Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem

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Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem review
Samuel Corey


To Russia with love

Right into the Thick of Things

Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem begins with a refreshing directness, as the titular Sam Stone arrives in Russia and begins slaughtering the alien armies that are occupying it. There’s no expository cutscene or opening mission briefing. Hell, we don’t even get a Star Wars-style text crawl filling us in on the story thus far. I assume that we're picking off from the end of the previous game in the series, Serious Sam 4, but since this is my first foray into the Serious Sam franchise I was left wondering: Who the hell is Sam Stone? What is he doing in Russia? And where did all these aliens come from?

It's not the most elegant way to deliver the story for new players, but then again there isn't that much that needs to be introduced in a game like Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem. You are a bonified badass, and your job is to kill all the evil aliens. It’s not exactly the sort of plot that requires a great deal of exposition. Hell, even players who have never touched a Serious Sam game before will quickly figure out the gist of things. Indeed, it might be a good thing that we’re spared a lot of cutscenes, as I doubt that Sam Stone is the sort of character who could support a dramatic scene. I don’t want to listen to this overgrown goofball recite Othello, and I'm quite thankful that the developers at Croteam didn't have the poor sense to try and use him for this purpose.

Kill! Kill! Kill! Walk. Walk. Walk.

Almost immediately, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem demonstrates its most considerable asset: Its huge pool of enemies. You'll encounter around fifteen different enemy types before the end of the first level, and as the game progresses it will keep throwing more at you. I think the final number of enemies is well over thirty. For comparison, Doom 2016 has about a dozen different enemy types for the entire game (not counting unique bosses) and Wolfenstein The New Colossus only has Nazi troopers (albeit with varying amounts of body armor) and about four different kinds of robots.

However, when you’ve got thirty plus enemy types, they’re not all going to be winners. I don’t see the point of having two types of cyclopean aliens that charge towards you and deliver melee attacks. They move at roughly the same speed and do roughly the same amount of damage, so having two of them just seems redundant. Then they have the mad bomber enemies that while a perfectly fine opponent, in theory, is transformed into the most insufferable annoyance in the whole game by the ear-piercing screams they let out whenever they spawn. These things yell so loud they can drown out the noise of gunfire! I found myself targeting these guys first, even when there were bigger threats nearby, just to get some peace.

The huge pool of enemies means that each encounter will play out at least a little differently than the ones that came before. Sometimes you’ll have mobs of weak melee-focused enemies with a couple of nasty surprises like those alien bulls mixed in for good measure. Other times there will be a small group of heavy hitters like the Baron of Hell wannabees flanked by a small army of mooks with pea-shooters. Fast-moving fliers make my usual tactic of slamming on the S key and making a fighting retreat effectively impossible, while the skeletons have a nasty habit of sneaking up behind you. The only common element for each encounter is that you’re never fighting just one baddie, instead, they always spawn in huge waves that make the game resemble the fights from Earth Defense Force more than anything else.

The game is relatively short with only five levels, though to be fair these are some jumbo-sized levels. Most will take between 40-60 minutes to complete so the overall playtime is still decent considering the $20 price tag. However, the environments in these levels are unforgivably boring. The first two levels take place almost entirely in a sprawling oil refinery, and the next two have you trekking dozens of kilometres over the sparsely populated countryside. There are a few highlights like a picturesque ruined church and cemetery but frustratingly you don’t even have a gunfight in either of these locations! Worse yet, there is a lot of tedious walking from point A to point B.

To ease up the monotony, the game helpfully adds in a couple of vehicle sequences that allow you to cover large swaths of land quickly. The first, where you pilot a fast-moving mech with a chainsaw arm is a real treat. The melee attack on this thing can cleave through a whole column of enemy infantry with a single blow. In the background, the music switches over to a remix of Kalinka (Калинка), and for a moment it felt like Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem was taking advantage of its Slavic setting in an interesting way. After this, riding around in a tank for the next extended vehicle section can’t help but be a bit of a letdown.

Are You Serious?

While the combat is brisk and the levels sufficiently sprawling, what makes Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem a treat to play is Sam himself. His design, which has remained more-or-less constant since the original Serious Sam: The First Encounter, is a delightful combination of extremes. Sam Stone has the physiognomy of a comic book superhero, with his lantern-jaw and bulging muscles; but the fashion sense of a software engineer, sporting a bizarrely normal-looking pair of jeans and a t-shirt wherever he goes. Indeed, it took me a while to realize that Sam was supposed to be part of a military organization as he doesn’t have any insignia of rank or even normal issue fatigues.

Then there is his voice, which sounds like a teenager dropping their voice an octave while trying to buy booze with a fake ID. This voice gives his personality a delightfully absurd character as if he was knowingly crafted to be a childish fantasy of masculinity. Yet, in other ways, he does not conform to this manly-man action hero stereotype. Sam Stone is not a hyper-confrontational and competitive figure like Duke Nukem or Marcus Fenix. Instead, he seems downright friendly albeit a bit taciturn. Despite his complete disregard for standard military attire and eccentric personality he always gives the impression of polite professionalism.

For me, trying to figure out what makes the strange character of Sam Stone tick was enough to keep me interested ever during the slow bits of Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem. Even for those less captivated by the protagonist, I’d still give the game a solid recommendation. It’s a solid shooter with a fair bit of charm. While it’s certainly not the most original or daring work to grace the medium, it’s competent, fun, and priced appropriately.

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fun score


Only five levels but they are all huge, large variety of enemies, Sam Stone is a charming protagonist.


The skill tree is pretty bland, environments feel repetitive, relatively short.