Serious Sam: The First Encounter Review

Serious Sam offers a fast-paced and intense experience that you are not likely to forget any time soon.

Serious Sam is one of the most intense experiences ever since the original Doom was released. Croatian developer Croteam has done a terrific job, as this fast-paced first person shooter is one of the most entertaining titles to come out in years. The game features an incredible variety of weapons and enemies; it also has great sense of humor, which makes it pretty distinctive and unique. Its 3D engine may seem a little old by today’s standards, but at the same time, it can display hundreds of enemies simultaneously without slowdowns or any graphical inconsistencies. Fortunately, and even though this can be quite impressive, the game isn’t a one trick pony or anything like that. In fact, it has many more qualities, like one of the best use of sound effects, many multiplayer options and a very good level design. It’s remarkable how simple the game is, but once it combines all these elements, Serious Sam becomes one of the best action games ever made.

The game has a story, but it’s simple enough to justify all the action that takes place in it. The only thing you need to know is that the plot takes place in Egypt, which has been invaded by hordes of terrifying monsters. Level design is really good and the different sceneries are huge, as you move on, the levels become much more challenging and inventive, though most of them tend to have a similar structure. The game is quite reminiscent of some old classics like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, in the sense that it has a distinct sense of humor and you hectically need to shoot everything that moves. Simplicity is the main quality that stands out about Serious Sam, there are no reasons to kill enemies, there is no justification, Sam doesn’t have any complex motivations, and the game has a straightforward approach, which is extremely successful.

This game controls in the same way any other shooter does, you use the WASD keys to move Sam and the mouse controls are used for aiming and shooting. Something that quickly stands out is that this game is fast, it doesn’t matter which enemy you are fighting and even the weakest ones run rapidly. Besides some basic shooting and aiming skills, the game reward players with quick reflexes and to do that you have a pretty interesting arsenal at your disposal. As you move on with the “story” you’ll unlock more and more weapons, usually, the last one you find will be bigger and better than all the previous ones, but you’ll quickly find out that alternating between them will be necessary to survive. On the other hand, the deadly creatures that you’ll encounter are quick, they fire and rush towards you in the most relentless ways you can imagine. Some of the monsters can be pretty funny and they fit in really well with the Egyptian setting, but others can be so fierce and big that you’ll quickly need to kill them or dodge their attacks.


At the time of its release, Serious Sam had one of the best 3D engines available and, in fact, many people thought the game was more of a demonstrator of the engine that a full release. Fortunately, they couldn’t be more wrong. Even if there’s a newer and more polished HD version of the game, the original Serious Sam looks well enough. The game is able to display huge places (it’ll definitely take you a while to get from one end of the level to the other) full of details, large enemies, complex structures and more, and Serious Sam always runs smoothly.

The colorful environments look really well drawn and even the enemies have little distinct details. Besides this, the engine is able to show different times of the day through many lightning effects, this adds a lot of realism. The game’s requirements aren’t at all demanding, so chances are you can even run it on any PC, laptop or even netbook without much trouble. In general, the monsters are really well animated and fortunately, there are hundreds of them for you to kill. As I previously mentioned, these are quite detailed and each one is different from the rest, what’s more surprising is that dozens of them appear onscreen one after the other and the frame rate still runs smoothly, even if you’re using really old hardware.

The sound is probably the best element of the game. Each weapon (pistols, shotguns, rocket-launchers, grenade-launchers) emits a different sound when you shoot it. What’s probably best about the game is the sound of each enemy, you’ll quickly recognize the sound of each one and this is extremely useful to switch to a more effective weapon to counterattack them. For example, the Beheaded Kamikazes, who have a tendency to blow up when they are close to you, scream their lungs out as they rush towards you. You’ll find yourself trying to guess where the sound is coming from, as you frantically try to kill them; this is the best integration of sound in a video game that I can remember. The music sets the tone of the game, it picks up during combat and it usually lets you know when you aren’t fighting. The soundtrack is quite good, though it’s natural to underestimate it, as you only listen to it when you engage in fights. Additionally, Sam says a punch line every time he accomplishes something, and this makes the game funnier and engaging.

Enemies come from every possible direction.

Also, level design is really good, so you’ll never wonder where to go next as there’s always some indication of where you should go. Something really good is that you can’t simply run and move on to the next level, you need to kill all the enemies in a section to be able to move on or else you’ll be annihilated in seconds. Most levels are balanced so it never feels like the game is being unfair, and each one has many items and ammo for you to pick up. What you’ll also quickly learn is that picking up certain items (like health or new weapons) usually causes new hordes of monsters to appear near you, so saving regularly is probably for the best. Sometimes you may need to replay some levels over and over, this isn’t that tedious or anything but it takes a while to learn which strategies to use.

Furthermore, Serious Sam includes a robust multiplayer that’s still actively played. Some cooperative modes where included, where up to four players can participate on either single PCs or using split-screen. There are also some competitive multiplayer options, which you can play in a similar fashion. The match making feature isn’t awesome or anything, especially after seeing what Halo 2 was capable of, but no matter when you want to play this game, expect at least 20 or so servers running at once. Serious Sam runs quite well online, the connection seems to be stable and most modes are entertaining, especially when played with people you know. Also, you can select different character models to change things a little bit. Surprisingly, the package has a level editor included with some really impressive and complete 3D tools to make your own creations.

Serious Sam is an amazing game. It provides a solid single-player campaign, it has some robust multiplayer options to play either locally or online and it includes a great level editor. Also, the main campaign includes some secret levels and various difficulty settings. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a game that has an intricate story, a complex main character with intricate motivations, Serious Sam is probably not the game for you. But anyone else should give this game a try as you’ll get a very engaging and fun experience that is simply much more than the sum of its parts.