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Serious Sam:  The First Encounter (PC) artwork

Serious Sam: The First Encounter (PC) review

"While most FPS' these days focus a lot on exploration, key-collecting and even problem and puzzle-solving, SS skips all that and goes right for the action. in the average FPS, even the most ''busy'' of rooms won't likely contain more than 10 enemies, but in SS, the most ''busy'' of rooms go well above the 50's! This is FPS war gone massive. "


The first game that comes to mind upon playing Serious Sam would have to be the legendary Duke Nukem 3D. With a buff, badass lead character with a corny name and an array of high-tech guns at his disposal, the two games appear similar at first glance. You'll also notice other little bits and pieces which will undoubtedly remind you of other first-person shooters, however, Serious Sam is much more original than you'd think. What I thought was going to just be another fun, but average shooter turned out to be one of the most intense games of the year.


''Intense'' and ''Insane'' are two words which come to mind when trying to describe Serious Sam's gameplay. Unlike many of the more recent FPS, SS doesn't try to be realistic. It doesn't try to be sophisticated or complicated, and it isn't about World War II or Counter-Terrorism. It's just a good, old-fashioned shooter, but on a HUGE scale. While most FPS' these days focus a lot on exploration, key-collecting and even problem and puzzle-solving, SS skips all that and goes right for the action. in the average FPS, even the most ''busy'' of rooms won't likely contain more than 10 enemies, but in SS, the most ''busy'' of rooms go well above the 50's! This is FPS war gone massive. One single room or area could take you 20 minutes to complete, because the enemies just keep coming.

That's part of what makes the game so hard. It's all about battle, and the game is just filled with enemies. Everywhere you go, you'll be on your toes, waiting for the next group of monsters to pop out at you. You'll be strafing, jumping, dodging, doing everything you can to avoid enemy attacks, and I'll say one thing; it's not easy. There are only a few enemies that go down in one hit, and even those can pack quite the punch if you're not careful. There will be rooms that just swarm with dozens of baddies, and you'll have to kill every last one of them before you go on. This extremely fast-paced and action-packed gameplay might not be for some, because frankly, not only is it hard, but it never gives your heart a chance to rest.

Sam has 10 damaging weapons at his disposal, ranging from his two-trusty revolves to a rocket launcher, machine gun and shotgun. All of the guns are really cool to look at, and also fun to use, particularly the double-barreled shotgun. Along the way, you'll pick up shields, armor and ammo in almost every room, which is a relief, because without those things, the game would be impossible. Sam does have quite a bit of health, but the only advantage he has on his enemies is range, so if you go toe-to-toe with some of the tougher enemies in the game, you're toast!


SS's graphics are nothing amazing. They're crisp, but lack detail and variety. The environments all look very similar, and the textures are nothing spectacular. The fact that your computer will also have to be pretty powerful in order to play this game at it's highest settings also doesn't help. As you run through the world, you'll notice a lot of pop-up and some slowdown here and there. The sky is only one layer, and it looks completely flat. Water effects are also incredibly boring and just displeasing to look at.

It isn't all bad, however. In-game effects still look nice, and all the enemies appear quite decent, with a fairly good amount of detail. The guns also all look sleek and sharp, as do the projectiles that come out of them. All in all, the graphics aren't by any means bad, but they're scrappy, and they look dated. It won't ''wow'' you, but SS definitely won't scare you off.


The sound portion of the game is another area where SS excels. The music is good, mysterious egyptian-fare when you're wandering around, but when enemies come on-screen, it turns into heart-thumping techno. It's actually pretty damn intense, and make the game all the more enjoyable and immersive. However, the real excitement lies within the sound effects. All of the guns give off rich, deep sound, particularly the two shotguns. Many gamers may not think much of sound, but try playing a game without it, and see how you like it then.


Sorry, there isn't much to say here. It turns out that in the future, archaeologists found another species within the Egyptian ruins, and...They're hostile! It's Serious Sam's job to exterminate the enemies, for he is humankind's last hope! Don't worry, the story plays absolutely NO role in how the game plays, and I wouldn't have it any other way. There is the occasional short, in-game cutscene, but it rarely actually tells much of a story.


Other than the five different difficulties, Serious Sam also features a level-editor. The combination of these two options gives the game a decent amount of replay value, which will hopefully keep players coming back for a bit more game time. Other than that, the game isn't very long (10 or so hours), so if you don't end up coming back, the value isn't exactly high.


I expect first-person shooters to have the most responsive controls of all games, because it's so incredibly important. If you can't aim and maneuver easily, then the game is just a hassle to play. Unfortunately, SS doesn't control as nicely as I'd like it to. It has all the customization I'd expect from the genre, but I found the keyboard controls to be a bit too sensitive. Push the ''forward'' key just once, and SS tends to move a bit too far that way. This is how it is with all the directions, and frankly, it can get a bit troublesome to navigate your way around the dozens of onscreen enemies when you're using such loose controls. This is something that every gamer is likely to get used to, but it's definitely something worth nothing. Other than that, control is nearly flawless and needs hardly any work.


Serious Sam managed to take the most incredibly simple and core aspects of a popular genre, and make one amazing game. With all the other spectacular FPS' on the market featuring real-life physics engines, squad-based combat, realistic weapons, etc., who would have thought that the most simple solution is often the best? Those who are thinking of passing SS off as ''just another FPS'' need to play the game to experience just how intense and action-packed it is. Never before have I played a shooter which has so many enemeis on-screen at a time! You'll be amazed by how fun and addictive the game is, even if it's graphics leave something to be desired. SS is every Doom-fan's dream.


Graphics: 7.5/10
Sound: 8.5/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 5/10
Control: 8/10
Replay: 8/10

ender's avatar
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)

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