Summary: Croteam proves once again that it's still possible to take the old-school shooter formula, and make a fun game out of it without seeming hackneyed. Check out our review of Serious Sam 2.
Publisher: GOD Games
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter official page: http://www.serioussam.com/
The Serious Sequel
It’s been almost a year since we first reviewed Serious Sam. We liked the Serious Engine that allowed gigantic levels, bright colors and fun weapons. The Doom feel of the game also did it for us, as did the creative levels. But times change; new games have been released and new forefronts in FPS games have been established. How does Sam stand up a year later?
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter isn’t as much a sequel to the first Serious Sam as it is a continuation. It uses the same Serious Engine, same monsters and weapons, with a few additions to each. The first game was a little on the short side, but most people didn’t mind since it only cost $20. Combined with The Second Encounter, you have a full 40 hour game for $40, not to mention the multiplayer. But does The Second Encounter stack up against its predecessor?
The uh… story
The story picks up where the first game left off. It has something to do with Sam time-traveling to save the world from the bad guys calling themselves “Mental”. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that you get to blow shit up in ancient Mayan, Babylonian, and Medieval lands.
Just because Serious Sam is known as a non-stop shooter, you shouldn’t skip over the text messages that pop up now and then. If you’re playing single player, you should take the time to read the messages as they come up; they’re pretty funny. Like the rest of the game, Croteam has a great sense of humor about everything. They’ll poke fun at everything – the monsters, the levels, and especially Sam.
You can’t beat the price for The Second Encounter. The MSRP is only $20, which means you can find it for a lot less. Most expansion packs cost more than $20 when they first come out, some costing as much as a full game. Just think how little $20 is! You couldn’t go on a date to the movies for $20. Hell you can barely buy a t-shirt for twenty bucks nowadays.
400 MHz CPU
Win 9X/2000 with DirectX 7.0a or higher
64MB of RAM
TNT or better
DX7 sound card and video card (4MB minimum)
1 GHz CPU
512MB of RAM
GeForce2 or better
Cable/DSL for online play
The Second Encounter uses the Serious Engine, as in the first game. The Serious engine is known for unrivaled draw distances – if you see a tiny building in the distance there’s a good chance that you’ll be walking in it in 20 minutes without loading a new level. Besides the “neat” factor that the engine can do this, it helps the gameplay since there’s much less loading than your average first-person shooter. Less loading allows this game to have constant action for 20-minute stretches or more. This long draw distance also allows a few tricks not seen in other FPS games. Several times you’ll see tiny specs flickering in the distance. They could be bugs for all you know, but if you zoom in with the sniper rifle you’ll see that those specs are actually swarms of creatures heading right for you.
Another good feature of the Serious Engine is the ability to display dozens of enemies on the screen at the same time. Along with the great level design, the ability of the engine to handle tons of enemies on the screen at once are the two factors that make The Second Encounter a lot of fun. In single player games I only experienced the engine chugging when there were a lot of enemies very close to me in wide open spaces with a lot of buildings around (not often). In multiplayer games the engine chugs more often, usually in large areas with a lot of enemies and your teammates shooting a lot. I’m sure it has to do with the net lag rather than the graphical end of the engine.
All in all the Serious Engine is still good, even after it’s been out so long. No one else has attempted such a long draw distance since the first Serious Sam. In The Second Encounter it’s all about “bigger is better’, oddly enough an American standard made by a bunch of Croatians. The Second Encounter also goes the opposite direction of dark and dreary FPS games and uses a lot of bright colors and sunny environments. It may not have some of the bells and whistles of an engine like Quake 3, but the Serious Engine is still fun to use.
There’s nothing quite like the Doppler effect in The Second Encounter. From far off you hear a distant murmur drowned out by the explosions of nearby combat. The next thing you know you’re running for high ground as that murmur is the unmistakable scream of a Kamikaze with your name on it. Sometimes you’ll be standing in complete silence surrounded by darkness, only to have that familiar Kamikaze scream cut through room. The enemies screeching and weapon effects really send your adrenaline pumping since they’re done well and placed at the right times. Whenever Sam speaks up it’s funny, a la Ash in Evil Dead. My favorite: “What are you waiting for, a one-liner?”
Size doesn’t matter
If you’ve played Serious Sam, then you have a good idea what The Second Encounter is like to play. In general the gameplay is your basic FPS formula: Get the key, open a door, and kill everything in between. But it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey! Croteam has mastered the art of scripting sequences where hoards of enemies swarm down upon you. It’s one thing to fill a room with a hundred creatures; anyone can do that. It’s a completely different story to have 50-foot tall mechanoids leap over buildings and start hurling rockets at you.
My favorite part of The Second Encounter: you walk into a room and the door closes behind you. You hear the familiar galloping sound in the distance and brace yourself for an attack. Then you notice the room is getting smaller… actually, it’s not getting smaller, the entire room is being engulfed by a wall of darkness. As the wall gets closer you hear the revving of chainsaws – you try to run but the door is sealed shut. Will the wall kill you? If not, the Pumpkin heads surely will. As you brace for the impact of the wall, you find that you pass right through it unharmed, but you can only see a few feet ahead of you. Now the Pumpkin heads are jumping out of the darkness at you just as the wall passes, to reveal a room full of skeletons and pumpkins running right towards you. That is spectacular level design. There are very few times when you’re in a room and enemies are just thrown at you. Most of the time they’ll come in a scripted sequence (you’ll trigger their arrival).
Croteam also pulled off the weapons in The Second Encounter well. The four new weapons (Chainsaw, Sniper Rifle, Flame Thrower, and Serious Bomb) add to the already fun weapons from the first game. You can obviously forget any aspect of realism – these weapons are purely for the sake of having a good time. It’s about seeing bodies fly as they’re bowled over by a giant cannon ball, or the satisfaction of gibbing a Harpy in mid air with a rocket, or shattering a skeleton from a mile away with the Sniper Rifle.
Single vs. Multiplayer
The single player game in The Second Encounter is pretty good, but the true game is found in the Cooperative multiplayer. Blasting hundreds of monsters is way more fun when you’re doing it with friends (or complete strangers online). Sniping a skeleton in mid-air a foot away from a teammate, nailing a demon from all sides with rockets, and covering each other’s back as you enter a strange room are fun things you just can’t do by yourself.
Huge levels, bright graphics:
More of the same:
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