Serious Sam 3: BFE review
Seriously, welcome back mate
Seriously better than Duke Nukem Forever.
In 2011, three similar games came out - Bulletstorm, Serious Sam 3, and Duke Nukem Forever. These games were meant to be more arcade-y, fun and over the top like in the good old days, as opposed to serious and grounded in realism while still feeling arcade-y like the majority of military shooters these days. I enjoyed Bulletstorm but it could've been a lot better. Duke Nukem Forever was boring and mediocre, and if it was a no-name game, nobody would give even a fraction of a shit about it unless you know who Gearbox Software are. So to finish off the year is Serious Sam 3, a long awaited but not nearly as long awaited as Duke Nukem Forever sequel to the awesome one-two punch of Serious Sam: First and Second Encounters. Both of those games were good, but Serious Sam 3 really ups the ante and winds up becoming not only the best shooter of 2011, but also one of the best shooters I've played in years!
BFE stands for Before First Encounter.
Serious Sam 3 is a prequel to the crazy time travelling tales of, well, Serious Sam, which I guess is meant to get people who missed the older games in the series into them, but really, Serious Sam was never Shakespeare - he was just a meathead with a lot of one liners. Basically, Croatia's answer to America's Duke Nukem, although Duke was more badass than Sam. Either way, the decision to make it a prequel is a bit silly, but then again, I guess anything to get people to buy the earlier games is a good thing. Anyway, an alien known as Mental sends his fleet of aliens down onto Egypt (modern Egypt, actually). The survivors of the attack turn to the time lock, a time travelling device which could be used to alter events of the past... if they could actually use it. Sam and some soldiers from the Earth Defense Force are sent to take them out, but there's more to it than that as things don't start off on the right foot and more stuff happens as he progresses. Honestly though, it doesn't do much except set you up to kill more aliens and give Sam more cheesy one liners, and honestly, while I do think that Bulletstorm did a better job of this concept as it's just much more enjoyable, at least here, it's not in your face, and Sam has a few funny one liners every now and again. It's just there because... well, every game has to have a story of sorts, apparently.
Shoot many aliens.
So really, the idea is to shoot down hoards of aliens. Brainless, you say? Well, in theory, yeah, but the Serious Sam games aren't above giving you large waves to force you to keep your wits about you. Lazy design, maybe, but *bleep* it, it's just way too much fun to be worrying about that, and that's all it amounts to - fun. Like, you're getting swarmed by a few running aliens down a hallway, or swarmed by hundreds (most of which will spawn once you've killed a significant amount of a wave) in a big, open area. You start off unarmed, but as the game goes on, you'll find heaps of weapons, and unlike other modern shooters, you can carry all of your weapons at once - none of that two weapon bullshit, which is especially awesome because all of the weapons are useful. Stuff like miniguns, shotguns and rocket launchers, among others, will be at your disposal, and you'll do well to use them in the most appropriate situations.
The AI is actually pretty damn aggressive. Don't think that you'll be safe camping behind cover, because 1) there's hardly any to speak of that'll be useful, and 2) the enemies use that good old strength in numbers strategy - they overwhelm you, they kill you! It's not just about the numbers but also about the enemy variety - simply put, there are a fair few different types of enemies with their own quirks and some with their own specific methods of being taken down. If you're not concentrating, you might find yourself getting yourself killed and having to restart at the last checkpoint, and unlike other modern shooters including Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever, there is no regenerating health - you have to find health kits to restore it or some armor to give yourself a bit more endurance. So yeah, it's hard and it only gets harder as it goes, with the last level being deviously hard at points. Thankfully, it does a great job of placing items in places you'd either expect to find them during or after firefights, or out of your way for when you're done and you feel like exploring a bit for secrets.
At the same time, this keeps firefights exhilarating because there's just a lot to keep an eye on while shooting them down. It's not as simple as blindly shooting and bada bing bada boom - like I said, you need to use the weapons at appropriate situations, but you also need to shoot enemies that are the most dangerous in that exact moment. Thinking on your feet is the one thing you need to be able to do, and once you can, you'll see why it's so much fun. Extra points to the co-op feature - you can have 2-16 people going through levels and the more people there, the more insane it gets and the more fun it can get. I'm glad that this is all the game really amounts to - no silly scripted events (well, okay, a couple), no quick time events, and just plain old no bullshit. It's almost as if we got a time travelling device and went back to 2004 when shooters were just starting to be less about fast and frenetic shooting and more about emulating Michael Bay movies but god bless the lot that are still keeping it real!
You just got a load of single player and co-operative multiplayer - now let's dig into competitive multiplayer, which... is not as good. For one thing, there aren't a whole range of maps. You get like three. Now, if these were the best three maps in the world, then there'd be no issue, but if anything, these are probably the three worst maps I've seen in a long time. One of them is tolerable enough in that there's a decent amount of cover and open areas and all that fun stuff, but the other two either feel so thin that it'd give earthworms claustrophobia (and, for some bizarre reason, has parts that are way too dark with strobelights whenever you play a round of capture the flag in it), or it's so open that it's amazing you can actually see solid objects! In general, there are a couple of problems - one, it's easy to get spawn kills because the spawn points are not in the best places and you can spawn in the middle of a firefight. Being able to choose where you can respawn and see where other people are would be a good idea. The other thing is that, well, forget weapon balancing - just rush for the nearest railgun or shotgun and you've got a good chance to kick ass unless the other people has a double barrel shotgun! Meanwhile, getting an assault rifle is suicide because it just isn't powerful enough to keep up with the shotties and railguns, and you have to actually aim with them while shotguns and railguns take little to no skill to use and kills are very quick and easy to get. It ends up becoming a spamfest and, fast paced as it may be, it gets irritating to play. You might as well be playing Call Of Duty.
There is a saving grace - Beast Hunt mode. In this mode, you can hunt for monsters in levels you've unlocked with up to 16 people. It sounds like the co-op campaign, but there is one big difference, and that is the license to kill! Every 10000 points nets you the option to kill a fellow competitior for extra points. There's also a horde mode of sorts where you (and your mates if they feel like playing) have to kill a bunch of monsters while sitting up a top of a pyramid. It's all in good fun, but really what it amounts to is that Serious Sam 3's multiplayer is at its best when co-op is involved, and is just really underwhelming when it comes to killing each other.
Drawn by Da Vinci.
Besides a certain map that we will never speak of, the game looks *bleep*ing excellent. Plenty of work had been put into making everything look realistic (if not just pretty damn good looking) with some excellent textures and even more impressive lighting. Mind you, if you're not playing this with at least high settings, you won't notice the textures, but on that note, it is a bit of a monster to run. Not at Crysis-level, but let's just say that you might want to get yourself some real up to date hardware if you want to run it at a higher settings. At lower settings, it does look fine, but you'd be missing out. You'd also be missing out on some sick lighting – bloody hell, it really does feel like I'm out in the hot sun, or like I'm in some Egyptian ruins.
Composed by Nile.
Damn, I love this soundtrack. It's the sort of soundtrack that nails the feeling of kicking ass in Egypt with a blend of blood pumping metal for the fights and some ambient Egyptian melodies for those calmer moments. These songs really nail the atmospheres that they're trying to convey as the metal music really makes each fight feel intense, like you're there to *bleep* shit up with your guns but these enemies ain't no pushovers; meanwhile, the ambient Egyptian music is calm enough to let you explore, but its melodies will suck you into the thrill of exploration. The voice acting... well, it does well enough to not suck, though it does make it obvious that the dialogue isn't that well written. Sam sounds appropriately silly, but everyone else just sounds like they're going “umm what is this” while reading their lines. The story is largely negligable but you'll still hear voices so... like I said, it does well enough to not suck when given bad dialogue. Sometimes amusingly bad, but way more often than not, it's pretty bad. Just keep your ears open for the music, which rocks the house down and then some.
Seriously worth buying or not?
Serious Sam 3 is just fantastic. The multiplayer is lackluster, but the co-op and single player campaigns are a lot of fun to go through because they're so crazy. If you think all shooters have to be like summer blockbusters in which scripted events have to happen every 20 minutes, go and buy Modern Warfare 3, but if you want a game that goes back to the days where fast paced meant running around and killing waves of aggressive enemies, Serious Sam 3 is definitely the one to buy. Its fast and frenetic action that remains exhilarating because of aggressive AI, lots of guns and the pacing between encounters that gives you enough time to catch your breath. Overall, it's tons of fun and I wish shooters would slide a bit more in this direction instead of trying to be the next Half Life.
It's really there just to help people get into the first games. Sam's one liners are lame, but some of them are funny in spite of that.
Crappy versus multiplayer aside, the hectic action is paced very well, keeping encounters fast and furious yet refreshing. Co-op just feels like the icing on top because it gets even more hectic with other people around, and Beast Hunt really keeps you on your toes.
Moving, sprinting and shooting is easy enough to pull off and while jumping is a little fidgety, it's smooth and lets you do what you do with no problems.
It's a very nice looking game with some fine textures and finer lighting, and there's a lot of onscreen activity. Hope your computer's powerful or you may need to do some tinkering.
It's got a great soundtrack that really works and voice acting that's at least serviceable.
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