising the hammer above his head, Sam bludgeons his way through waves of Gnaars, crushing them with a satisfying thud and consequently bathing in their blood. If there was ever a time to cackle, this would be it. Unlike its predecessors, Serious Sam 3 feels visceral due to its photorealistic graphics, yet it maintains an underlying comic tone to it. Modern generosities like iron sights and the updated graphics will attract those who shove a spoon up their arse and demand 'realism' in their shooter. Ultimately though, these features only act as a gloss to disguise what is without compromise, a classic shoot 'em up. Trust me, if you want to stay alive in Serious Sam 3 you will not be aiming down the sights very often.
If we are to take Wolfenstein 3D and Doom as definitive examples of a shooter, Serious Sam 3 fits right in as a modern reincarnation of them. A destructive array of guns available, no cover, loads of enemies, secrets, and health pickups - Serious Sam 3 has not changed since its first excursion into the genre. The game is all about shooting, and then more shooting, and then shooting bigger things. Luckily, the guns feel great; even the default Colt feels powerful in your hands. But most importantly the game still knows how to be fun. Sam's Nukem-like interjections provide plenty of punch lines that work best when interacting with the gameplay. The moment when Serious Sam 3 really started to feel as fun as it always has, has Sam imitating the distinctive scream of the headless kamikaze guy he just shot. Sam then mutters his wish for them to shut up under his breath, when a chorus of screams erupt from behind the hill before him. A heavy metal soundtrack kicks in and waves of screaming kamikazes sprint towards the player. With so many of them bunched together, a few bullets cause the kamikazes to explode into a gory mess complete with limbs flying in every direction. A grin spread across my face at this point.
The only thing that I was not able to see in the preview of the game was whether the more hilarious and crazy level designs were still present. Moments like bouncing from wall to wall while trying to shoot enemies caught in the same loop, and battling with humongous creatures the size of the pyramid that they just broke out of, were easily some of the most memorable moments in the previous entries in the series. Given that the rest of the game feels exactly the same as it always has, all except for a couple of modern tweaks and new weapons and enemies, I expect that these moments have been left as a surprise. Also absent were any of the power ups such as Serious Speed and Invulnerability. As this was only a snippet of the game, one can only hope that they lie elsewhere rather than being removed altogether. That would be a silly move.
The preview only featured gameplay outside in the open air, so I can only confirm that this was up to the standard of the typical Serious Sam experience. That, of course, means the usual expanse and flat deserts, palm tree-filled oasis' and small towns that are promptly awoken by your presence and that of the many enemies who make it their mission to obliterate you. Rather than opting for the high walls to keep you in the playable area, players who venture too far into the desert will hear a rumble and then witness a huge sand creature diving up and swallowing Sam whole! A crazy sight indeed, and one that confirms that there are huge creatures somewhere in the game. As if there wouldn't be!
So This Is What Fun Is
So the first impressions of the game are very positive. But things get even better. Serious Sam 3 features all of its usual gimmicks outside of the single player campaign. There are multiple difficulties, a survival mode and versus modes for players to have a scrap with each other in. Better yet, Serious Sam 3 has no problem providing a 16 player co-op campaign experience. That's a pretty impressive engine, especially when you consider how many enemies will be filling the screen as well. It is tempting to label this as the most fun you are going to have in a co-op game this year.
I could go on, but the fact of the matter is that Serious Sam 3 has not compromised the design or feel of its successful formula in any way. As its action takes place in the stretching deserts and tombs of 22nd century Egypt, Serious Sam 3 adopts a very familiar setting for the series to say the least. This decision ensures that this is a Serious Sam game to its very core. Mental is back, Sam is back, and the countless hordes of enemies are still running full throttle into a barrage of bullets and rockets. Phew. It's the purest shooting fun you are going to have this year, and probably for a while longer after that. These kinds of games are just not made any more.