Serious Sam The Second Encounter
by Take 2 Interactive
In recent times the shoot 'em up genre or FPS as it's known, has tried to be clever. Stealth elements have been added, elaborate plots have been created and gimmicks have often been used. However at the end of the day most fans of the FPS want to get back to basics and just have a damn good blast. For many the wait for Duke Nukem Forever is unbearable as this is what most FPS fans have on their wish list. However a newcomer, Serious Sam, came on the scene last year and impressed many people with its no fuss, hard-core, ammo flinging action. In fact the only fault most people could find with the original Serious Sam was that it was too short. Serious Sam The Second Encounter is now here and with a whole lot more action to boot.
The most impressive feature of Serious Sam, and the sequel, is the game engine. It looks absolutely beautiful. Lush jungle terrain and magnificent architecture are all features of this beautiful game engine. However it is the ability to display stupidly large amounts of enemies on screen at any one time without slowdown on all but the lowest specification PCs that truly amazes. At times it seems like 30+ enemies are visibly out for your guts. This is incredible. If you had that many enemies heading towards you in a game like Quake III or Unreal Tournament you would see nothing other than a slide show, even on a phenomenal PC.
Perhaps no other FPS has captured the spirit of Doom as well as Serious Sam. What this game demands is a cool mind, an accurate shot and superb manoeuvrability. The incessant wave after wave of enemies will test your FPS skills to the full unlike most modern FPS games that have attempted to bring in stealth and tactics. In fact you could say that Serious Sam is the shooters' shoot 'em up. Occasionally you get the odd break in the enemy waves and this gives you the opportunity to rearrange yourself in your seat, take a slurp from your drink and wipe the sweat from your moistened keyboard and mouse.
Various puzzle set pieces have been brought in, this time around, to give a little respite from the enemy waves. Rooms with crushing blocks, a room called Newton's nightmare that continually revolves as well as rooms with walls that hold huge spikes and that seem to have a magnetic attraction for our Sam, are all included in addition to many more variants. To be fair the puzzles are not difficult but provide a welcome change of pace. Not all of these puzzle rooms are devoid of enemies though, the Newton's nightmare room for instance soon becomes filled with enemies.
Speaking of enemies they are practically the same ones from the original game. One of the newcomers is Cucurbito the pumpkin, a man with a pumpkin head and who wields a chainsaw, he is not too much bother unless he's allowed to come too close. Of course the original enemies are still as mad and determined to get you as ever. There are about 23 different enemies in total but some of these are just slight variants. The Beheaded Rocketeer only differs from the Beheaded Firecracker in their choice of weapon.
When you come across an enemy for the first time Sam's NETRICSA (NEuroTRonically Implanted Combat Analyser) will notify you that data is ready for you to look at. With a double click of the right mouse button you can access the full data on the enemy. The NETRICSA also provides full info on goals that need to be achieved and how to go about solving the various puzzles that come Sam's way, although sometimes it hints at what has to be done instead of spelling it out.
Some screenshots of Sam's NETRICSA in action.
The weapons in this edition of Serious Sam are top class, if a little over the top. Cannon's, Chainsaw, Flame-thrower, Rocket Launcher and many more are all present and correct. One of the new weapons is the RAPTOR 16mm Sniper Rifle. This is a welcome inclusion and is perfect for picking off the Reptiloids. In fact one good thing you could say about the weapons is that variety is not wasted. Each of the weapons is effective against a particular enemy except for the default Schofield which is a bit weak against most enemies.
There are five difficulty levels. The two easiest of these, easy and tourist will allow virtually anyone to progress through the game at a nice pace. Played on normal, hard or serious mode though, Serious Sam TSE requires a high amount of skill to survive and challenge even the best. The games length is far greater than the original although the compelling nature of the game will mean that you will complete it sooner than you would have liked. Of course you can always play on a harder difficulty setting but I suspect most would prefer to go online and play through the game co-operatively.
As a FPS for the deaf gamer Serious Sam TSE is very playable. The NETRICSA is superb and informs you of everything and it is all in text. You can communicate textually in multiplayer as well, should you find the time. The only speech you miss out on is the odd quip that Sam makes when he comes across new weapons and such like and of course this has no bearing on the gameplay. What does have a bearing on the gameplay is the shorter notification you will have of approaching enemies. Whether it is the thunderous charge of the Sirian Werebull or the lunatic cry of the Beheaded Kamikaze the hearing gamer is notified far earlier of their approach by way of the noises. The deaf gamer has to keep their wits about them far more. On the easier difficulty settings this will not prove to much of a problem but on the highest difficulty setting it could prove disastrous.
Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10 Serious Sam is a cracker of a FPS and one that every fan of the genre should own. It is pure non-stop shooting action that every FPS fan will love. It may lack the stealth options of the modern day shooter but believe me this comes as a refreshing change. It is still a little short but the superb price tag of £19.99 and the ability to play co-operatively more than makes up for this shortfall.
Deaf Gamers comment: The wonderful NETRICSA gives you all the info you need to know without having to resort to the manual mid-game. The only thing I would say against the game is that on the higher difficulty settings it is a severe disadvantage not being able to be visually notified of the oncoming approach of enemies.