Serious Sam 3: BFE (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release: November 22, 2011
Serious Sam 3: BFE – much like Lost – can best be described using a twisted, convoluted tale of time travel and identity confusion. So, let’s get to it.
Picture Serious Sam as it existed a decade ago. There’s a thread-thin plot, a macho meathead protagonist, big guns, and lots of shooting. Regenerating health and cover mechanics are absent – those are for babies, after all. Things are good. Simple, sure, but fun. Then Sam steps into a time machine. Cue the flashing lights, humming sounds, and electrostatic pops.
Welcome to 2011.
“No, this is all wrong,” Sam says. “This is…blasphemy.”
The other shooters overhear Sam’s quip and they quickly move to surround the newcomer, backing him into a destroyed concrete structure.Call of Duty: Black Ops steps forward menacingly, but Sam holds his ground.
“Big mouth from Mr. Primitive over here,” Black Ops says. “Pretty high and mighty for someone who can’t even aim down his sights.”
Behind Black Ops, Gears of War 3 high-fives Bad Company 2. Halo: Reach loudly chuckles.
“I guess you don’t need to look down your sights when you’re fighting brainless enemies,” Black Ops continues. “Yeah, you’ve got a hundred guys running at you at once, but they’re all dumb. Just keep pulling that trigger, right champ?”
Sam doesn’t let it show externally, but the words cut him deep.
“Later, scrub,” Black Ops says, dismissively. “Time machine’s right over there.” The gang waltzes off, leaving Sam to his thoughts.
“I’ll show ‘em,” Sam grumbles to himself. “I’ll show ‘em, and I’ll do it on my terms.”
STICK TO YOUR GUNS
Serious Sam 3 hops back and forth between two styles. Roughly 75% of the time you’ll be neck deep in skeletons, headless kamikazes, and rampaging bull creatures, hammering on the fire button as fast as your finger muscles will allow. There’s no room to be careful or conservative; you simply sprint around blasting away at anything that moves. This is fun. This is how Serious Sam should play.
The rest of the time, however, the game crumbles under the peer pressure exerted by contemporary shooters. On many occasions, Sam strolls through a dilapidated town filled with bad guys. Turn a corner, aim down your sights, engage in a mid-range battle against four to six foes, collect their ammunition, then move on and do it all again. It’s the typical military shooter combat scenario.
There are even some survival horror-esque segments in which you’re tasked with exploring dark, lonesome tombs. This might be fine in another shooter where the mood and tone can match or enhance the scare factor, but in a game where the protagonist spews as many one-liners as he does bullets, the fear doesn’t really get to sink in.
Visually, the game is striking. It’s easily the most graphically advanced Serious Sam title to date, though that’s to be expected. The odd, colorful style of past Serious Sam games has vanished. Instead, developer Croteam adopted a more realistic style, complete with greys, browns, and more than a few rundown environments. You’ll hardly have time to sightsee, though, as you’ll probably be too busy backpedaling away from suicide bombers or circle-strafing grotesque, obese enemies.
“ALIEN HAMBURGER. MY FAVORITE.”
Serious Sam has always been about the weapons. This installment is no different.
You’ll begin the game with a devastating sledgehammer. It crushes skulls with ease, killing most enemies in a single hit. Does it break? Of course not. Weapon degradation is for chumps. There’s a pistol with incredible accuracy and range, an assault rifle, a couple of shotguns, C4 charges, a rocket launcher, and a few other goodies to discover. Like most shooters released near the turn of the century, you can carry all of the weapons. That whole “two weapons and a sidearm” thing doesn’t fly here.
Signature Serious Sam combat scenarios make a return. You know the ones: wide open areas, hundreds of enemies, lots of explosions. It really does feel great to emerge from a small, claustrophobic tunnel only to be greeted by an army.
These events last several minutes and are refreshingly challenging. Opponents in modern games will try to circle around and flank you, draw you out with explosives, or snipe you from cover. Opponents in Serious Sam 3 only want to charge you en masse. If you’ve been living on a steady diet of modern shooters, prepare to adapt or die.
“PREPARE FOR LOTS OF DEAD ALIENS.”
Though the game frequently lapses into awkward, slow segments, Serious Sam 3 seems to retain much of the fun and charm that made the original games so fun to play. The build I played wasn’t final, and things can change between now and November 22, but there are some certainties: The game will be goofy, there will be lots of bad guys, and it will be fun.