Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD - 360 - Review
Yes, our man Sam is back in action, and in this new installment, Sam takes on an enemy called Mental. Seems Mental has devised ... er, ah, wait a minute ... This sounds all too familiar. Well, everything old is new again and a game that came out a long time ago has gotten a big-time facelift, and those lucky enough to get it on the 360 or PC will undoubtedly be very happy.
To get everyone on the same page (for the uninformed) Sam is one of the only human freedom fighters who were effective in battling an alien scourge after the discovery of long-dormant technology led humans to the far reaches of space. The aliens called MENTAL run their invasion a lot like a business, often employing other alien races to do their bidding in exchange for technology or money or even food. The whole feel of the game is very upbeat and comical; think of it as an arcade game FPS with a hero who is part Duke Nuke 'Em, and part '80's action-movie screenwriter.
"Sam's ex-girlfriends unite and form a union."
For a first-person shooter, Sam really knows how to bring the pain; many, many guns are used and found in this game from the basic Colt .45 pistols all the way up to a pirate ship cannon, and all points in between. In fact, there is a standing gag that whenever you enter an area and there is lots of ammo bags and pill boxes, that the proverbial poop is about to hit the fan. And it does ... often. But that's what's so great about this title, the action comes all the time and there is only brief reprieves. Start playing and before you know it, two hours has gone by.
Of course it does help that the controls are very fluid and seamless. Sam runs, jumps and guns like any good action hero should; the two bumper buttons toggle through the weapons and the very friendly (depending on your difficulty setting) auto-aim function will help bail you out when 30 or so headless bombers are running at you. The game also has plenty to read for a game that prides itself on being big on action and light on plot. Every time you find a new weapon, location or enemy you are alerted by an e-mail that details it - here is where some of the game's humor hides itself. If that weren't enough, there are several secrets found on every level and some of them are just plain wacky. In addition, the game's body count is pretty outrageous. You will kill thousands of aliens in this game; it is so over the top that it becomes almost ridiculous (in a good way). But still, you would be hard pressed to find a game that does not feature weapons of mass destruction with a higher body count.
It wouldn't be fair to not mention the graphics of this title. When it first came out, SS was a bargain-priced title but was so much fun and had such good graphics, that it surprised many. Well, it still is a value-priced title at 1,200 Microsoft points and is still a great buy. But that still doesn't describe how great everything looks. And I mean it - the HD really gives the whole game a real facelift and while many of the surprises aren't so surprising to someone who played the game way back in the day, it was a pleasant enough revisit.
"That dude is 18-feet tall, and he is one of the smaller of his species."
Now the sound portion of the game will remind older players of a certain smart aleck action hero by the name of Bruce Campbell. In fact, it is well known that both Sam and Duke Nuke 'Em were both inspired by the "Ash" character from the Evil Dead and Army of Darkness movies. Smart-alecky wise cracks and in-game winks at other action movies come up every so often and will generally put a smile on your face. Monsters and sound effects too, come out with both barrels blazing. They could have sharpened up some of the in-game sounds but as a whole, the game certainly passes muster.
But if there is one thing that I find absolutely great about this title, it is the use of depth that occurs. Let me explain. Throughout the game you are constantly engaging the enemy in large areas. In many of these instances, massive fast-moving monsters will begin running to attack you. Since the game provides you with enough firepower to blow a medium-sized country off the map, shooting these fast-moving threats is very, very enjoyable. Add to this the excellent rag-doll effects that occur when you pump 70 or 80 rounds into them and you have two strong reasons on why this is such a fun shooter.
Lastly, the game has some really great multiplayer action going for it as well. Co-op in a game is not lost as even more enemies spawn instantly and try turning you into red mist. Not to mention that since the game (both single and co-op) is like an arcade game, when you respawn, all of your weapons and ammo are still there. It's fantastic. When you jump up to four player co-op, the games begins to bog down and that's a stinker. Lastly, there is no other online options for play other than co-op. A deathmatch mode would have been great but alas, it is no where to be found.
Review Scoring Details for Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter
Smooth single-player framrate, easy arcade-style feel to the controls.
The HD gloss adds something to the game; it looks pretty good, the death movements of slain enemies is perfect.
Sam still has it - cheesy one-liners, gruff voice.
It can be beaten in a weekend, but finding all the secrets is the real challenge.
I have to give credit where it's due, taking this title and freshening it up was a good move, we should be seeing the other installments of Sam's exploits pretty soon.
While it is fun to play co-op with another person, thing do get sloppy as the other two join. A lack of deathmatch is a real let down.
This is a good time for a good price.