Serious Sam was the neatest budget title to ever hit the PC. At the beginning of the realism fetish peak, with everyone playing Counter-Strike, or Rainbow Six, but with the World War II shooters still a while away, a Croatian dev team and Gathering of Developers released this surprise shooter. It threw away everything about what was popular about first-person shooters then; it wasnít realistic, its enemies werenít more human, its enemies werenít intelligent, and the weapons were only real-ish rather than real.
In doing so, Serious Sam became a best-seller and reminded us Ė if only for a brief time Ė that entertainment isnít synonymous with realism. In Serious Sam the player threw himself into gigantic levels with dozens of enemies at a time and hundreds per section, mowing them down with revolvers, shotguns, rocket launchers and even knives. There would be headless suicide bombers with their chilling screams, giant alien bulls that charged like freight trains, harpies that flew overhead like Luftwaffe bomber formations, and huge red scorpion man-things with twin miniguns per arm. Levels were gimmicks, they were elaborate traps and the game wasnít ashamed of it. And the boss, wow, he was big.
Painkiller came along with a similar style of play, but the levels felt smaller and the game as a whole was dark, morbid. Serious Sam was humorous in an offbeat kind of way, but never goofy despite its bright colors and textures. Of course, Painkiller upped the ante in level style and especially boss quality.
So, Serious Sam 2 has, it seems, decided to go with fancier, smaller levels and putting a bit more weirdness into the characters. Does it work? Well... the final game isnít out yet so Iíll reserve judgment on the whole until then, but the demo is rather a disappointment. In fact, I donít even know where to begin listing all the little things that made me come to the conclusion.
For starters, the game isnít merely bright any more, itís cartoony. The weapons and enemies have more flat, bizarre textures on them, while the models are goofy-futuristic rather than realistic. Changes to the weapons seem especially bizarre, since they work the same way for the most part. Thereís the regular shotgun (except this one has six barrels, like a minigun), and then thereís the double shotgun which needs a reload after every shot (and it looks nothing like the old coach gun).
Sam also doesnít face as many enemies at once, as he faces multiple waves of them. The areas where he fights are more confined too. A double blow is that the confinements are many times invisible walls. The first Sams didnít have any shame about their levels being ad-hoc melee arenas, why is Serious Sam II now trying for standard level design?