Serious Sam: BFE (PC) review
"Serious Sam 3: BFE is Croteam's love letter to those of us who have been waiting for another glimpse at classic shoot-'em-up-ery in the vein of Doom, Quake, and even the original Duke Nukem, whose modern iteration failed to deliver. It's a machine gun-and-heavy-metal symphony that only hardcore shooter fans will want to take a stab at, and while its punishing difficulty at times may certainly be a turnoff for potential buyers, it's a satisfying throwback to a simpler time."
Serious Sam has always been serious business to me, if you'll pardon the terrible pun. The golden age of PC gaming was, and always will be (at least in my eyes) the days of fast, frenetic carnage, fragging without question, and ludicrous gibs. My philosophy has always been to shoot anything and everything I come into contact with and ask questions later. And to devs, leave your politically charged statements at the door and don't waste my time with jingoistic rally cries. Just leave me in a room with extraterrestrials or horrifying abominations with a BFG and plenty of ammo.
That's why Serious Sam, in all its incarnations, has held a special place in my heart over the years. With its numerous remakes and re-releases (and demakes, in the case of Serious Sam: The Random Encounter) the franchise had been hankering for its own "modern" update, and now that it's finally here, it may falter a bit while finding its identity in a sea of cookie-cutter shooters, but it delivers on its promise of chaos, mayhem, and the glee that can only come from wanton destruction. The hilarious "strategy guide" the review code arrived with says it best: hold down the trigger, run backwards, and repeat.
Sam's the same one-liner spewing, gun-toting he-man he's ever been, hilarious and happy-go-lucky, grin etched into his face as he parades everywhere from modern-day Cairo through the expanses of ancient Egypt those familiar with the series should be well-acquainted with. Sam's packing pistols, rocket launchers, SMGs, the SBC Cannon, and the usual assortment of things that go boom. My personal favorite, the sledgehammer, made quick work out of any monster who dared enter my immediate vicinity, and with deliciously evil after-effects. Anything you can find, be it the 12-gauge pump action shotgun or the Sirian Mutilator (gibs, gibs, everywhere!) is an asset in the war on...everything. Headless suicide bombers, three-faced blobs of flesh, enormous bullets, cannonballs, exotic bird-women, spiders, werebulls, Biomechs, Rocketeers, and their brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles are out for Sam Stone's blood. It's your job to keep your finger on the trigger (or in this case the left mouse button) and annihilate everything in your path. And it feels oh, so good.
Wimps need not apply. While most modern FPSs are satisfied allowing you a few minutes of respite, Serious Sam 3 is content to unleash terror at every turn, so that as soon as you think it's safe to turn your back, you're devoured by a sea of enemies. You've barely enough time for the dust to settle and the bullet casings to fall to the ground before another assault ensues. Even on normal difficulty, it's prudent to stay on guard at all times, lest you be sent back to your latest save. Luckily, the game allows you to save anywhere and at any time, a welcome throwback to the shooters of yore.
You'll need to be diligent when entering new areas and heck, simply from walking from one end of the desert to the next. Levels are huge, often intimidatingly so, and at the beginning of the game especially can be a rather slow grind. With nowhere to hide, sparse ammo in certain locations, and plenty of baddies who want your head on a platter, you'll want to give up. Time and time again. It's intense. But you keep plodding through, because it's that addictive -- even when it's just getting started, ramping up to its eventual insanity. Be advised, though, that you will find yourself stagnating at certain points, unable to progress, until your reflexes sharpen and your patience has recovered. You may need to back away from the computer for a few hours at a time and come back to tackle it, especially on higher difficulties. "Serious" is an apocalyptic challenge I certainly wasn't prepared for.
If you aren't courageous enough to stand up to the onslaught, you can recruit up to 15 additional players for a co-op experience quite unlike any other. In addition, split-screen local multiplayer is available just in case you want to party like it's 1997. BFE isn't shy in any of the opportunities it takes to remind you it's still the same balls-out action you fell in love with years ago, and even the small details such as this -- in an age where online multiplayer is the only mode gamers are looking for -- are certainly aspects that I appreciated immensely.
Serious Sam 3: BFE is Croteam's love letter to those of us who have been waiting for another glimpse at classic shoot-'em-up-ery in the vein of Doom, Quake, and even the original Duke Nukem, whose modern iteration failed to deliver. It's a machine gun-and-heavy-metal symphony that only hardcore shooter fans will want to take a stab at, and while its punishing difficulty at times may certainly be a turnoff for potential buyers, it's a satisfying throwback to a simpler time, where it was just you, your gun, and any sad so-and-so who dared cross you. That era may be dead and gone by now, but glimpses into the past like this one are definitely what allows me to look to the future with a renewed sense of pride as a gamer, and I surmise it will stir the same emotions in you, especially if you grew up with these types of games. For visceral violence and a raucous good time, seek the services of Mr. Stone.
Freelance review by Brittany Vincent (December 04, 2011)
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