|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Croteam||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 22, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2-8 Players Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by J. Matthew Zoss
Serious Sam may have never reached the same heights of popularity as some of the other first-person shooter heroes, but there are still plenty of gamers out there with fond memories of the hero and his fast-paced, deliberately straightforward games. Earlier this year, a HD remake of Serious Sam: The First Encounter made its way onto Xbox Live, and an HD update of the second game hit PCs this summer. Now, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter has launched for Xbox Live Arcade. So is it worth your time?
The answer will really depend on how much nostalgia you have for the early days of first-person shooters. The genre has changed immensely since the early days, with more engaging stories, cinematic moments, careful weapon balancing, and more. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter has none of these things. Its a straight-up run-and-gun fragfest with little in the way of depth, plot, or variety. You shoot hordes of enemies, endure a little bit of dreaded first-person platforming, and thats really about it.
Thats not intended as an insult the Serious Sam games have always been designed to be old-school, with the focus much more on gunplay than story or problem-solving. Thats not to say these qualities are completely absent from The Second Encounter. Theres a story, although its primarily told through menu screen text. There are puzzles, but they mostly involve searching for hidden rooms. Sam himself does have a personality, but its limited to a few short one-liners some of which break the fourth wall and poke fun at other game characters or gaming in general.
What youre then left with is the opportunity to run through expansive levels and blow away everything that moves with a huge arsenal of (often ridiculous) weapons. Youll seldom go more than a few seconds without an enemy attacking you, often from behind or above. If you dont stay on your toes, you wont last long. Fortunately, youll amass a ridiculously large selection of weapons quickly so many that it can be tricky to find the gun youre looking for in your arsenal. Theres a quick-save feature mapped to the Y button, something youll want to remember when you get past a difficult section. There are no checkpoints to be found in The Second Encounter, so forget about that quick save button, and youll soon regret it.
In some modes, The Second Encounters basic gameplay works, and in others it really doesnt. The core campaign mode is usually my favorite part of a shooter. Here, its my least favorite. Moving from point A to B through a large, sparsely populated map with the trigger constantly depressed is just not what Im used to anymore. Today, the best shooters have highs and lows. They feel like a roller-coaster. Theres no drama to The Second Encounter, no variety or surprise. I love shooting enemies as much as the next guy, but a little diversity would be nice.
However, you could probably say the same thing about any classic FPS, so I dont want to judge The Second Encounter too harshly for staying true to its original (severely dated) design. Fortunately, while the campaign did bore me to tears, there are plenty of other gameplay options in Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter, the best of which is Survival Mode.