Review: Serious Sam 3: BFE on XBLA boasts crazy enemies and even crazier FPS action
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Serious Sam 3 is a challenging game – even on its normal difficulty setting – and that high level of challenge may put off a few players. I can’t count the number of times the brutal difficulty had me shouting expletives at my TV. This style of anti-hand-holding gameplay fulfills the tastes of a niche crowd, and the punishment the game deals is oftentimes disheartening. To some, Serious Sam 3 may even seem like a one-trick pony that relies far too heavily on its huge environments, swarms of bad guys, and intense difficulty. To be fair, that statement does hold some substance as those are the exact attributes that the game delivers nonchalantly. That said, some individuals will be up for the challenge and respect the game for not going easy on them.
While the difficulty of Croteam’s offbeat FPS may be incredibly high, that’s not so much a flaw as it is a design element. The graphical design, however, is easily the most glaring blunder due to the fact that the game isn’t all that easy on the eyes. The visuals look dated, screen tearing occurs frequently, and frame rate problems arise as a result of too much going on. Thankfully, the latter doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it’s highly noticeable. These presentational issues aside, enemies still look cool and even kind of grotesque. As for the gore, there’s a vibrant bloodiness to Serious Sam 3 that’s both thrilling and comical. You’re shooting alien invaders in the chest and blowing them to bits, after all. This isn’t some no-nonsense game with strong themes of violence. This is Serious Sam, an over-the-top, blood-soaked action fest that – pardon the abysmal pun – absolutely never takes itself seriously at all.
Some players will be able to overlook the graphical downside of this FPS romp, and those individuals will be glad to witness awesome sound design. Had the effects and dialogue of Serious Sam 3 suffered like the visuals, it would’ve been a problem, but that’s not the case at all. Bullet shots are loud and explosions are louder. Each enemy type makes a distinct sound, and you immediately get a sense that you’re not alone. Whether it’s the eerie pitter-patter of Antaresian Spiders or the loud clopping of a Sirian Werebull, you’re constantly treated to an unsettling collection of distinct sounds, disturbing groans, and horrific screams. Then there are Sam’s one-liners, which are just fun to listen to.
It would be easy for a game like Serious Sam 3 to suffer from a bit of overkill. To be honest, its high difficulty can become a bit tasking over time, but the experience is over at around the 11-hour mark, which keeps the game from ever running too long. It should also be pointed out that depending on your own personal ability to adjust to the difficulty, as well as the oodles of secret items strewn about the environments, Serious Sam 3 could very well take you a bit longer to complete. For the 1200 Microsoft Point asking price, you’re getting a pretty great value.
Additionally, you can also shell out an extra 1200 Microsoft Points for the Jewel of the Nile DLC which adds three new lengthy (and tough) missions and a competitive multiplayer mode. Sadly, going head-to-head with other players isn’t as much fun as the main campaign and its story-driven DLC. Serious Sam 3 is a strong single-player game, and it features a hell of an online and local co-op experience, but taking on other players in multiplayer never reaches the same levels of craziness as the other modes. It’s a shame, too, because with all of the outlandish firepower in the game, you’d think a competitive mode would make for an awesome experience.
As an FPS rooted in old school design elements, Serious Sam 3 succeeds for a number of reasons even if suffers from a few nasty flaws. Despite being a retro-inspired FPS surrounded by modern and evolving shooters, this title manages to provide players with an experience that merges the best of both worlds. The game plays a lot like older shooters used to, but its tight controls and smooth mechanics help it fit right in with more modern titles. Of course, Serious Sam 3 doesn’t care at all about fitting in. This is a game that plays by its own rules and does what it wants whenever the hell it pleases. It just so happens to do what it pleases in a largely satisfying manner. Now go out there and put a rocket in those fat-ass Scrapjacks!
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