previews\ Mar 1, 2001 at 7:00 pm

Serious Sam - PC - Preview

You can feel it in your gut – the power, the pride as ‘Serious’ Sam Stone picks up a new death-dealing weapon. You will almost echo his heartfelt ‘YAAAA!’ as you cock and load for the first time.

You know that old saying, ‘I wasn’t looking for trouble, but it found me anyway?’ Forget it! Sam goes looking for trouble, and he usually finds it in bushels.

The preview of Serious Sam, from Croteam and Gathering of Developers, quickly revealed the kind of first-person shooter game that requires you to check your sensitivities at the door. You have two choices – kill or be killed. Think of it as a sort of Duke Nukem meets Tomb Raider. Sure there is a story line here, but the game mostly revolves around the notions of blow something apart, explore, blow something apart, solve a puzzle to keep the game going, and then blow something apart.

The storyline goes something like this: There is this really evil being known, in English, as Notorious Mental who is bent on wiping out the human race. However what he wasn’t counting on is a weapon called a Timelock, left to humanity by an extinct civilization from Sirius. Using the Timelock, Serious Sam returns to ancient Egypt to assassinate Notorious Mental when it is on the weak side.

There are all sorts of nasty monsters to blast into chunks of flesh and blood smears. The Gnaar Male has the body of an ape, single claws for hands, no head but a single eye on its breast and a huge, fanged mouth where its’ abs should be. There is the unusual array of beheaded warriors, such as the Beheaded Rocketeer and Beheaded Firecracker – executed Sirian soldiers raised from the dead who carry weapons in their right hands and their heads in their left. And there’s a headless kamikaze that yells (with what?) as he races across the ground on a collision course with you. And yes, if they hit you, they can do serious damage. There are a wild assortment of beasties (like were-bulls and Scythian Witch-Harpies), skeletons and other critters for you to flay with your assortment of weaponry.

And speaking of the weapons: Even though the mini-gun (sort of like a Gatling gun) discharges way too fast, it is particularly effective if surrounded by enemies. Just pull the trigger and rotate in a circle. That is great fun! The LPML21 Rocket Launcher is effective against the bigger, meaner creatures. If you spot a huge red creature that looks like a cross between a human and a giant scorpion, you’ll want that rocket launcher. And if that creature is standing behind a tree – no problem. Blow up the tree. The environment of this game is wonderfully interactive.

You can be one of four different characters, such as Hilarious Harry, Serious Sam, Pirate Pete and Righteous Robert. And there are five difficulty levels, beginning with tourist (which is akin to invincibility so you don’t have to find a cheat), moving to easy and then two more stops en route to serious.

You will have to solve puzzles along the way, and you have a NETRICSA (or NeuroTronically Implanted Combat Situation Analyzer) to keep you company, record what is happening, analyze situations and give recommendations, and keep you informed of your mission status.

While the sound is very good, and the controls are easy (and can be customized to any configuration the game player would like using a mouse/keyboard combination or joystick), the most stunning aspect of this program lies in its graphics. They are beautifully rendered. You can close on a wall, almost as though putting your nose on it, and still see the rich texture of it. The colors are lush, three-dimensional with realistic lighting and shadow effects. If the environmental elements were to summed up in one world, that word would be dazzling.

This is the kind of game where you would just like to look around, without anticipating nastiness around every corner. However, anything is likely to pop up in a moment’s notice. In case the point hasn’t been driven home enough by now – this is a blood-filled, action-packed shooter. The game has arcade elements, such as floating weapons, potions, ammo and armor that you collect by walking through it.

Serious Sam promises to be a serious shooter program that will sate the bloodlust of any fan of the genre. It has enough other elements – such as the puzzle elements – to move the game along for those who require a wee bit of plot in their games. And the action is nonstop. But the one thing that really recommends this game is the graphics. They are incredible.

When released, this product will support multiplayer gaming.

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